Distributed Collectives may be an exhibition best enjoyed from the comfort of your home computer because you don’t necessarily need to visit the gallery in order to enjoy the work. Curated by Little Berlin member Kelani Nichole, the exhibition spotlights three new media art collectives who practice in a range of media from basic computer drawing to cutting-edge technology used to spawn avatars, orchards and sculptures visible only to the virtually enhanced eye.
While there’s a motherlode of hardware in the gallery (16 computers, two projectors, a formidable switch and a heap of Internet boosters), it all serves as a base to support the real artwork that exists in the disembodied space of the Internet. This approach works well when the viewer is asked to interact with the artwork, but falls flat in the case of quieter pieces with less arresting content.
Computers Club, a drawing club for the technologically inclined, uses the web as medium to draft two-dimensional artworks shared via their blog—which is where they stand up best. Standard in size and often created using Computers Clubs’ browser-based drawing tool, the compositions run together like drafts in a drawing exercise. Reliant on technology whose complexity is hidden from the casual observer, these drawings are an insider affair, best enjoyed when you’re part of the team. Their jerky, incremental graphics, smooth planes of airbrushed color and pixilated lines flicker on gallery monitors like vintage screensavers; they count time but never truly make a mark.
Works by the collective F.A.T. (Free Art and Technology Lab) can likewise be explored online, either in the gallery via browsing stations, or at any home computer. However, their presence in the gallery is anchored by the realization of some complex projects, making F.A.T.’s work as engaging in the gallery as it is in the online version of the exhibition. Much of the work is browser-based with a boisterous sense of humor. Greg Leuch’s “Shaved Bieber” browser extension censors any mention or image of Justin Bieber’s ubiquitous face; Tobias Leingruber’s “Pirates of the Amazon,” replaces Amazon’s “buy now” button with “download for free,” routing visitors to a free version of the book hosted on a rogue server. Inspired by a similar vision for open access, Golan Levin’s “QR_Hobo_Codes” offers instructions for creating QR code stencils that can stand in for a hobo’s signature chalk scratches. Cut into sleek, silicon slices, Golan’s stencils are used to spray paint secret messages for any wayfarer bearing a smart phone. Like much of F.A.T’s work, the project is canny, cheeky and political with a touch of cyber romance. In a digital world, where everyone roams from site to site, Golan lets us know where we can score a bowl of hot soup.
More radically site-specific than even a QR hobo marker, the collective Manifest.AR contributes the most exhilarating work in the show by deploying augmented reality (AR) technology to explore a new kind of space. Founded in 2011, the collective creates geo-specific art installations, backed by a stridently hopeful manifesto announcing that in AR, “The Safety Glass of the Display is shattered and the Physical and Virtual are united in a new In-Between Space.” Dislocating the viewer from our “so-called Physical Real,” this in-between space hurtles toward us when we stumble upon the colossal, hidden sculptures in “ScreensavAR” by Sander Veenhof. Visible only through a smart phone using the “filter” function in an app called “Laylar,” Veenhof’s work forces the viewer to physically scan the gallery in order to discover the delicately helixed sculptures that float above our heads. Like peering through a magic spyglass into another dimension, Veenhof’s work plunges us into a spatially dissonant reality. Suddenly—impossibly—we physically exist in the same space as a virtual phenomenon.
6-10pm. Through Aug. 29. Little Berlin, 2430 Coral St. littleberlin.org
Calendar: Sept. 30-Oct. 7