How do the Internet and technology influence the arts, and how do artists respond to the digital age through the materiality of the art object? What materialistic strategies do they utilize to depict the digital realm in their works? In Projet Pangée’s group exhibition Futuristic Future the artworks by Lauren Pelc-McArthur, Amy Brener and Cat Bluemke seek a digital aesthetic through the use of non-digital materials. The artists challenge the traditional media of painting and sculpture in order to create a technological aesthetic which creates ambiguities in the viewer’s perception of the works. The artworks playfully reveal the tension between non-digital materials and the move towards digitization within the arts.
Upon entering the gallery, Pelc-McArthur’s series of acrylic works titled Normal Paintings set the tone for Futuristic Future, as they frame the exhibition across all four walls, establishing a pseudo-digital space. The painting’s abstract surfaces were built by the thick application of white paint, which was then topped by a light spray of fluorescent colours to highlight the texture, creating a sense of movement and light. The combination of the unconventional use of fluorescent colours generates an outer-worldly glow; the repetitious textures reference the interior of computer hardware such as CPU sockets, RAMs and ports. While the aesthetic of these works cites the digital realm, the materiality of the paintings allude to Abstract Expressionism.
Bluemke references virtual reality with her small hologram sculptures, which are placed on large, white plinths at the center of the gallery space. The enigmatic glass objects may lead visitors to assume that the artworks are technologically advanced artifacts. Perhaps they are futuristic tablets? However, upon further inspection one comes to realize that what appears to be a hologram are actually figures which are drawn directly onto the pieces of glass. The glass itself acts like a prism, as the gallery’s lighting is refracted by the sculptures. The figures etched onto the glass are representations of saints who have been heavily referenced in Western art history: Saint Sebastian, Saint Lucia, and Saint Agatha. The artist’s rendering of the biblical hero David stands out, as his bust appears to magically float in space. Bluemke’s work plays on the tension of digitized representation and Renaissance motifs.
Brener’s series of hanging sculptures titled Flexi-Shield suggestively emerges as a memory storage device, through its fossilization of both natural and manufactured ‘artifacts.’ The series consists of plasticized, skin-like dresses in pink and purple hues. Embedded in each dress are various types of small objects like leaves, flowers, paperclips, and buttons, creating intricate designs. The natural light streaming through the gallery’s windows reveal the textures within the translucent material, allowing patterns to emerge across the surface which resemble keyboards and computer hardware. Perhaps these dresses represent portraits of specific people, as the objects inside the material could reference significant memories. The series creates an interaction between traditional and digital forms of archiving through the use of found materials.
The artists featured in the Futuristic Future exhibition explore and define a digital aesthetics by using non-digital materials, while concurrently forming a dialogue with traditional Western art historical subject matter, methods, and styles. As artists increasingly move to the Internet and cutting-edge technologies to create art, Futuristic Future questions the fate of non-digital materials: will they become obsolete or will tradition continue to allow for their existence?