While most online art exhibitions are simply an extension of artworks displayed in a physical gallery, there are several organizations dedicated solely to exhibiting virtual works. Their existence validates a desire to push the boundaries of art venues into the future. The internet may provide direct and instant access to art, but curated content offers thematic continuity amongst the works.
The latest virtual exhibition, Distinguishable from Magic, curated by Marnie Benney for the Sci Art Centre of New York, features 12 Sci Art Centre member artists (Amber Anderson, Linda Behar, Jared Vaughan Davis, Greg Dunn, Cedric Van Eenoo, Anna Fine Foer, Richelle Gribble, Constance Halporn, Alinta Krauth, Robert Krawczyk, Sam Talbot-Kelly, and Leila Christine Nadir). These artworks touch on several scientific disciplines. Distinguishable from Magic asks the viewer to consider what constitutes our humanity in light of novel technological advances, as they become increasingly integrated into our existence. In her curatorial statement Benney writes:
“… The genre of science fiction has long addressed the question of what it is to be human in the face of advancing technology, but many aspects of this question are no longer limited to science fiction as they quickly become science and technology fact. Technology is changing human relationships with others and to one’s self, on both an emotional and functional level. Beginning with the Internet and jumping to artificial intelligence, prosthetic limbs, robotics, cybernetics, virtual reality, biotechnology, and more, humanity is left to question what constitutes our identity. Is our humanity altered when an artificial heart pumps our blood, or a robotic arm takes the place of one lost? What would it mean about us if a machine felt our same emotions, as seen in movies like “Her” and “Ex Machina”? We are left to question our species’ social and biological evolution with the dominance of social interactions taking place through online platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.”
The show presents artworks across a variety of mediums and most translate well into the online exhibition space. There were several engaging works in this exhibition. I was blown away by Greg Dunn‘s work, and especially enjoyed the images where he morphed neural networks into tree-like silhouettes, staging them against warm backgrounds adding a flavour of ancient history. I have always found similarities between tree vasculature and our own circulatory and lymphatic systems; and indeed all three are used for transport of molecules. Drawing from forms found in neuroscience, Dunn’s work stunningly relates the connections within our brain back to nature.
Richelle Gribble‘s drawings are both informative and aesthetically impressive. Her use of colour draws immediate attention to the themes of each piece. She reinvents the modern day infographic by surrealistically presenting the subject matter in her drawings. Her work Intertwined-3 best captures the exhibition’s theme. The iconic sun boasting adjustable brightness reduces our visible reality to a few simple keystrokes. Leaving our invisible reality – our existence through memories and their communication – perched on a tree. Intertwined-3 leaves me wondering: What would be left if our virtual identities were devoid of all power?
Robert Krawczyk‘s algorithmically-generated images transcended their mathematical roots and take on a biological aesthetic. Reminiscent of flight paths, these images seem to capture a previously occupied space; its boundaries defined by freedom of movement.
Benney’s Distinguishable from Magic exhibition is another triumph for the Sci Art Centre of New York. Their virtual exhibitions are both compelling and innovative, pushing the boundaries of tradition.
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