How can art make sense of the digital age? In an era of “fake news” and constant surveillance – where the lines between reality and simulation are becoming blurred – new modes of production become necessary. Exploring this unprecedented landscape is Digital Citizen – The Precarious Subject, an exhibition at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead. Investigating the new possibilities offered by technology, the show immerses viewers in digital avatars, games and virtual worlds, looking at digital environments in relation to ideas of citizenship, community and political activism.
Tackling these questions is James Bridle’s Citizen Ex, which presents a different way of thinking about citizenship. Based on online movements and website clicks, Bridle’s model demonstrates how networked technology is encouraging a more fluid conception of international borders and personal identity. “This new interpretation of citizenship as a statistical process constitutes a radical shift away from history, and begs the question of exactly what is a ‘citizen’ in a digital world where surveillance is ubiquitous and transnational, and how rights and obligations are constantly affected by such a shift.”
Videos on view include We Help Each Other Grow by collaborative practitioners They Are Here, using a thermal imaging camera – typically used in surveillance and border control – to question notions of gender through music and dance. Other films include Dublin-based artist Alan Butler’s On Exactitude in Science (2017), a two screen video installation which offers a synchronised presentation of Godfrey Reggio’s documentary film KOYAANISQATSI (1982), featured above, and a shot-for-shot remake simulated by Butler on Grand Theft Auto.
Exploring similar themes is Alan Warburton’s Goodbye Uncanny Valley. As the artist explains: “Computer graphics have conquered that strange place where things are almost real… but not quite. After decades of innovation, we’re at the point where we can conjure just about anything with software. The battle for photoreal CGI has been won, so the question is… what happens now?” Warburton also presents Lolograms, a series of 3D modelled “keyboard warriors” that taps into timely dialogues about online identity, truth and masculinity.
The exhibition is open until 16 June. Find out more here.
Lead image: Petra Széman How to Enter a Fictional Realm – TUTORIAL 2017.