"Can’t Touch This" brings together works that fold together real and virtual space, questioning whether the contemporary aesthetic experience can exist solely in real life or online, and suggesting that the real and virtual are at present inextricably connected.
“Can’t Touch This” began with the aspiration to bring together a diverse group of artists considering how the internet mediates their work in real life, and on a less sober note, to use what is possibly the best title for an online exhibition ever. Through conversations with the friends and colleagues in this show, “Can’t Touch This” began to take form. Several questions remained present during its development: Why make exhibitions online? What qualities are endemic to online work and online exhibitions that are not seen in the physical world? Which artists have shown a commitment to considering the idiosyncrasies and interactions of virtual and physical space while producing art?
A point of inspiration came from the work of New York-based photographer Sara VanDerBeek. VanDerBeek creates sculptures in real space, photographs them, manipulates these images, and plays with their collapsed dimensionality. These final photographs are shown as autonomous works, her original sculptures never to be seen. VanDerBeek’s work is uniquely activated in a third space between sculptural documentation and photographic collage—the manipulation, here, being its key asset. Yet, how can we render this idea contemporarily, commenting on our quotidian existence as artists and writers whose primary interaction with art occurs on the Web? How can translate this idea online?
The work in “Can’t Touch This” was culled via an open call extended to ten artists: Juliette Bonneviot, Leah Dixon, Harm van den Dorpel, Enterprise Inc., Anna Lord, Nicholas O’Brien, Ben Schumacher, Kate Steciw, Ben Vickers, and Artie Vierkant. Through artistic strategies such as Photoshopping the documentation of artworks, digital watermarking, re-appropriating found jpegs, digital collage, and embracing compression artifacts, “Can’t Touch This” brings together works that fold together real and virtual space. The exhibition considers issues ranging from the role and impact of online reproductions of art work to the phenomenology of the screen, image manipulation, the failure of memory and the human hand in recreating a digitally produce image, etc. Such work questions whether the contemporary aesthetic experience can exist solely in real life or online, suggesting that the real and virtual are at present inextricably connected—their individual gravities, at times, difficult to ascertain.
The format of the exhibition, mostly comprising jpegs, is meant to mimic that of a standard photography exhibition. Much is to be gained from a patient gaze. Additional information about each work and biographical information on each artist can be found by clicking the “I” button toward the bottom of the picture plane.
Karen Archey is an art critic and curator based in New York. She acts as the Editor-at-Large of Rhizome at the New Museum and the Curatorial Director of Stadium, a gallery in New York's Chelsea arts district dedicated to the support of internet-aware art.
Archey's writing has appeared in Art-Agenda, Spike Art Quarterly, Modern Painters, Kaleidoscope, Flash Art International, i-D, MAP Magazine (UK), and ARTINFO, among other publications. In addition to her freelance work, Archey writes the bimonthly column on post-emerging Western art “Moving Up” for the bilingual Chinese-English magazine LEAP, and the ARTINFO blog “Image Conscious.”
Recently, she served on the judicial committee of Migrating Forms (2011) and contributed essays to the exhibition catalogs of Rhododendron ii at SPACE, London and TruEye SurView at W139, Amsterdam. In January 2012, Archey presented an essay on post-internet art at the panel “Ways Beyond the Internet,” moderated by Hans Ulrich Obrist for DLD12 in Munich.
As Extracted (Image Objects) by Artie Vierkant
Stephen Faught ($1.50)
6 Anonymous Patrons ($53.50)