why an alternative documenta?
documenta is perhaps the premier ‘biennale’ type exhibition in europe. taking place every five years, the exhibition was long seen as a bellwether of contemporary art. when this project began documenta 13 had not yet opened. yet based on an initial list of artists, it seemed quite typical - a mix of older established artists and younger artists whose practice was more attuned to the aesthetic discourse of the 1970s than to the second decade of the 21st century. even positions connected with science and technology tended to look backward instead of exploring current developments and research.
like much of ‘contemporary art’ documenta 13 looks backward to the 20th century, presenting a late ‘postmodern’ view of things. much of the artwork is anchored in changes that took place in the artworld between the late 1950s and the early 1980s - from fluxus through high postmodernism. political views inevitably display a nostalgia for 1968, without asking too many difficult questions about the general failure of left politics over the last 45 years, or the transformation of formerly marxist or situationist strategies into tools of capital.
an alternative documenta presents a set of artists and projects that look forward, into the 21st century - art that deals with the new technologies that have so changed our world since 1990. their work asks new questions about our bio-politics, consciousness and social awareness. many of these questions, resulting from recent change, could not have even been imagined a quarter of a century ago, before the world wide web existed or GMOs were omnipresent in our food chain. the work featured on this blog questions the effects and implications of new technologies from within, offering the public new opportunities to engage, shape and alter the changes effecting our daily lives and greater social structures.
so called ‘new media’ arts have developed intensively since the era of net.art in the late 1990s and early 2000s. many of the original artists from that time are still working with the internet, but have deepened their involvement from use of code to exploration and exploitation of systems and the social worlds that have developed online in recent years. eva and franco mattes (0100101110101101.org), igor štromajer and olia lialina are all involved in social and philosophical instigations of online realities. annie abrahams and gretta louw explore new possibilities of performance in virtual (and actual worlds) as enabled by technologies unimaginable 20 years ago. the hacker’s spirit has been kept alive and turned against new structures of capital and order, for instance in the web 2.0 suicide machine by walter langelaar, gordon savičić and danya vasiliev. visualization of data and exploration of the ever increasing surveillance of our lives is explored in the work of seiko mikami and owen mundy, while our own transformation into cyborg identities is investigated in the performances of isa gordon.
during the 2000s a number of artists began working with newly developed bio-technologies. these technologies themselves bear a striking resemblance to digital technologies as genetics has not only taken advantage of information technologies but adapted their very language of encoding and decoding. while the new bio-technologies initially were financially prohibitive for artistic use, organisations such as symbiotica, based at the university of western australia, enabled artists and scientists to collaborate and share knowledge and tools. as the costs involved have decreased more artists have become involved with the burgeoning diy-bio scene. hacketaria and honf represent collectives who have combined diy-bio with education and social interaction. today a number of artists work with bio-technologies such as the modification of dna – for example, maja smrekar and špela petrič, paul vanouse and dmitri bulatov.
a hybrid form of digital and bio-art can be seen in the bio-modds of angelo vermeulen and diego maranan. a related current is politically and socially relevant work by artists involved with issues of the environment, botany and agriculture. works by such diverse positions as future farmers, alexandra toland and rich pell (center for postnatural history) seek to re-define man’s relationship with nature in the anthropocene.
more than a critique of the ‘mainstream art world’ and the capital intensive super-exhibitions associated with it, this blog can is meant as a resource, a set of links to exciting new projects in 21st century art by timely artists, as well as an inspiration for curators, critics and others.
-christian de lutz, summer 2012