IMAGES IN FLOW

Dematerialising the Archive 

 

I recently curated an exhibition called Rheology>forms that flow which explored the fluid relationship between the surface of an artwork and its liminal, mutable boundaries.  Artworks acted as hyperlinks to access one state or another shifting the materiality of the physical and digital across new thresholds. The exhibition explored the way the internet has begun to shape how art is being produced but perhaps more interestingly how art is being consumed.

Exhibitions are temporary, they exist in moments of time. What remains is documentation: photographs, hashtags, a catalogue, a website. With the significant shift to online platforms the experience of the event and the experience of seeing the event through documentation have become increasingly entangled. Artists are using Facebook’s Livestream to broadcast their openings and performances, images go onto Instagram as ‘teasers’ before the exhibition is open and documentation, not only of the artworks, but also of the exhibition design are piled online for people to ‘tag’ and ‘like’. This interactive element can only be experienced digitally and offers audiences a chance to respond and reflect on an exhibition, even if they haven’t physically seen it. The speed that we consume artworks, exhibitions and ideas is unprecedented but audiences are no longer passive spectators.

Rheology>forms that flow was only on display for 2 weeks but it’s the collateral that will remain. This essay will be published and it will be searchable online but the architectural and phenomenological experience of witnessing that exhibition, in that space and time is no longer possible. The internet has begun to act like an extended memory filled with the ghosts of exhibitions past. What is significant about the internet is that these archives can be decontextualised and recontextualised to be read in completely new ways. The future of the dematerialised archive will be explored through a new ontological model that will constantly transform and shift alongside time, rather than against it.