Design: J. Pegman, Camilla Murgia, Tina Sauerlaender
Web Development: Camilla Murgia
Launch Date: June 20, 2022
Maya Ben David
Echo Can Luo
Online identities exist parallel to our bodies on the other side of the screen. A wide variety of image creation tools - photography, video, computer generated imagery (CGI), image editing, 3D scanning and modeling software - have become widely accessible and allow us to easily create different versions of ourselves or highlight different facets in digital the realm. Identity has become a fluid concept. This exhibition presents artists who predominantly work with self-representation and incorporate digital means or online tools in their practice. They reflect on the possibilities of online identity construction: they utilize today's technological possibilities to generate simulated identities, they question its underlying societal values, and deal with formal and aesthetic aspects of facial or bodily depictions.
Social media enables artists to publish their works and cultivate their own community of supporters or collectors outside of conventional art spaces, and therefore undermine the traditional art system and its power structures. As social networks are public sites not specifically defined as art spaces, and because they are designed for the communication of individual experiences and self-promotion. Users perform identities that may or may not be connected to their self, or their real-life personality. These platforms pose a fertile ground for artistic practice involving self-representation. Artists often appropriate the visual language of various online communities to reflect on particular image cultures. Posted on social platforms without declaration as art projects, their works and everyday selfies become visually indistinguishable, thus blurring the boundaries between art and non-art which often causes confusion in the assessment and demarcation of artistic self-representation on social media.
The term “Performing Identity” has been used by Tracey Warr and Amelia Jones in their book The Artist's Body (2006) to describe artistic performances that involve the artist's body as a site where identity is negotiated, especially regarding race, gender, and sexuality. Today, online communities increasingly contribute to structural societal change that propels a process of diversification. The exhibition title Performing Identities embraces that artists who work with self-representation in the digital realm perform for their camera, or their image creation tools, to generate digital versions of themselves. They stand in the tradition of Performance Art of the 1960s and 1970s, when artists explored the conditions of new media in relation to their own bodies and selves and began to use their appearance to perform other identities instead of representing their own self. The term identity accounts for the shift from self-representation towards identity construction, thus implies a multi-perspectival understanding of identities in today's online art practice.
This online exhibition is part of Tina Sauerlaender's PhD project Performing Identities. Self-Representation in Art from the Renaissance to Virtual Worlds at the University of Art and Design Linz, Austria, supervised by Prof. Dr. Christa Sommerer, Head of the Department of Interface Cultures, as well as Prof. Dr. Christiane Paul, School of Media Studies, The New School, New York, and Adjunct Curator of Digital Art at the Whitney Museum for American Art, New York. The 19 artists of this online exhibition have participated in a comprehensive study as a part of the dissertation.
Tina Sauerlaender's thesis investigates self-representation in the history of digital art from the 1960s until today. It explores how the capabilities of the computer and digital tools influence, transform and expand themes and functions of artistic self-representation. It traces themes and functions of self-representation of past centuries back to the beginning of the Renaissance, and investigates how and to which degree traditional characteristics of artistic self-representation manifest in today's digital age and expounds what new themes and functions have since emerged.
Tina Sauerlaender is an art historian, curator, speaker and writer who focuses on the impact of the digital and the internet on individual environments and society as well as on virtual reality in visual arts. With her independent exhibition platform peer to space she has been curating and organizing international group shows since 2010, e.g. The Unframed World. Virtual Reality as Artistic Medium for the 21st Century at HEK (House of Electronic Arts) in Basel in 2017. She is the artistic director of the VR ART PRIZE by DKB in Cooperation with CAA Berlin. She is co-founder of Radiance VR, an international online platform and research database for virtual reality experiences in visual arts that includes the Radiance VR App. She has given talks on Virtual Reality & Art and other topics at re:publica (Berlin), ZKM (Karlsruhe), New Inc (New York), Kunsthalle (Munich), University of Applied Arts (Vienna), Digifest (Toronto), and Technical University (Prague).
More information: peertospace.eu/tina
Supported by the Department of Interface Cultures, University of Art Linz, Austria
All images/artworks © the artists
All texts © Tina Sauerlaender, 2022
All interviews © the artists and Tina Sauerlaender, 2020/22
Design © J. Pegman, Camilla Murgia, Tina Sauerlaender 2022
Web development © Camilla Murgia, 2022