The Digital Weird
co-curated with Jan Robert Leegte
Featuring works by Digital Excreta, Adham Faramawy, Casey Kauffmann, Wednesday Kim, Geoffrey Lillemon, Rachel Maclean, Cassie McQuater, Jacques Perconte, Sabrina Ratté, Nicolai Schmelling, The Vasulkas and Kid Xanthrax
The Digital Weird parodies the format of an online scavenger hunt. Visitors are asked to find hyperlinks within each work to progress through a sequence of carefully placed videos, stills, texts and games. These works are disseminated across a number of platforms, websites, and other methods of communication; supplanted into subcultured social scenes, added into niche video platforms, appearing as links into the esotericism of Reddit debates, and bogus landmarks within the Google map matrix. Nothing is what it seems, and nothing is given context of artist name or exhibition title. Using nonsense usernames and phoney accounts, the embedded works exist in a chain of discovery but can equally be stumbled upon by unsuspecting viewers at random.
Whether a passive intruder, or an active participant in the hunt, viewers are encouraged to waste time on the internet - to inhabit the privileged position of the digital Flâneur - and to succumb to their inherent curiosity of going down an internet rabbit hole. Always a follower of visitors before them, newer explorers will be looking for the warmth of a seat that has just been departed (the infrathin of the digital between-space).
The exhibition is an exploration into the underbelly: subcultures, underground practitioners, theories, genres and artists, all grazing the surface of what the weird could encompass. The works are used as tools to rethink our positioning towards terminology often given to that which some would rather ignore: creepy, unnatural, freaky, unfamiliar, weird. Unpacking the negative connotations of these words (rejection, embarrassment, and different) may enable us to better understand the non-binaries, and the varied realms and meanings of the weird or wyrd that have existed for centuries.
The works traverse this expanded realm of “weirding” in numerous ways, while the trajectory of experiencing the works has been carefully mapped: Digital Excreta’s uncanny animations of non-human beings in the throes of transformation are shuffled with the Vasulkas early experimentations with the materiality of the digital via physical processing and manipulations. Nicolai Schmelling reiterates this process via experiential works as video backgrounds in a fake video conference, accompanying an image making meditation attached in the chat box. This antedates an impossibly large, un-resizable series of images from Jacques Perconte totaling seventy-four billion three hundred and eighty-four million one hundred and seventy-nine thousand two hundred colour points and fourteen gigabits of data.
Emphasising the experiential nature of the exhibition are Sabrina Ratté’s works that take viewers on a tour of renderings inspired by architecture, where entities arise and disappear erratically as if haunting the environments.
In Adham Faramawy’s work, beauty tutorial culture is parodied and reformed with layer paint and manipulated filters, and followed by Casey Kauffmann’s images of femme hysteria displayed via a generative process of transference between physical and digital augmentation. A pseudo-shop front masks Kid Xanthrax’s easter-egg drawings and video work portraying a mystical scrying medium as a postmodern update on the ritual of necromancy by way of meme culture and other “charged artefacts of the cursed online”. It is preceded by Rachel MacLean’s shapeshifting technicolor utopia inspired by children's television and inhabited by gruesome pop divas.
Lying in between on a message board are Wednesday Kim’s works which mine collective anxiety experienced by users of the internet and posits them as powerless entities in a world that equates self-promotion and unrecognised labour with validity of existence and authenticity. Interrupting the background digital noise and providing a safe haven for unresitricted exploration is Cassie McQuater’s feminist dungeon crawler which introduces players at level 12 Banshee leaving them to follow the narrative of an insomniac falling asleep on their computer on the internet. The exhibition trail comes to an end with Geoffrey Lillemon’s colourful portrait of a cat, his cartoon pigmented legs akimbo and tongue mid-lick, epitomising the absurdity of the capitalist culture of consumerism with an editioned non-fungible token.
As the weird detaches itself from the centre, rhizomatically spreading out unboundaried from tensions at the edges, the anomalousness isn’t disconnected, removed or severed. The weird is no longer something that exists outside, but has been inside all along.