Short Circuit is an ambitious international touring group show devised by independent curator, Aly Grimes, and consisting of nine new media artists and collectives in an attempt to re-assess the archetypal framework of a travelling exhibition. It proposes a new experimental model of display realised in three different locations across Europe to include Birmingham, Copenhagen and Venice. The project’s structure aims to investigate new ways that exhibition spaces can present touring shows in the Digital Age and will manifest as a highly experimental research project susceptible to failure. It might glitch, trip, malfunction or ‘short circuit’.
Emily Mulenga, Juneau Projects and Antonio Roberts (Birmingham)
The Cool Couple, Kensuke Koike and Ryts Monet (Venice)
Honey Biba Beckerlee, Johan Knattrup Jensen (MAKROPOL) and David Stjernholm (Copenhagen)
A touring exhibition or ‘travelling exhibit’ is a type of exhibition that is available for circulation to one or more venues in addition to the premises of the organiser. Its structure typically comprises a grouping of works that tour together, arriving as a complete set at each participating venue. This method enables the sharing of new ideas, draws connections between artists across geographical boundaries, attracts new audiences, allows for the diffusion of knowledge and local cultures, provides fresh interpretations of artists’ work and brings opportunities to share production costs.
Short Circuit takes the conventional model of a touring exhibition as its point of departure. Whilst many of the aforementioned goals of a typical touring show will remain the same, crucial differences exist. Firstly, this new structure requires artworks to arrive at each exhibition venue independently using the Internet as a conduit, and secondly, the selected artworks never assemble as a grouping at the beginning of the project.
Referencing the notions of both electrical and touring ‘circuits’, the exhibition will travel in a geographical anti-clock-wise loop beginning at Stryx (Birmingham), to A plus A Gallery (Venice) and completing in Copenhagen. These venues or ‘terminals’ have been selected due to their physical commonalities providing neutral exhibition environments in which to best test this new exhibition model. In addition, they all comprise experimental project spaces that foster international collaborations and regularly exhibit emerging and mid-career new media artists.
Each exhibiting venue is allocated its own curator to coordinate the project from their terminal. Whilst artists exhibiting work in their home city may show their work in its ‘fullest’ physical form as it does not have to travel, artists from the remaining two locations will transport their works via the web to materialise in the gallery space in a variety of visual formats. This process aims to produce an aesthetic reconfiguration of the same grouping of works as they are received at each location and meanwhile raise important questions about the reproducibility of artworks. The changing of the artworks’ physical appearance in each venue will result in the hybridisation of the same touring show, yet give the impression of three different exhibitions. For example, the 3D printed busts of historical figures by Italian collective, The Cool Couple, will create the feel of a futuristic mausoleum when presented in their original format at A plus A Gallery in Venice. However, they may deliver an entirely different visual impact when presented as a series of two-dimensional digital projections at Stryx in Birmingham.
As each show travels to the next venue, curators and artists will interact with one another online to discuss the aesthetic successes and failures of the project and re-think strategies of display. This model proposes a fluid, experimental approach of exhibition-making that allows the artworks to continually ebb and flow between physical and virtual forms and presents a resourceful and innovative way of significantly reducing transportation costs. It further offers contributing artists and curators the opportunity to collaborate, take risks and test out works in new formats and spaces and consider how the process has affected or ‘corrupted’ the work.
For this project, new media artists living in, working in or from one of the three cities have been selected, as their interdisciplinary mode of practice produces work in a pre-digitised format and offers a wide variety of technological media to test out such as; digital art, computer graphics and animation, virtual and augmented reality, internet art, interactive art, video games and 3D printing.
Short Circuit allows for many thematic connections and visual parallels to be drawn between the artists who operate in the context of an ‘increasingly digital, immaterial and reproducible world’. Traversing physical and virtual thresholds, selected works explore themes continually expounded by the Digital Age such as connectivity, online culture, communication, digital language, ownership, copyright and reproducibility. The project additionally raises the question of the survival of new media art and how it will function in twenty years’ time making the need to investigate new media works in multiple formats especially urgent.