Top image: Plain Sight, (Installation detail) by Bonnie Craig, from her 2014 U-Hang exhibition
About Digital U
Digital U is an online exhibition space for artists working in digital media, including film, animation, video and sound.
It’s a platform that selected artists take control of to exhibit their work: either presenting single artworks or a series. Digital U is inspired by our long-established U-Hang Exhibition Programme in which, with a spirit of curiosity, artists place artworks into surprising places within our building. In both opportunities we encourage an experimental, test-bed, research-led approach.
Above: selected self portraits, Sophie Lindsey, 2020
Introducing Sophie Lindsey
For 2021 we’re delighted to introduce artist Sophie Lindsey, who joins Art Gene as Digital Artist-Curator of the Digital U. Sophie was selected for her playful and collaborative work, and will lead the digital programme of exhibitions in early 2021. Selected from the recent open call, Sophie will curate work that examines the radical nature of art in a digital space, exploring Extreme Views and themes of food, futures & biodiversity.
We were thrilled by the diverse and wide-ranging response from artists nationally and internationally, with a record number of entries to our recent digital opportunities. During this challenging time, we’re excited to keep programming in an online environment, and hope this series offers space for reflection and connection while we’re apart.
Going live on 5th April 2021, Digital Notes will share work/research from Sebastián Calfuqueo, Amanda Gatti + Gustiele Fistaról, James Scott, and Ashley Yuqi Zhang + Hua Zhang through a series of webpages, live events and interventions. Digital Notes: Shorts Screening event at 7pm, 8th April 2021 presents three shorts video works by the artists.
For Digital U I am interested in exploring how we relate both digitally and physically to online spaces, by considering how it is possible to create remote, meaningful exchanges/connections.
In the spirit of Extreme Views, I aim to question how to facilitate conversations, and the role of art in navigating divisive digital platforms.
By having a critical awareness of the different structures and systems at work in these spaces, I’m looking to place art across/beyond Art Gene’s platforms, perhaps in some surprising online locations.
Sophie Lindsey, 2021
Digital U: Digital Gene Pool
Curator for the physical U Hang Exhibition Programme (2014-17), Ruth Pringle curated the first season of Digital U exhibitions, under the title Digital U: Digital Gene Pool, running 2017/2018. The series began by presenting the CGI work Augmented Reality, by David Theobald (2017), followed by the compelling audio sculptures Music for Hacked Geiger Counters, by Ant Dickinson (2017).
In early 2018 we simulated Ciara Chapman’s My Chronic Pain Diary blog – inviting blogger and artist Ciara to open her practice to us by including within the framework of the exhibition the processes behind her weekly work. This included several live Facebook conversations between her and Ruth and the public – discussing creative ideas, artistic practice, ways of using art to combat mental and physical health problems – and of course, how to maintain a creative practice when affected by severe health problems. The conversations were inspiring – and still available as a transcript on her page.
Alejandro Ball and Juan Crespo as Post-Internet Landscapes (PILproject) ended the first season with an invasion of our own website. Initially proposing to infest the Art Gene site with pop-up windows, their final exhibition The One – The Many, inserted portals-links across our site, which combined both internet meme culture with delightfully specific references to both Barrow-in-Furness and Art Gene.
“Curating the exhibition, The One – The Many, was a particular pleasure: There was such interesting tension between what we could possibly allow to happen (regarding internet safety, privacy and protecting our audience) – with the artistic expression being proposed – which of course encapsulates everything we stand for.
You can’t invite proposals for innovative Digital Art and then say, oh, no, we don’t know how to do that. It took weeks of back and forth between artists, Directors and myself the curator to arrive at a show which results were as pure in its intent”.
Ruth Pringle, 2018
Digital U: Extreme Views
Digital U : Extreme Views will examine the radical nature of artistic activities in digital space*
There was an unexpected twist to the process. By working closely with us on The One – The Many, Alejandro Ball became our choice for Guest Curator on the subsequent Digital U programme Digital U : Extreme Views (beginning Summer, 2018). Digital U: Extreme Views will look at the radical nature of the artistic medium in the digital space, with each exhibition encounter highlighting a different aspect of our culture’s relation to the Internet. An important aspect for the unfolding programme will be to communicate to audiences the diverse sets of artistic activities and practices taking place on the web, and the issues highlighted by these artists’ actions.
“As a personal rule in my practice I try and only work with the new, meaning creating collaborations with artists and other creatives to produce new works of art, and or, expand on progressive research projects already part of the artist’s practice”.
Alejandro Ball, 2018
Above: Escape, Vi Trinh, 2019, exhibition on Digital U: Extreme Views
For 2019 Alejandro Ball was invites back to guest curate Digital U: Extreme Views Part 2. This series will examine the collision of at & environment in the digital age. On the selection of artists for exhibition, Alejandro said:
“When deciding on the artist line-up for this year’s Digital U Extreme View’s exhibition programme, what really mattered to me was the engagement with the curatorial brief I set out – on both a medium and or, a conceptual level. Over the past year I had been personally engaged with work related to alternative technologies that could represent a shift in political and economic power on the Internet, yet at the same time there was a concurring fascination with the environmental conditions of our planet and the impact technology has towards this. In many cases from my observation, when the question of global environmental health is brought up, luddite-types of ideology arise, for instance the call to return to nature. However, for me personally these types of calls are sometimes hypocritical, mainly because of the question: “What is nature, or the natural?”
“Technology has become an ingrained steeple of society, and integral to how the west socially progresses. Thus, in my selection process I sought to find artists that showed this technical integration in their practice and projects – they know the reality of the situation – technology is here to stay.
“Additionally, my selection process was about synergy between the artists, because it is very important for me that an exhibition programme also conveys an overarching narrative that helps others to understand the context of each exhibition, and why these artists have been brought together. Therefore, each artist reflects a different idea to the question of environment collisions between art, technology and our planet’s health for Art Gene’s audience.”
Alejandro Ball, 2019
Digital U: Extreme Views is an online digital exhibition series running in tandem with Art Gene’s vast Extreme Views public outreach coastal project, in which Art Gene work in partnership with the Islands and Bays of Barrow Coastal Team to link the landscapes with the communities of Barrow and Furness.