Bringing together 129 British and international galleries, The London Art Fair (LAF) puts modern and contemporary art right in the center of Brexit. While many of the attending galleries at the fair are concerned about what Britain’s exit from the EU might mean for free movement and trade, a featured group show titled Stranger Collaborations suggests that the internet may hold the answer.
“The exhibit tries to show the positive side of the internet and explain its purpose of bringing people together,” says Pryle Behrman, the show's curator. “So maybe in a post-Brexit world, where people seem to be obsessed about how countries will collaborate, the internet actually provides a great place to do that freely.”
Stranger Collaborations features six artists exploring our online world through digital means and a selection of artworks from emerging galleries and artists from LAF’s Art Projects program. The resulting pieces use a variety of mediums, including online performance, video, and repurposed social media and images. “The history of net art isn’t very long but it’s amazing how rapidly the field has changed,” says Behrman. “But it’s always been a space where you can bring people together, where people can collaborate and where you can sample someone else’s work.”
Net art often works outside traditional methods of gallery space and creation, putting the relationship between artist and internet in a new light. This is seen in Michael Szpakowski's I am Getting a Cat, which turns the Twitter feeds of two cat-obsessed persons into song, or in Gold in Glitter, duo Émilie Brout & Maxime Marion's found-GIF collection of all things gold. “You could be someone that may not think of themselves as an artist but the images that you create could be part of someone else’s work,” explains Behrman, noting that issues of copyright continue to be a focal point in the net art debate.
Ruth Catlow's Time is Speeding Up is an online video that’s made in real time with the webcam participation of LAF visitors. Playing with the idea that time speeds up as we grow older, images taken in the gallery space with a webcam are automatically uploaded online and placed into a video feed with a fixed duration. The feed adds new images constantly, making their appearance in the video feed an eventual flicker. Catlow uses blockchain, an online database that digitally stamps each image uploaded with her signature, making plagiarism or repurposing content less easy.
“Catlow shows a way to stamp artwork and protect artist’s interests,” says Behrman. “But you could also use the internet to communicate without being in the same physical space.”
Annie Abrahams and Liz Sterry create online social spaces for strangers to come together for therapeutic means: Abrahams’ Angry Women and Sterry’s Drinking Alone with the Internet. “We hear a lot of scare stories about the internet,” says Behrman. “I think it’s quite nice to have a show that’s showing the positive sides.”
The London Art Fair is on until January 22nd. Find out more here.