You may know about the history of art - but ask yourself - what of its future?
The rapid modernisation during the Industrial Revolution deeply troubled many artists, fearing the death of traditional painterly and sculptural tradition in light of photography, what Walter Benjamin famously dubbed ‘the age of mechanical reproduction’. This anxiety has only been exacerbated in our current age, where the exponential leaps in technology, the expansion of our virtual world, and even the threat of artificial intelligence have caused us to question the nature of not only our reality and existence, but also the foundations of our creative and visual expression.
However, for as long as they have existed, technology and art have always been two intertwined facets of life, interacting in a symbiotic relationship of mutual cause and affect – technology never superseded art nor spelt its doom, but instead moulded it to reflect an ever-changing zeitgeist, an organic evolution to remain relevant and poignant to the current world. Today, digital software, social media, and virtual reality have all had a hand in shaping artistic practices, encapsulating the concept of contemporaneity in its purest form.
How does art respond to an environment where images can be created and distributed instantaneously, ubiquitously, and autonomously via our mass network of online channels?
Technological innovation has been featured both as a subject matter in art and as an opportunity for new creative processes. The potential posed by our internet-oriented world is the crux of Looking for U, an exhibition which explores how technology has impacted artist’s methods and aesthetics, through the work of eight international artists. The title of the exhibition refers to Unit London’s first show in October 2013, and the Instagram initiative #lookingforU eventually became a staple to showcase global talent to the gallery’s expansive digital audience.
One of the featured artists, Marc Gumpinger, incorporates his background in software development into the age-old practice of oil on canvas, fabricating virtual mountainous landscapes using 3D-modelling programmes which he then meticulously hand-paints, playing with our expectations of reality and observation. Konrad Wyrebek, on the other hand, investigates the stability of visual data that we take for granted everyday by capturing the optical effect of glitching and corrupted images into paintings that portray these incidental technical blips. Another theme, the appearance of digital media, is subverted in the work of Michael Staniak, disguising physical sculptural surfaces with spray-painted colour in order to resemble flat iridescent images as they would look on a screen.
Looking for U is open from 26 July – 26 August at Unit London, 3 Hanover Square London W1S 1HD.