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Take An Online/Offline Stroll Through The 'META' Digital Art Biennale

Although round 2 of 'The Wrong' digital arts biennale won't debut until 2015, we've got the next best thing: the online and offline gallery experience of 'META.'

by Benoit Palop
Jul 30 2014, 8:10pm

Happy Birthday Nick by Emilie Gervais

Compulsive consumers of digital art and/or web-based awesomeness should set their sights set on The Wrong biennale; if one thing was for certain last fall, it was that the unique, online and offline event blew our mindsBringing together the cream of the crop in terms of digital arts creativity, this massive, highly-inclusive event spread out over 3 months, with no less than 500 international artists, shown over 30 pavilions accessible from your web-browser, and in 13 physical locations throughout the world. Numerous techniques and aesthetics merged and blended together to promote not only a wide window into the digital creation community, but to bring insight into cutting-edge and emergent digital practices. The only problem? As all great events do, it eventually came to an end. 


In collaboration with Triangulation, however, for just a few days, the team behind The Wrong have offered a chance to relive the awesomeness via META, an exhibition presented as part of Canal 180's collaborative Creative Camp. Through August 29th, primarily accessible via an online platform (but also via a physical space located in Abrantes, Portugal), the show will be fed by web-based works, digital pictures, videos and GIFs alike, created by 58 artists, many of whom were on display in The Wrong. Featuring a very special collaboration from UNDERVOLT&COJohnny Woods, Yoshi Sodeoka, and Nicholas O'Brien's experimental label—it's exactly the type of interstitial event that will keep us salivating until the next edition of the biennale comes around in November 2015.

To learn more about META, and to gain exclusive insight into next year's edition of the biennale, we spoke with David Quiles Guilló, founder and head curator of The Wrong:

MKtissues by Claudia Maté

The Creators Project: Hi David. Could you talk to us about the genesis of The Wrong biennale? How did the idea come about and how did it materialize?

David Quiles Guilló: The Wrong was born as a reaction to establishment. In this particular case it was first a reaction to my very own establishment, my own projects, my own rules...

The Wrong was born as a concept in 2006 as a teenage reaction to the print magazine business in which I was absorbed since 2001 with ROJO magazine. It was all about making things physical, but I spent 13 hours a day in front of my computer sending emails, doing layouts, rendering images on Photoshop, and the ROJO website/blog was stronger than ever with more than 2M unique visitors monthly. I was like, we should do something online, and for online-based work only. 

It was a reaction to what was paid for at the time. My public, my sponsors, my artists wanted to print their work in the magazine. Everyone could have a website and show their work but print was everything at that time for me, and for all my working environment and ecosystem. 

I guess this idea came to challenge my environment, my contributors, my sponsors... But soon I realized it was too early for such an event; transfer speed of data at the time was not as fast, and not as ready as today to host such a huge event online. Also, there were [fewer] active social media channels as extensively used as today. So I kept it in my drawer of projects to be made until the right time came, and I kept the idea growing on my mind as technology advanced year after year.

META's offline exhibition, on view in Abrantes, Portugal. Walls by Protey Temen

In the meantime, as ROJO I produced 40 printed issues, 41 monographic books, several special art projects for large brands and corporations, and more than 900 art events, most of them in small- and medium-sized in cities around the world. All this experience was being stored to take me to my next challenge; NOVA.

NOVA was the next dream come true. An event that gathered all ROJO know-hows, with the objective to produce a 6 to 8 week contemporary culture event. It was meant to be a biennial event, but I ended up producing 5 editions of NOVA Contemporary Culture between 2010 and 2012, and managing more than 400 artists in very short periods of time, making offline events and promoting them online which very good results. Despite success in both organizations, public, and in the quality of the artists who participated, I felt it was the right time to take on a new challenge. I remember clearly the day I decided to make it happen: I was compelled to tell the world as much as I was telling myself. I even posted it on Facebook— two simple words: The Wrong.

