While virtual galleries and online-only art exhibitions are commonplace in 2016, curators Helena Acosta and Miyö Van Stenis are proving that there are still many ways to innovate the widespread system. Beautiful Interfaces: The Privacy Paradox, an exhibition the two have curated at REVERSE in Chelsea, couples the prestige and market potential of IRL art exhibitions with our everyday art consuming habits.
Beautiful Interfaces, which we previewed back in February, is unique in its hyper-conditionary viewing: you can only view the works on a smartphone or tablet, and you can only view the works while physically inside of REVERSE. Through five hacked, offline routers that are each their own private network, the works of Jennifer Lyn Morone, Heather Dewey-Hagborg, LaTurbo Avedon, Annie Rose Malamet, and Carla Gannis come to life.
“Our goal from the beinning was to create a platform that will force the spectator to see new media art outside of the internet,” Van Stenis explains to The Creators Project. “The fact that the viewer has to come to a specific place to be connected to a wi-fi node in order to experience the exhibition appeared as a very interesting point to change the regular experience of an online digital art exhibition,” Acosta completes. “Also, the router as the physical object that contains the artwork allows us to present a different way to collect digital art.”
Another crucial facet of the exhibition is its focus on privacy and the paradoxical way it is approached on the Internet. As the press release states: “despite Internet users’ apprehension about privacy, their behaviors do not reflect those concerns.” Indeed, Beautiful Interfaces itself is a privacy paradox; when you connect your smart devices to any of the five routers, you are effectively exposing all of your digital information to the gallery’s hacked network.
“[The privacy paradox] is completely intentional. I think of it as a response to how we live right now, where our data and ourselves are exposed online with each service we use,” Van Stenis tells The Creators Project. “This need to be connected, the curiosity of discovering a new platform, or the desire of being part of something, to catch up with the continuing evolution of web experiences, are the main psychological reasons that let us give our privacy away,” Acosta adds.
Ultimately, the paradoxical fusion of physical-meets-digital in the exhibition is reflected in the behavior of the viewer. The sentiment that many find it effortless to spend hours on their phone but difficult to spend more than ten seconds looking at a work of art is echoed in the show: “Naturally, the people who come to the exhibition feel very comfortable spending one or two hours enjoying art from the ‘private’ frame of their devices,” Acosta jokingly mentions.
Beautiful Interfaces: The Privacy Paradox will remain on view at REVERSE in Chelsea until May 14th, 2016. If you stop by for a visit, make sure to bring a charged smart device, or you’ll end up standing idly in a room with routers.