MAGIC FOUND: Discussing technology and art with Tabitha Steinberg

This wet weekend in London, you will struggle to beat a trip to The Dot Project. Their current exhibition is a fascinating examination of contemporary painting’s relationship with modern, and how this has affected and influenced the way painters work.  ArtAttack discusses technology and art with Tabitha Steinberg, co-curator of the exhibition Searching for magic and the distorted image falling from your iCloud.
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How did the idea for the show come into being? What inspired the title?
The co-curator, Kwaku Boateng came to me with the title and idea of the show. He wanted to explore the influence technology has had on both society and specifically, painting. It was interesting to work with a lot of artists who were exploring – and in some sense grappling with – the changes painting has faced today. A lot of the artists in the show use algorithms and computer programmes to create their paintings. And I think this artistic relinquishing of control, in the face of technology, is interesting and in some ways, problematic. The title (Searching for magic and the distorted image falling from your iCloud) is really about the way images hold some sort of power but have the capacity to distort what they show. The exhibition has an element of self-refencing – and I believe, irony – to it: it asks to be looked at and examined but acknowledges that what’s being shown is always somewhat hidden and eluding us.
Everything on Netflix (a 13-minute film created from Netflix covers) is an unsettling demonstration of the bombardment of images. Can you talk a bit about the decision to include this work?
Das Balloon’s video in some ways sums up the show’s entirety. It’s positioned on the back wall of the second room so it kind of functions as the final work. After making your way through the show, the video shows an endless stream of quickly changing images. The images you don’t know are too quick to make out and disappear, the ones you know (that show you’re making your way through on Netflix) pops up for a split second as a familiar visual. I liked that this video had a deadpan humour to it and basically says: “Well, here you go. This is it. Here’s everything on Netflix” and that’s that.
Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will is mesmerising, amusing but often hate-filled. Do you feel artists are willing and able to embrace a borderless world, even when society does not? (It was interesting to see that many of the artists knew each others’ work very well but met for the first time at the show).
In some ways, the art world works in an extremely global way (especially in terms of the ‘big players’). But, I do think that artists are just as much responding to smaller communities, be it online ones or regional. In terms of borders etc and what’s going on right now, I’m sure it was thorougly shocking for the art world to hear that the globalisation project might be thrown into disarray by this current wave of isolationism. The position of artists in this is obviously a tricky one. Artists are making work that examines this tension but are inevitably complicit in the global art world. This was obviously something that was simmering for a while and is now so blatant, that there has to be an acknowledgement of this position when dealing with these ideas.
The show features some extraordinarily talented painters. How has the discipline of painting in particular responded to the challenge and opportunity of social media?  
Social media has been an interesting change to the way art circulates and the way artists show their work. Work is viewable in a much more global context. I think something that’s really interesting is the self-representation that occurs through something like instagram. Artists are able to personally post their work to a wide audience, collectors are searching for artists by scrolling through social media feeds. Another thing is that artist’s are utilising instagram as an extension of their practices and responding to this environment of the immediately impactful and succinct image.
Curated by Kwaku Boateng and Tabitha Steinberg, featuring works by:

Das Balloon, Derek Mainella, Gordon Cheung, Jonas Lund, Josh Reames, Konrad Wyrebek, Kristian Touborg, Michael Pybus, Ry David Bradley, Siebren Versteeg, Tilman Hornig, Victor Payares, Wendell Gladstone

94 FULHAM ROAD, LONDON, SW3 6HS
EXHIBITION MAY 04 – JUL 09
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