by Julia Flamingo
Artists are also the ones who critically address art itself. Contemporary art history is full of creators who have used metalanguage to discuss art-making, challenge the art market, and push the boundaries of what is understood for a specific media or language. Because so many artists include a critical discourse to art-making in their own creative process is one of the reasons why contemporary art is a universe in constant reinvigoration and expansion.
The collective exhibition 9 Colours gathers eight artists who are willing to critically address the digital realm and NFTs while working in the digital space and with NFTs – the latter for the first time to almost all of them. Curated by Carly Whitaker, the online exhibition and fundraising campaign on Artpool brings together nineteen NFT artworks by the South African artists who, in the show, are each related to a colour. Apart from their videos, GIFS and images, they are also present with statements and points of view about their relationship to NFTs.
“A lot of the work I do as a curator is to create spaces for people and artists to engage with digital-born artworks and ensure that other voices are presented and displayed”, says Johannesburg-based curator Carly Whitaker. Working with art in the digital space is not a novelty to her as it is for so many of us. In 2014, Whitaker created the online art residency Floating Reverie, in which dozens of artists around the globe have participated. The Post-Digital exhibitions organised by her after a round-year of residencies can also be physical expressions of the residencies to challenge artists to produce the same work online and offline. A special edition of Post-Digital was hosted on Artpool in early 2021.
Because she has tirelessly explored and researched digital art over the years and perceived the gap in projects that facilitate digital artists' practices, Whitaker is now developing the platform Blue Ocean to host and facilitate digital-born practices and digital-born art. The money raised with the sales of the limited editions and unique NFTs on Artpool will finance its launch.
“I don’t have a fixed opinion about our relationship with the digital. We are always learning and changing our points of view. The openness we have with the digital realm is what drives the success of how your work manifests in it. And that is what Artpool offers me and the artists as well - to learn, to experiment”, says Whitaker.
We asked the artists to comment on their works in the exhibition and how they critically address today's relationship between human beings and the digital realm. Here is what some of them say:
"The concept of my work, FUTURISTIC TASTEMAKER CONNOISSEUR is about digital blackface and the appropriation of ideas and concepts that happens on social media. The Tumblr blog video features a collection of reaction gifs built from out-of-context The Read (popular Black podcast) quotes paired with snippets from well-known reality TV shows that star white personalities. Within the video is also the face of a Black woman being constructed from mismatched pieces. This speaks to the absurdity that exists in how Blackness is borrowed from and used in odd contexts. It speaks to non-Black social media users taking parts of Black culture online (the lingo, the jokes, etc.) and using them for themselves in contexts that don't fully make sense. It addresses the assimilated nature of social media and its users' habits on the Internet with its contradictions that often arise when unrelated topics are conjoined." - Aluta Null
"These works come from an ongoing series of images titled 'Let Me Hide Inside You'. The works are made by inserting text fragments into the image file data. I began making these in 2009 as a way to send messages to people without them being explicitly aware of it. In one way I could hide messages in plain sight, but in another I could allow metadata like my messages to become part of the image itself. This series of works experiment with the online equivalent of ‘non-verbal’ communication in digital spaces, much like body language and gaze operate in face-to-face conversation. These works are made by exploring and prototyping different forms meaningful gestures could take in the digital realm." - Nathan Gates
"The concept of colours is something that has been of interest in my own practice for a few years now - mostly in the scientific sense of how they might be used as tools for dialogue rather than conflict - as colour and its placement layering over the skin of people in South Africa has always been a tool of segregation. [...] For this exhibition the emergent form of the colour red is finally being released and played back to the digital context which created it in a sense. [...] The augmented artwork is situated within a latent interpretation of the personal 'red' in the everyday since Covid Era. The Red Stl and 'Im sorry' are the conceptualised portals to a new political party for the planet where we believe in play and partnership that remains in constant conversation with the digital and the real. Not only tools but also platforms for more dialogue to emerge from or be broadcasted through." - Issa Wessels
"My work for this show, following the prompt Nine Colours, is a collection of colour swatches derived from contemporary “slow-fashion” or fashion marketed as circular, better for the planet, neutral, organic or sustainable. Here the relationship between the human being and the digital realm is addressed through our relationship with social media, and the language and vocabulary that frames and defines new trends in “conscious consumption” or “sustainable buying". Many of the colours, their names and the catch phrases used to market slow fashion and sustainable consumption is experienced through the realm of social media, itself designed to trap the consumer, the user, the human on the other end, in an endless feedback loop that is designed to make us want more rather than less." - Naadira Patel
"What is the image in the digital age? They come and go, instantly consumed, filtered, disappear. The image is an instant, no one really look as at an image online. in the act of scrolling the image becomes a blur of colours in vague forms. On thinking about liminal spaces, the digital realm becomes a type of commons, a digital third space / third landscape. The colour that comes to mind is a maroon associated to the amaranth, a plant I have been thinking / working with for a while. It grows abundantly in the physical third landscape across Johannesburg. This image taken from one of those sites alludes to it. Images shared / posted in the online space become abstracted, location-less, timeless entering into a kind of entropy and collapsing of time and place. I like that. For me, in a way the third landscape in digital terms would be decentralised networks – a hybrid space for novel things to occur." - Io Makandal
'9 colours' collection and online exhibition will go public on May 5th. On this occasion, nineteen artworks will be sold to raise funds for the launch of Blue Ocean platform. The Friends of Artpool will access the presale on May 4th. More details on www.artpool.xyz