Virtual worlds, interactive sculptures, and other creations inspired by the Digital Age occupy the Bridgett and Bruce Evans Family and West Galleries at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA). On Feb. 7, the museum opened its Art in the Age of the Internet, 1989 to Today exhibit, which examines the internet’s impact on the artistic world as well as contemporary society.
As the title of the exhibit suggests, the earliest work was created in 1989, the same year the internet was established. The exhibition was three years in the making, and chief curator Eva Respini gathered pieces from personal collections and other institutions as well as from the artists themselves. Most works were created before the inception of the exhibit, except for the virtual reality piece View of Harbor by John Rafman, which was created specifically for the ICA.
The artists who contributed to the exhibition have all had different experiences, spanning multiple generations and originating from vastly diverse backgrounds. Artists used different media to create their pieces, including paint, sculpture, video, photography, and even performance art. With such a wide variety of pieces and artists, visitors are better able to grasp the extensive reach of the internet across contemporary culture.
“Visitors are meant to come away from the show with an understanding of the cultural impact of the internet. The exhibit contains a lot of broader social and political ideas,” said Frank Redner, visitor assistant lead at the ICA.
Each piece in the exhibit displays the vast implications of the internet throughout the exhibition, starting at the entrance. Upon arrival to the collection, visitors come across a video constantly streaming static as well as graphic images of violence. The videos, which surround the viewer, “speak to today’s political and police violence against people of color,” he said.
Technology is intertwined with police violence as well as other themes. Ideas explored within the exhibition include surveillance, the control of information, and the human body, which are all examined in the context of the internet.
Respini incorporated a variety of mediums which explore a specific theme. Some pieces are more traditional paintings and sculptures simply to be observed by visitors, while others invite the viewer to interact. A video sculpture titled Graft and Ash for a Three Monitor Workstation by artist Sondra Perry encourages the viewer to sit at a stationary bicycle while watching an avatar of the artist and listening to music created by computers. The combination of the stationary bike, video, and digital soundtracks are meant to describe the experience of the artist and other black people in contemporary America.
The exhibition, containing a variety of interactive and stationary pieces, will remain at the ICA until May 20. Until then, visitors to the museum can continue to explore the internet’s revolutionary influence on the art world and witness its wide-ranging effect on their own lives.
Curator Eva Respini, according to Redner, “wanted to have an exhibit not only about using the internet as a medium, but also about how all media used in art is affected by the huge cultural phenomenon of the internet.”
Featured Image by Catherine Cremens / Heights Editor