Presented on a new custom-built online platform, this year’s festival exhibition integrates a diverse mix of interactive netart, art games, machinima and video works, live streams from artist studios, web tool hacks, and other artworks that can be experienced – in a time of lingering COVID-19 lockdown measures – digitally. Not every artwork featured in the exhibition may have been created in direct response to the pandemic, but what unites them all is their resonance with themes such as digital connectedness, overcoming isolation, building and maintaining virtual relationships, and coming to terms with the many new realities of digitally mediated, ‘socially distanced’ life online.
In Abra, Hiba Ali enters a conversation with Amazon’s customer-obsessed mascot, Peccy. Their discussion about working-class labor, surveillance, and bubbles (economic, social, and soap filled) literally paints the video orange. Ali contends that orange is the contemporary color of labor and surveillance, and as such is racialized and classed.
A drone-shot video of a whale beaching itself. A baby whale bleeding from its side. Spam and eggs on a cooker. Watching a horse drink from underwater. Angela Merkel trembling uncontrollably at a public event. A Ukranian politician thrown into a garbage bin by protesters. Slacklining between two cliffs over monster waves. Ramen flushed down the toilet.
A totally generic video with ripped stock and news footage meant for showing on Best Buy TVs. Then coronavirus hit.
surface waltz is a physical exploration of the gap between physical movement and online, digital gestures. The work explores the desire to connect, replicate, extend, dance, and bend. The cursor's movements are tracked to the artist's hand, where it is made to navigate a physical space and engage in a physical gesture. Upon bending, there is breaking, and the line where physical movement becomes digitally augmented or fragmented is blurred. The two tools hover together and work to extend the other in a fragile dance.
Porosite is a short video piece that exploits bugs in Google Earth to drift in and out of buildings in a dense urban environment, attempting to track an unknown 'location'. Sounds of the ocean relax the viewer through navigation, not without the occasional jarr.
2 Spirit Dreamcatcher Dot Com queers and indigenizes traditional dating site advertisements. Using a Butch NDN "lavalife" lady (performed by director Thirza Cuthand), 2 Spirit Dreamcatcher Dot Com seduces the viewer into 2 Spirit "snagging and shacking up" with suggestions of nearby pipeline protests to take your date to, and helpful elders who will matchmake you and tell off disrespectful suitors. It's the culturally appropriate website all single 2 Spirit people wish existed. Following up on her video "2 Spirit Introductory Special $19.99," this work examines the forces of capitalism through envisioning a "financially unfeasible" service for a small minority community.
Maya Ben David
Pewdiepie is the most famous YouTuber. He is known for his gaming play-throughs, meme reviews, media commentary, and controversial video slip ups. His lore is highly documented, his fandom is dedicated and heavily invested. Pewdiepie also sells a luxury gamer chair which is commercially successful due it to being highly memed. Pewdiepie's chair is often used as a stand in for the YouTuber himself and holds a symbolic presence. In my video, I cosplay as his gaming chair come to life and exploring the internet for the first time. I interact with the fandom by inserting known jokes, memes, and sound effects associated with Pewdiepie.
American Mall is a news feature that gamifies the decline of malls. Illustration and art direction by Steph Davidson, code by James Singleton, written by Kim Bhasin, Patrick Clark, and Steph Davidson, and edited by Aaron Rutkoff.
Created in isolation during the coronovirus quarantine, this work re-enacts the Aldous Harding music video The Barrel. Thematically, the original song and video evoke a spirituality in dialog with nature. Having personally retreated from the city to the eastern edge of the world in an effort to escape the pandemic, my interaction and self-reflective re-portrayal of the original video work signals a personal realignment with a journey that ventures into the wild, sketching out a new dialog with the natural world, and drawing up what I can. It is a magic ritual shot in one take and edited in AfterEffects.
As Jord Farrell embarked upon a cross-Canada roadtrip to start a new life, he left behind friends without knowing if he would ever see them again. His feelings best expressed themselves in this game, which he made in the three hour trip it took for him to get back home. Our Hearts Will Meet Again is a pure outpouring of feeling.
I will be waiting is a browser-based work that uses Street View technology to capture the frozen timeless shores of the remote north. Despite the real-world imagery, Gkikas recontextualizes Street View to create a dreamlike atmosphere that no matter which direction you go, you always end up in the same place.
In his tiny one room apartment, Otaku Boi plays video-games and fights his inner-demons. This short animated film is an adaptation of the Otaku Boi LIVE stage show and uses a mix of animation techniques, performance, chiptune music, and a giant puppet with a screen for an eye. This work was created at the Tama Art University's Department of Graphic Design, Tokyo.
