Trevor Paglen, CLOUD #135 Hough Lines, 2019. Dye sublimation print; 121.92 × 165.10 cm. Edition of 5 plus II AP and 1 exhibition copy. Courtesy of the artist and PACE Gallery.

An exhibition in Sharjah examines art during the Internet era

No tour of Sharjah this art season would be complete without a visit to Art in the Age of Anxiety, a wide-ranging exhibition that brings to light several of the most technologically advanced artists concerned with the growing omnipresence of the Internet. Curated by Sharjah Art Foundation director of collections and senior curator Omar Kholeif, the exhibition contains more than 60 works from sculpture, prints, video, virtual reality, robotics and algorithmic programmes developed by over 30 international artists.

Eva & Franco Mattes, Catt, 2010. Taxidermy cat and bird, polyurethane resin, bird cage, wood pedestal; 55 x 40 x 40 cm. Courtesy of the artists.
Eva & Franco Mattes, Catt, 2010. Taxidermy cat and bird, polyurethane resin, bird cage, wood pedestal; 55 x 40 x 40 cm. Courtesy of the artists.

It presents the works of leading contemporary, Internet-focused artists like Simon Denny, Eva and Franco Mattes, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Cory Arcangel, Wafaa Bilal, Cao Fei, James Bridle, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Joshua Nathanson, Trevor Paglen, Siebren Versteeg, UVA, Guan Xiao and Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries.

Trevor Paglen, CLOUD #135 Hough Lines, 2019. Dye sublimation print; 121.92 × 165.10 cm. Edition of 5 plus II AP and 1 exhibition copy. Courtesy of the artist and PACE Gallery.

The objects and works on display include several new commissions and staples of recent Internet-illuminated works, such as Trevor Paglen’s Circles (2015), a single-channel video installation exploring the tenuous state of surveillance on contemporary life. The work is presented alongside some of Paglen’s iconic photographs from They Took the Faces from the Accused and the Dead… (2019), a series made of cloud-sourced photographs of historical figures filtered through Facebook’s facial recognition system.

Trevor Paglen, Circles (video still), 2015. 12 minutes, loop. Edition of 3 plus I AP and 1 exhibition copy. Courtesy of the Artist, Metro Pictures New York, Altman Siegel San Francisco.

Cao Fei’s RMB City consists of a virtual city designed for the online world of Second Life. The work investigates the increasingly blurred boundaries between real and virtual life. Jenna Sutela’s musical film Nimiia Cétïï (2018) features a speculative fiction in which consciousness, neural networks and a new Martian language are formed.

Jenna Sutela, nimiia cétiï , 2018. (video still)

Lynn Hershman Leeson’s Shadow Stalker (2019) follows its debut at The Shed in New York last year, an epic film that charts the rise of “predictive policing, identity theft and the dangers of data mining.” The work features renowned actress Tessa Thompson and “The Spirit of the Deep Web,” played by January Steward. The work gives added weight to the theme of anxiety in the age of omnipresent digital surveillance capitalism.

Lynn Hershman Leeson, Shadow Stalker (film still), 2019. HD color video with sound; 10 minutes. Installation View: Shadow Stalker, 2019 on view as part of Manual Override, The Shed, New York. Image courtesy the artist and The Shed.
Lynn Hershman Leeson, Shadow Stalker (film still), 2019. HD color video with sound; 10 minutes. Installation View: Shadow Stalker, 2019 on view as part of Manual Override, The Shed, New York. Image courtesy the artist and The Shed.

Other projects of note include an updated version of Siebren Versteeg’s seminal 2012 work Daily Times (Performer), only here reimagined specifically for the exhibition. The work consists of a massive screen outfitted with headlines from UAE-based English newspaper The National, which are then processed and produced into abstract paintings via a machine-learning algorithm.

Siebren Versteeg, Daily Times (Performer: The National), 2020. Custom algorithmic software (colour, silent), internetconnected computer, daily download of The National front page, 4K resolution, monitor. Dimensions variable. Courtesy of bitforms gallery, New York.
Siebren Versteeg, Daily Times (Performer: The National), 2020. Custom algorithmic software (colour, silent), internetconnected computer, daily download of The National front page, 4K resolution, monitor. Dimensions variable. Courtesy of bitforms gallery, New York.

Todd Reisz, a former participant of the 13th Sharjah Biennial, provides the exhibition with architecture and design that gives each installation and work a space to breathe. Accompanying the exhibition will be a publication set to launch after the conclusion of the discursive programme and mini-symposium.

Aleksandra Domanović, Kalbträgerin, 2017. Cast Jesmonite, Kerrock, foam and Plexiglas, rolling transport dolly. 224 x 69 x 43 cm
Aleksandra Domanović, Kalbträgerin, 2017. Cast Jesmonite, Kerrock, foam and Plexiglas, rolling transport dolly. 224 x 69 x 43 cm

Art in the Age of Anxiety runs until June 21, 2020 at the Sharjah Art Foundation.


All images are courtesy of Sharjah Art Foundation.
A VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE APPEARED IN PRINT IN SELECTIONS, ART GLOSSARY #52 PAGES 24-29.

Dorian Batycka
Dorian Batycka

Dorian Batycka is a Canadian curator, art critic and DJ based in Muscat, Oman. He is currently curator at Bait Muzna for Art Film. Previously, he was assistant curator for the first ever Maldives National Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale and has contributed to numerous publications, including Art and Education, Frieze Blog, and Nero. He can be found on Twitter.

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