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On Seeing Online: Circles and Signs

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This edition of "On Seeing" includes new work made for the web, most seen here for the first time. It was created with support from curatorial intern, April Baca.

When I started this column in 2010, I wanted to create a contemporary art exhibition that you could view from the comfort of your home -- local coffee shop, classroom or wherever you go online. Since then, each edition of "On Seeing" has included a selection of artists' works revolving around an idea. But while previous "On Seeing" exhibitions include photographs or documentations of art, this new edition is different. What you see is not a series of representations, but an exhibition of the actual work, here and now, online.

When I put out a call to artists asking for submissions for this new version, I wasn't sure what to expect. How many artists made work for an online context? Would the submissions be sparse or overload my inbox? And most importantly, what would they be? I was curious. My excellent curatorial intern, April Baca, spread the word via Instagram and created a Facebook page for "On Seeing." Already, the project was growing in new and digital directions.

As it turned out, there was a lot of interest, but not many submissions at first. It appears from this limited case study that although a majority of art is viewed online, most artists are not making work exclusively for this context (excluding considerations of how a work will be photographed). As submissions came in, something else that surprised us was how many of these works made to be experienced online related to or connoted the physical body, so many, in fact, that this emerged as the theme for this first edition of "On Seeing: Online."

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GX Jupitter-Larsen's How do you measure the distance between yourself and online?, 2014, captures the surrealism and the existential dilemma inherent in being a body in space and, simultaneously, a persona, idea or project playing out on a screen in front of you. That this is the position we so often find ourselves in adds a layer of urgency to this quietly playful rumination on contemporary life. Jupitter-Larsen wrote in an email discussing the work, "Perhaps when we want something so badly, we become the very opposite of what we strive for."

This idea taken to one extreme might resemble Jayme Odgers' QR Self-Portrait, 2014, one of a series of playful and incisive pieces made for and exhibited on Facebook. In cheerful red and white, it queries: Where is the line between what we are and what we desire, what we sense and what we buy and sell?

These questions go 'round and 'round Gina Osterloh's Infinite Booty, 2002. Bodies, or rather, images of bodies -- male as well as female -- purvey everything from diets and sex to cars and granola bars online. Osterloh's piece endearingly embodies both social critique and a dance party; it calls attention to the numbing quantity of sexualized female bodies online while simultaneously exuding the joyful buoyancy of pure movement. Osterloh explains, "I was inspired by both disgust and fascination with the auto-online gyrating hip pop-up videos of women."

Annetta Kapon similarly fuses humor with critique. Play, 2013, is a photograph of a painting of a sign. The artist is seen holding a circle painted with a triangle. We have come to recognize this as the way to set a video, or other digital program, into motion. Here, Kapon directs her considerable wit at the prevalence of viewing art online; the arrow is a widely recognizable direction and, also, a theoretical game; Magritte's c'est ne pas cie une pipe (The Treachery of Images, 1929) continues to take on dimension and resonance in the digital era.

Weaving dreamily through images of nature and bodies moving in it Kireilyn Barber's Abyssal Zone, 2013, considers perceptual space and how we occupy it. One of a series of works with titles that, as Barber explains, "reference the light zones of the ocean, an environment at once seemingly limitless, but bounded by edges and confines, specifically that of its own material: water." Abyssal refers to the greatest depths of the sea, a dark, mysterious and pressured space, an intriguing reply to the questions posed throughout this exhibition, and articulated specifically in the title of Jupitter-Larsen's work. Don't recall it? Press 'play' and go back to the beginning; rest assured you won't wind up in the very same place.

Epilogue
Another set of ideas turned up, if less prominently, in the first set of submissions. This set the stage for the next edition of "On Seeing Online: Archive and Artifice". We have two pieces ready for that show, so please consider submitting your work and/or spreading the word. Join our Facebook page for submission information and updates.