I gave myself a whole year to build up from zero to the complete event, and I spent the full year scouting the possible curators, artists and also technical partners and sponsors. November 1st, 2013 the biennale opened to public, with free admission, hosted by Cargo, and featuring art by more than 500 artists, displayed into 30 online pavilions— plus an offline program hosted by 13 embassies, which went extended until January 30th 2014 with amazing attendance numbers both online and offline, and with an extensive coverage of both established and traditional medias, and alternative and new medias. Hopefully The Wrong becomes a landmark for the new generation of digital artists and public/fans of digital art.

Still from "Moss Merseles Melodie", video by Adam Ferriss, Undervolt & Co. 

What are the advantages and benefits beyond the obvious visibility and ease of access of an online biennale?

The Wrong is not made to feature conventional art via internet, but to gather all art made for internet, with internet, and that uses internet and its digital environment as the prime source for its existence. It is not The Wrong’s online objective to display a physical sculpture made of marble, via pictures of different angles, but to tempt artists to generate sculptures with digital technologies to be shown in digital environments.

The size of this first biennale has been almost as large as the internet itself; I confess I have not been able to check out all the artworks on display, but only about two thirds of it all— and I spent the 90 days mostly online, working non-stop on it, looking at it, and promoting it. 

It represents the good and the not-so-good of technology. We also had offline events hosted by temporary embassies, in order to gather public physically for beers, and generated an offline program of shows, talks, exhibitions and gatherings, but, as most of the work is made to be there— online— 90% of the content of The Wrong has been web based, web hosted...

I believe the advantages are mainly the ones you mention, which for such a large show are basic to make it happen nicely: visibility, accessibility... Plus it does not close at 8pm, you can come back when you have a moment and check some more stuff from anywhere in the world at any time, and the dimensions of it were so vast, you needed days to see it all. Plus this very particular one— which I believe The Wrong is the only biennale that features such a thing— the Wrong has a “public” pavilion in which artists who believe their work could be featured can submit to months before the biennale opens, and can be selected to be part of it. Also, this pavilion stays open until last day of the event, so if the artists just know about the biennale while it is happening, he/she can still submit work and be selected. The open pavilion works on a day to day basis uploading new work everyday from submissions.

Still from "Synthetic Surface 1000" by Emilio Gomariz 

Regarding META, what interests you in this convergence of online and offline art?

After The Wrong, and 90 days of intense online activity, and wanting to attend the 13 offline activities organized in the embassies, I felt the connection only added value to each other. I wanted to attend to all offline events, but it was physically impossible, so I attended some of them via live broadcast. It was 90 days of amazing experiences and discoveries. When I had to close The Wrong I started to feel a huge void inside me, which gave me anxiety attacks. It is very hard to speed up to be able to absorb so much info, and then slow down from one day to the next. Mostly, I recalled the beautiful mix of feeling when online and offline collided. It left me thinking about it for months…

When the guys from 180 Creative Camp contacted me and offered me this amazing exhibition space in Abrantes, Portugal, and gave me total freedom to do as I pleased, I instantly thought of making an exhibition with the objective of showcasing amazing digital artwork and building a bridge between the online and the offline as it happened briefly in some of the embassies. 

The online/offline is the actual representation of us today. It makes things solid. Makes them close, understandable, familiar. We live in an offline/online reality, and making exhibitions which mix these two sides of the same reality makes it more real, more right. Even knowing most of the public will not be able to attend both realities, and you may have to miss parts of it, makes it more internet-like. More 'now.'

From Animated GIFs collection by Jon Cates

Besides the Greek definition, why did you choose the name META? Is there a thread to this exhibition, a major theme?

The name was chosen following the Greek definition. Its meaning is basically what the objective of the exhibition was: to give The Wrong continuity, to make it last longer, to make it transcend. The name was actually “suggested” by one of the curators, who, in the pre-production period suggested that I curate a pavilion exclusively with curators' artworks. He suggested creating a META pavilion. In the end, the META pavilion never happened online as we all were extremely busy just doing the everyday work for the biennial, so I kept the idea and the name and the concept and made it happen when the right moment came. Sometimes it just takes a little bit of patience, which, mixed with hard work, usually makes things happen like magic.

