In 1974, Nam June Paik described the potential of a communications network enabled through technology as the Electronic Superhighway. Today the Internet is a vast system of bottomless pits containing everything from cat memes to Ancient Greek theatre.
Since the creation of this public network, artists have been mining the Internet looking for its creative potential. A new show at the Whitechapel Gallery, showcasing over 70 artists, charts Internet inspired work in reverse chronological order from 2016 – 1966.
Due to the vast amount of works on show each space can often feel like a three dimensional Internet, everywhere you turn there is something different. At various points in the exhibition, particularly the first room, this feels like a total sensorial bombardment. Whilst not an ideal scenario for viewing art, as it feels like your complete focus is never devoted to one work at a time, it mimics the environment that inspired it.
Most of the art works encountered fall into the realm of new media art, which is to be expected from art inspired by the Internet. There is an eye-wateringly large amount of screens. Take your time however and no matter your artistic persuasions I doubt you won’t find at least one work that will take your breath away. The list of standout works include ‘Surface Tension’ by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, a paranoia-inducing work, which consists of a giant eye that follows each visitor around the room. Another highlight includes two glowing works by Peter Sedgely, these immersive works recall paintings by abstract artists but instead are formed of kinetic lights. Finally, the list would not be complete without Nam June Paik. There are several of Paik’s works in the exhibition, but the most dazzling is ‘Internet Dream’. The work is a video sculpture formed of numerous screens all showing colorful and dizzying electronic animations.
Like the Internet itself, the works on show at the Whitechapel Gallery form a visual bombardment. At first it seems too much, but dive in and you’ll experience a world of wonders.
Electronic Superhighway is at the Whitechapel Gallery until 15th May www.whitechapelgallery.org