Moniker Art Fair - Virtual Realities and Postcards
This week was marked by several major fairs and exciting events all across London. Moniker art fair is one of the few among them that celebrates urban culture and tackles the matter of its current state and future. With regard to the future, the influence of the aesthetics and advancements presented by digital technology becomes one of the key topics at this fair. Moniker closely follows a recent conference, The Art Conference held a few weeks ago, and it looks like they have a theme in common. As we will have seen, the majority of featured artists and galleries addresses this relationship between the material and the virtual through their work, even if indirectly or nostalgically.
How Shoreditch Is Pertinent To the Fair
The fair takes place at The Old Truman Brewery in London, right in the heart of Shoreditch – the area that most Londoners and its tourists either love or love to hate, but admittedly enjoy either way. Interestingly, one of the people I first spoke to at the fair referred to this Shorditch issue himself. Toaster, who wishes to keep his identity private, talked about how graffiti writing and popular culture have drastically changed over the years. “We knew it was going to become something big – but not this big“, he said, referring to the way underground street writing and tagging transformed into a popular style. Shoreditch is also where Toaster first started tagging walls. The recognizable stencil of a toaster hasn’t changed since day one, but Shoreditch certainly has, as it is one of the most typical examples of gentrification today. While the artist’s opinion on this was neither explicitly negative nor affirmative, it does make us reconsider the position of street culture today, both with regards to its past and the future. And all of it was truly contained in a single room in the old brewery. The original aura of the place, Moniker fair that builds upon it, and the authors’ visions of future, how it interacts with what we know now.
Ongoing Processes – A Screen Printing Machine and an Artist’s Studio
The reason Toaster was there was to sign prints that were made in situ, provided by Jealous Gallery from London. I later discovered that it was impossible to run the entire process at the fair, meaning that the screen printing machine was only used to add the final touches, but it was none the less interesting. This was, of course, not the only gallery that aimed to make its booth more outstanding and engaging. Not far away from Jealous’s booth, Amsterdam-based Stick Together gallery presents the unusual works made by Max Zorn, the unusual reflecting in the fact that the canvases are wrapped in duct tape, and not even touched by paint or graphite. Notwithstanding, they depict realistic paisajes and portraits, bathed in sepia tones. As a “proof” of the artist’s rare talent, the gallery decided to bring the man himself and to turn the booth into his atelier, giving the visitors an opportunity to see how these works are created.
Existing In the Same Space – Two Fairs and Virtual Environments
The space where Moniker is held is shared with The Other Art Fair. Between the two sections there is a nicely arranged bar with benches and tables, and it is where most of us would spend time discussing what we saw. In the meantime, we’re looking at Maser’s Digital Playground, which provides different types of experience if assessed through different means. We can choose to view the installations using our eyes, or alternatively, our smartphones. Another kind of virtual experience called Virtual Awakening awaits at the very entrance of the fair, although the line in front of it will probably make you return to it in the very end. There are two separate rooms in which visitors are able to use Oculus Rift and go through a 360° experience – if they dare, assuming that they’ve read the description of the artwork at stake (“various stages of a near-death experience, subjecting the viewer to visions of an afterlife realm and confronting them with the current global crisis“).
Most Engaging Pieces
It is important to say that the interactive projects did not attract more attention than some of the booths that were organized in a more traditional manner. For instance, Lucy Sparrow’s work was definitely one of the highlights of the fair, and it was as static and sculptural as it can be. The artist sews items that we recognize from everyday life and turns them into soft cushions that you’d almost certainly love to buy (that said, I would love to compare the price of the original OPI nail polish and the one that Sparrow makes). Lawrence Alkin Gallery decided to place them in closed cupboards, which only made them more inviting (or was that also part of Sparrow’s installation?). Then, there were also works by some of the great names in Western art, such as an original Andy Warhol print showcased by Rise gallery, and a pair of car hoods painted by Jake and Dinos Chapman and Bob And Roberta Smith, presented by Art On A Postcard. Speaking of Warhol, a certain affinity towards Pop Art seems to be re-emerging at this year’s Moniker. This is seen not only in Rise’s Pop-Artish booth, but also through the work of Collin McMaster, who “mastered” a unique kind of treatment of flat surfaces.
Two Ways of Connecting at Moniker Art Fair London
The matter of alienation, on the one hand, and interconnectedness, on the other, is tackled both in the Moniker and The Other Art Fair. Apart from the virtual reality projects that were mentioned above, there are other ways to come across this notion in the rest of the fair. Even when a technological device is not directly involved in a piece, the alienation reoccurs as a subject – in Sam Hewitt’s paintings for example. His works depict people in abstract landscapes of artificial color, deliberately allowing for the void to have the upper hand over the space occupied by humans. The feeling that they evoke is irresistibly reminiscent of the one we get in a room full of people looking at their phones. Also, some of the works are so painstakingly sculptural (such as Sparrow’s soft objects), it is as if they invite you to indulge in nostalgia for physical relations. Finally, this was most directly expressed through a very basic project. Close to the bar, there was a post box that encouraged visitors to send a postcard to any place in the world – for free.
Featured images: Moniker logo in front of The Old Truman Brewery building on Brick Lane; Moniker, exhibition view. All images (c) Widewalls.