I also like the meaning of META in spanish as the word means 'finish line,' but also refers to an, 'objective to be achieved.' I like short words, with loads of meanings, sides and interpretations. It is what I call my personal poetry practice. I did it since 2001 with all the ROJO magazines— they did not have numbers but names, short names with many different meanings and sides. I guess it is a given I cannot escape from in my [own] art practice.

Wallpaper 3 by Lorna Mills

With META, you're showing a small number of artists from the first edition of Wrong. First, could you give me the selection criteria for taking part in this biennale and second, how did you make your selections for META among this smaller section?

I decided to select the 30 curators that would select their 10 to 20 artists to be featured in their pavilions. My criteria to select the artists was based on past works, experience in curating shows, body of work and personal accessibility. I even accepted suggestions from curators I have chosen in order for them to point me to the right direction on where to find more curators, like-minded or not like-minded at all. It was an organic process where things built from the ground, and in very slow pace. I gave myself and the event time to make it happen... to let it happen.

META's selection was more of a 'lack of time' process— I contacted all participating curators of The Wrong, and invited them with very small period of time to submit their artwork, and invited two to three artists from their pavilions to also submit artworks to participate in META. The selection was also organic, as some of them had the time to process the infos and participate, and some of them, due to the short deadlines, decided not to participate.

The selection process was the exact opposite of The Wrong, but served also as firewall, as there was no way I could fit all 30 curators, plus 2 or 3 guest per curator in this show. I trusted the lack of time and dates will do a natural selection, and I really enjoyed the work from all 30, and trusted their curatorial skills. I knew the show content will be awesome, so my main concern was how to present the work both online and offline.

TCatflakes by Illya Adreyev, Maria Gelman and Anton Platanov 

So you partnered with Triangulation, an indispensable media source on the digital creation scene. Could you give us more details on your approach and how it came about?

After the huge amount of work that The Wrong represented specifically for me, as I took care of mostly all visual programming and content on the home website of the biennial, I decided with META to get some help, to find collaborations who could not only help me, but also websites which could add to META

I am a fan of Triangulation's editorial work… not only on how it curates its content, but also, its continuity and editorial line. So as I always do, I contacted them directly to check on how to build up the online side of META together with them. It has been a very easy process as we understood each other right away, and they did an amazing work on how to display the art, the info, the links, the images... I am very very happy with the results and how we achieved the visual integration between the offline and the online side of META. I am very happy with it all.

Bitcoin Dreams by MIYÖ VAN STENIS 

Finally, could you give us an insight or two about the next biennale?

I am now working on several ideas which I believe can make the event more public and increase the chance that people that still do not relate to this kind of art and stumble upon it, and have this chance encounter generate a minimum need to see more, to know a bit more...

The Wrong for 2015/16 should grow in firepower both online and offline. For the online part, I am planning on feature a good bunch of pavilions, some of them dedicated to specific contents like a pavilion exclusively to launch art short films and video pieces, which usually do not fit in film festivals, or TV channels. 

For the offline part, the quest is a bit more complicated, and now sounds like a utopia, but I am going to work hard in order to arrange a network of large public screens, subway screens, even TV channels around the world to showcase reels of artwork featured in the biennale. As I mentioned, all new ideas I will try to implement are pointing to the same direction: to generate maximum visibility, so any you stumble upon content of the biennale, that this encounter makes your day a bit more interesting.

Still from "Breakaway", video by Johnny Woods, Undervolt & Co.

David Quiles Guillós is the founder, head curator and CEO of ROJO and all its projects, of NOVA Contemporary Culture festival, and of THE WRONG digital art biennale. He also spends his “working time” writing scripts, daydreaming of producing his own scripts, getting ready to launch LINDO KILLER, a mix of art project and lifestyle brand, building OQUBO, a project hosting a creative school for children, an art residency and an exhibition program, and running the ROJO’s social media, in a daily basis and non-stop since 2002.

David would like to thank the crew at 180 Creative Camp, without whom META would not have been possible. 


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