The New Museum’s Internet-Obsessed Triennial is a Touchstone for a Generation
Tucked into one of the New Museum’s stairwell alcoves, an animated video—IT’S SO IMPORTANT TO SEEM WONDERFUL (2015)—by the self-described “bi-coastal, bi-sexual” performance artist the uncanny valley.
Ellison’s practice at large—exemplified in this installation for the New Museum’s “predictive” (as opposed to “retrospective”) triennial show—is based on what she calls self-objectification. The work articulates a hyper-awareness of a mass audience and a studied focus on the digital and social appendages that have become a necessary component of life today. It’s a concept that repeats often in the works of the 51 artists and collectives in this third triennial, “Surround Audience.”
The show was curated by longtime collaborators Lauren Cornell, a New Museum curator who previously served as the executive director of the internet art institution Rhizome, and
The New Museum Triennial is unique for its focus on the future of artistic practices. Some new and old themes to look forward to: the fluidity of gender, colliding national identities, meditations on surveillance, shifting understandings of the self, and the language and tactics of corporate branding. Or, as Cornell remarked at the show’s opening, the need to go “beyond gadgetry to see how tech is changing our lives.” Like Karen Archey and Robin Peckham’s exhibition “Art Post-Internet” at the Ullens center last year, the 2015 triennial is a hallmark of a generation for whom the the internet landscape is as real as anything else.
It’s telling, then, that the show is gadget-agnostic: this is no new media-only affair. Works cover a wide range of techniques, from Oculus Rift by Rio-based artist
As befits an exhibition centered around identity and audience, another one of the show’s emergent stars both contributed work and is the subject of a piece by another artist.
Perhaps one of the more unexpected tendencies in this internet-native generation of artists has been an increasingly porous relationship between corporate strategy, brand-building, and artistic intent. The infamous normcore,” created an advertising campaign for the triennial. The piece is intended to be shown on buses and subways, rather than in the New Museum itself. DIS, a collective whose web magazine collapses high and low fashion with treatments of tech-industry messaging, has long been known for using corporate strategies to critical effect. For the triennial, in collaboration with Mike Meiré from the high-end German design studio, Meiré und Meiré, the artists created a curious, lie-down shower called The Island (KEN) (2015). Part bathroom, part kitchen, the softly-lit block of marble and steel also serves as the stage for a performance in which a showroom model bathes horizontally on it, fully clothed.
“The idea,” Meiré told me, “was to combine two water zones that are usually strictly separated. It seems surreal, and yet it really exists.” Such a statement seems perfectly in line with many of the works on display. “Surround Audience” is art created for a world steeped in the anxieties of possibility, racing to catch up to a present that looks and feels like science fiction.
“Surround Audience” is on view at The New Museum, New York, Feb. 25–May 24, 2015.
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