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Identity in the Age of the Digital. The Body Electric at Walker Art Center

  • Aneta Grzeszykowska - Selfie
  • Sidsel Meineche Hansen - DICKGIRL 3D
March 30, 2019
Balasz Takac is alias of Vladimir Bjelicic who is actively engaged in art criticism, curatorial and artistic practice.

Our daily experiences, as well as our identities, have become entirely framed by the digital era. The dominating political discourse on a global scale was recently described by certain scholars as the age of surveillance capitalism, which tells much about the use of digital technology for the purposes of ongoing control. That implies that our bodies, feelings, and interactions are constantly monitored and, if necessary, corrected by the system.

However, this state we are living in has its historical roots, and ever since the 1960s various artists explored how technology affected the human body and mind. In order to present a continuity in questioning gender, ideology, sexuality, class, and race in regards to the screen, the Walker Art Center will present an exhibition The Body Electric.

Dara Birnbaum - Technology Transformation
Dara Birnbaum – Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman, 1978, still. Video (color, sound). T.B. Walker Acquisition Fund, 1999

The Exhibition Concept

The curators Pavel Pyś and Jadine Collingwood decided to examine the contemporary articulation of the Internet and the digital technology alongside the historical perspectives of the artists who shared the same interests in the previous decades regardless of differing technological means.

The upcoming show will feature an impressive representation of intergenerational artists who explored a notion both real and virtual, the organic and artificial, through various media.

Left Lynn Hershman Leeson - Roberta Construction Chart Right Juliana Huxtable - Lil' Marvel
Left: Lynn Hershman Leeson – Roberta Construction Chart, 1973/1994. Walker Art Center, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Arthur Lester, 1994 / Right: Juliana Huxtable – Lil’ Marvel, 2015. Color inkjet print, ed. AP of 3. Courtesy of the artist and JTT, New York

The Installment

The audience will first get to know the works of a pioneering artists Shigeko Kubota, Charlotte Moorman, Nam June Paik, and Wolf Vostell active in the mid-1960s; they appropriated television set as the main subject of their performances, sculptures, and installations.

On display will be a new installation by yet another prolific pioneer Joan Jonas, as well as the footage of performances by The Wooster Group centered on the fusion of body and screen. The works by Burce Nauman, Sanja Iveković, Cindy Sherman, Paul Mpagi Sepuya and Amalia Ulman will show how artists used the lens of the camera to capture intimate body performances whether via the 1960s Portapak camera, 1980s video technology or contemporary HD cameras.

Works by Sidsel Meineche Hansen, Laurie Anderson, Ed Atkins, and Pierre Huyghe focused on digital avatars or other virtual bodies will be on display alongside the sculptures by Anicka Yi and Robert Gober, and an immersive installation by Trisha Baga.

On the other hand, the sociopolitical interrogations represent the core of the works by Sondra Perry, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Dara Birnbaum, and Martine Syms, aimed to question the notion of gender. The finalizing selection of works by Josh Kline, Candice Lin & Patrick Staff, and Marianna Simnett deal with the body modifications caused by the medical treatments.

Helen Marten - Dust and Piranhas
Helen Marten – Dust and Piranhas, 2011. Digital animation with sound on mix media scaffolding. Private Collection, Los Angeles. Courtesy of the artist and Sadie Coles HQ, London

The Body Electric at Walker Art Center

After all stated above, it seems that the upcoming exhibition will pose the question of how we perceive ourselves and understand our place in the world saturated with likes, emoticons, shares, and live feed. Furthermore, it will provide an insight into how artists seek a different kind of social and political subjectivity in a post-digital world(s).

The Body Electric will be on display at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis from 30 March until 21 July 2019.

Featured images: Aneta Grzeszykowska – Selfie #2, 2014. Pigment ink on cotton paper. Courtesy of Raster Gallery, Warsaw; Sidsel Meineche Hansen – DICKGIRL 3D(X), 2016. In VR format, a gaming PC, Oculus Rift headset, headphones, beanbag in vegan leather. Installation view, SECOND SEX WAR, Gasworks, London, 2016. Courtesy of the artist and Rodeo, London. All images courtesy Walker Art Center.