Arts in the Age of the Internet, 1989 to Today
The Institute of Contemporary Art / Boston
– 20 May 2018
The Internet was commercialised in 1989 and the WWW went public for the first time. In 2018, the exhibition “Arts in the Age of the Internet, 1989 to Today” questions the influence of the Internet on our society and on art in particular: how do artists think, see, and process the digital world? According to the exhibition curator Eva Respini: “It’s a show about technology and how it has affected our lives and the truth.”
The exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Boston brings together 60 international artists who have explored the influence of technologies and their growing potential since 1989, through various media such as photography, painting, film, installation or performance. It is part of the cultural project “Art + Tech” presenting the special features of the technology centre Greater Boston as a result of which 14 different organisations such as major art museums or institutes are highlighting events on innovation and change through digitalisation with seminars, roundtables, demonstrations or experiments.
An interesting aspect of the exhibition “Arts in the Age of the Internet, 1989 to Today” is the parallel curatorial space on its comprehensively presented and tech-savvy website. This serves a dual function as both digital catalogue and extended art space on the web, presenting works in chronological order.
The works are categorised in five different topic areas: Network and Circulation, Hybrid Bodies, Virtual Worlds, States of Surveillance, and Performing the Self. One of the works in the Virtual Worlds category is a painting from 1999 by the artist Michel Majerus “Tron 4 (green Pantone 375)”. Majerus was based in Berlin at the time and died in 2002. The work features a photo of the German hacker Tron, who disappeared mysteriously in 1998 and was found dead, next to a poster for the movie “Tron”, made in 1982, where a software developer builds a laser that then digitises and downloads him in a virtual world called Grid. The photo is mounted on a green canvas and supposed to represent a visualisation of possibilities of the future.
Majerus’ work makes it clear that as technology and society evolve, and ideas about the future are realised, they will in turn serve future creativity and originality. Art is always looking for alternative media to make bolder statements effectively. Digital formats have opened up a new virtual repertoire of art spaces and addressees, be they closer to or further removed from actual society.