Culture

Arts

Digital art comes of age— St Petersburg

Preface

New technology may have changed the film and music industries beyond recognition in recent years, but the gatekeepers of visual art have remained more resistant.

Technology

4 December 2010

New technology may have changed the film and music industries beyond recognition in recent years, but the gatekeepers of visual art have remained more resistant. With tomorrow’s launch of Europe’s first annual audiovisual arts festival – Yota Space in St Petersburg – this may be about to change.

3D film or MP3s may have changed their respective industries beyond recognition, but digital art has remained a peripheral presence. “Like any new movement in visual art, traditionalists have tended to ignore it until things become a bit more clear cut,” says Shane Walter, director of UK based digital studio Onedotzero, and one of the curators at Yota Space. “We’re now entering a boom period and there’s a very vibrant scene however – from geeky hackers through to big gallery names.”

Yota, one of Russia’s biggest wireless broadband providers, is clearly keen to cash in on a future boom. Having grown in the last three years from being a tiny operator, the company now has ambitions to expand at a rate of around two markets a year (they are currently launching in Peru) and state technology conglomerate Rostekhnologii has a 25 per cent stake in the firm.

Spread over 15,000 sq m and five floors in an old communist-era supermarket in the centre of St Petersburg, Yota Space brings together multimedia artists from around the world. Works include video installations such as Quayola’s “Topologies” (a constant loop including animated pre-Modernist paintings) and interactive pieces such as “Feedback” by Hellicar + Lewis (where the viewer’s movements are converted into graphic abstractions). Musician and producer Brian Eno will also be presenting his “77 Million Paintings” project, an endless generation of “digital paintings” with individual audio accompaniments.

“There’s something incredibly playful and democratic about the medium,” says Walter, who found widespread acclaim earlier this year with Onedotzero’s Decode exhibition at London’s V&A museum, drawing 100,000 visitors. “Eventually the technology will become background and we wont need the term ‘digital art’ anymore, it will just be ‘art’. There’s a new generation completely at home here,” says Walter.

Art with a digital twist seems to have more pulling power than ever before. Light artist James Turrell’s first major UK exhibition, at the Gagosian in London, has been a huge success for the gallery, with the full run of his immersion installation “Bindu Shards” (where viewers spend 15 minutes isolated in a sphere of light and sound) selling out within 12 hours of launch, while other works in the show such as “Dhatu” still attract 1,500 people a week.

It remains to be seen what place digital art will find in the public consciousness, but Yota is clearly planning for the St Petersburg show to be a testing ground for new forms of cultural consumption.

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