Goldin+Senneby’s “After Microsoft” is an image of the same landscape in Sonoma Valley, Calif., which was the basis for the “Bliss” landscape used as the default Microsoft Windows desktop image. / Courtesy of Brain Factory
By Cathy Rose A. Garcia
In the age of the Internet, art lovers don't even have to leave the confines of their home to admire the Mona Lisa or see the latest Damien Hirst. Artwork is just a click away on the Internet. High-quality images are easily available, saved and can even be printed out.
So how does this affect the artwork, the artists and the experience of viewing art? This is one of the issues central to the ongoing "Flexible Aura" exhibition at Brain Factory, Tongui-dong, Seoul.
Curators Byeon Hyun-joo and Christine Takengny wanted to explore "the notion of the aura and the experience of art in the age of digital reproduction where limitless global communication and image distribution is possible via the World Wide Web."
The exhibition took its cue from Walter Benjamin's 1936 essay "The Work of Art in the Age of its Mechanical Reproducibility" wherein the author claimed the "exclusive experience of an artwork's unique aura has been replaced by a collective experience of mass reproducible art."
"Our theory is the aura nowadays can be flexible and can be changed," Takengny told The Korea Times. The works are accessible from different places ― inside the museums or online ― and can be transformed depending on the setting.
Candida Hofer's photographic series "Twelve" depicts all 12 casts of Rodin's "The Burghers of Calais," showing how its aura changes depending on where it is located.
The Internet was also used as a tool to curate the exhibition. Byeon and Takengny used the medium to communicate with each other, find information on the artists and look at digital images of artwork.
"We exchanged information on the Internet, checked links to the artists' homepages. We did it for nine months, corresponding through e-mail or Skype," Byeon said, although she added there is still nothing like seeing the artwork in person.
For example, the Mona Lisa is one of the most famous and widely reproduced works of art, but people still line up at the Louvre for a glimpse of the Da Vinci portrait.
"Art has become more accessible and democratic, and can be seen outside the gallery. It reflects how through digitalization, how banal an artwork can become. But at the same time the aura of the original one seems to become so important now that people go to the museum to see it and take a photograph of the original artwork," Takengny said.
You don't even need to go to the Louvre when you can have the Mona Lisa on toast, thanks to Danish artist Kristoffer Akselbo's "The Mona Lisa Toaster." The toaster imprints the image of the famous Da Vinci portrait on a piece of bread, which can then be eaten.
Artists Tasha Aulls and Niina Hartikainen worked on "November Telepathy," a series of digitally printed drawings. They tried to use telepathy to send images of their drawings to each other, when Aulls was in Canada and Hartikainen was in the U.K. and Finland.
"I was interested in the idea of dissolving the sense of self and removing the barrier between self and others. Niina was interested in the consciousness. We thought telepathy would dissolve the boundary between self and others," Aulls told The Korea Times.
London-based artist Tina Hage's "Dream Start" is a triptych of sports scenes, showing people cheering and celebrating after scoring goals. Hage re-enacted the scenes, placing her image in each of the figures in the crowd.
Microsoft Windows users may vaguely recognize the dull brown fields in the landscape featured in Goldin+Senneby's "After Microsoft." It is the same landscape which was the basis for "Bliss," the default desktop image on Windows showing bright blue skies and green slopes.
Goldin+Senneby tracked down Charles O'Rear, the photographer who took the photo of the landscape in Sonoma Valley, Calif., in the late 1990s. They revisited the area, and took the photo of the largely changed landscape.
Popular video streaming Web site YouTube has also become a curatorial tool, as shown in Supercream/Catherine Borra's "The Setting of X." A link to the work, a playlist of YouTube videos with the theme of migration, can be found on the exhibition Web site flexibleauras.blogspot.com.
The exhibition also featured London-based artist Jee Oh's performance piece broadcast live through Skype at the opening party. Additionally, artist Bona Park hired an actress to "play" herself at the party, "playfully exploring how the contextual integration of the aura can be transformed when an artwork is immaterial."
"Flexible Aura" runs through Nov. 1 at Brain Factory (Gyeongbokgung Station line 3, exit 4). Visit www.brainfactory.org or call (02)725-9520.