The digital age is at center stage in a new exhibition in Chicago.The Museum of Contemporary Art is spotlighting the work of the current generation of artists raised on the internet, social media and gaming.
Phil Ponce: It is a very busy exhibition, with striking visuals and a lot of noise.
The big summer show at the MCA Chicago is “I Was Raised on the Internet.”
And with the internet at the heart of the exhibit, of course there are cat videos and works inspired by memes, like this canary who got the cat.
There are also traditional paintings – even if they represent the fact that the everyday isn’t what it used to be.
Michael Darling, MCA Chicago: We really hope that people are going to have a lot of fun with it. I think it’s material that’s very familiar to them. Anybody that lives, as we all do nowadays, in the digital world, is being bombarded by information from all sides. And I think this show reflects how artists are interpreting that moment in this sort of visual overload and information overload.
For sure there’s lots of digital media, augmented reality, virtual reality, 3D printed sculptures and things. But there are actually people who’ve done the reverse and take digital internet type things and rendered them in paintings, made sculptures out of them. So there’s people that are kind of taking memes and virtual things and making them physical in the real world.
Ponce: Interactivity is a key component of the show.
Darling: I think there’s a couple of things that are going to be really popular, especially the two virtual reality pieces where people put on virtual reality goggles and they are kind of guided through some very immersive and sometimes kind of scary situations.
But then just some amazing beautiful video installations too that are also incredibly immersive, really even kind of architectural almost, so you feel like you’re stepping into another world.
Some of these artworks actually had their debut on social media platforms, on YouTube (and) things like that. So those spaces, in a way, were really the breeding ground for a lot of this work before it even got into the museum. Ideas about gaming for sure are in here, but also artists worried and worrying about surveillance and capitalization of people’s information. There’s also a lot of critique and kind of hard looking at the issues that surround our digital world, as well as the more joyful playful, frivolous aspects of life on the internet.
Ponce: There are nearly 100 works from 50 international artists. We asked a visiting artist from Canada for his definition of art.
Jeremy Bailey, artist: Art for me is anything that makes the invisible visible for people, right? And there are all these forces that are – especially when we think about the internet and the culture we live in today – that we kind of take for granted
But really as an artist my job, is to say, not to judge whether they’re good or bad, but to highlight them and elevate them. So that we can look at them, probe them, ask difficult questions and, ultimately, have interesting conversations. And if we also make the world a better place, that’s the type of art I’d like to be surrounded with.
Darling: We are in this moment where we’re purely digital, and it’s great to recognize that artists are working with the same material, trying to process this moment we’re in, trying to help us understand.
I think that’s where artists have always played that role in society, and so I think this show will really make people look and think more carefully about their use of the digital tools that are around them.
The exhibition is called “I Was Raised on the Internet.” It is at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and open to the public through Oct. 14. For more information, visit the MCA Chicago website.