Director & Animator: Fay Heady Starring: Claudio Sanzana Music: Fay Heady, Oni
momimsafe is an active live-stream of Amay Kataria's home studio space, where the artist spends the majority of his time in this post-COVID era. The work was developed in response to the COVID-19 lockdown, with an urgent need in mind: to be visually and physically accessible to his friends and family globally, especially his mom who has been concerned about his safety and health during this time.
Kataria also presents an interactive virtual printer, which prints messages sent through momimsafe.live in real-time. This simulacra allows the participants to explore the entire stream of messages received during this work.
Samuel Kiehoon Lee
Inspired by the classic NFB short film Canon (directed by Norman McLaren & Grant Munro), Zeotrope is a 360° video experimental romp that will keep your head spinning. The title refers to the zoetrope device that is circular in shape, analogous to the viewing experience of a 360° video, which places viewers within a virtual sphere. This project takes advantage of the medium’s attributes, creating a moving canvas with no border. Shot during the 2020 pandemic, Samuel Kiehoon Lee plays a character caught in a cycle of exiting without leaving. During the lockdown we want freedom to roam and explore more than ever. However, Lee's character loops constantly—in one door, then out another—always remaining within the same place.
Cloud Gazer is an immersive, phantasmagoric piece that explores how the illusionary aspects of projection can alter the architectural components of space. Images of a skyline are projected into the upper corner of a room to create a temporary reality where interior and exterior environments are fluid. This piece contains environmental system and textures, but has no depreciatory dimension, and, is only modeled from our perceptions of nature. The immersive quality and temporal openness of the projection beckons viewers to gaze upward and take delight in becoming absorbed in a display while the positioning of the work references the design of a security mirror, drawing a duality between the seduction of sanctuary and surveillance.
This work will be livestreamed on this page on Monday, July 20 from 11am-11pm EST.
Ben McCarthy & Cale Weir
Are We Having Fun Yet? is an interactive web work that considers the confluence of art, influencer marketing, and selfies. Referencing first person shooter video games, a user is invited to traverse a digitally-modelled art gallery, armed only with a selfie stick. The works on display include digital cultural ephemera, art works with exceptional brand recognition, and politically themed original works. Using a webcam, users can snap selfies of themselves from behind or in front of their virtual iPhone, supporting their favourite digital cause, or posed with famous works of art. Centrally looming over the digital gallery is a barbed-wired panopticon tower, rigged with a jumbotron that projects the user's camera feed back at them. The game is accompanied by an original score and a sound piece composed of audio recordings of influencer marketers from podcasts, YouTube, and Instagram. The sound piece exposes the entrepreneurial ideology behind influencer culture and art careerism. It also reveals the aspirational desire that drives self-presentation on social media. Presenting ourselves digitally both articulates the self-as-brand and as a vector of clout measured by likes and follows, and the underlying potential to monetize the self or one’s digital labour. It further functions as a mechanism of alienation, articulating complex subjects as insular brands, whose thoughts, politics, and self-narrativization are levelled as relative aesthetic objects. In a context where entrepreneurialism is a dominant ideology, pursuing clout seems to be a way to build for oneself a career or presence. Influencers, artists, and individuals alike actively and passively engage in an economy that pivots on the aspirational desire of many, for the monetary benefit of few.
In a world gone wrong, what will you do to survive? There's only so much one person can do to save the world. You can however, save yourself.
Get Ripped 4 the Apocalypse responds to the numerous existential fears of collapse and global catastrophe from climate change to nuclear war. The work is part loving critique of fitness culture as the cure-all for the good life, part genuine health promotion of our bodies as sources of strength in a world of increasing precarity. Get Ripped 4 the Apocalypse wants you to punch, kick, and lift your way to a better future uniting preppers and workout videos into a weird and sweaty bliss.
In the beginning, there was nothing. You can get nothing easily.
An interactive web-based queer ASMR piece using acoustic close-ups to show how the sum of the parts of a queer body (visible and audible) is read subconsciously in order for queerness or gender to be perceived. This work brings those body parts (hair on the upper lip, legs) and accessories of queer life (sequins, queer books, latex gloves) to the foreground. The work addresses how the digitization of human connection (all the more relevant during the COVID pandemic) is mediated through the touch of mouse clicks and how audio, through calming sensual whispers, can bring us (queer bodies) a sense of interconnection in an ever more isolating world.
Additional clips by: Ann Antidote & Lun Ário, Mishann Lau & K.I., Mimi Monstroe, and Harvey Rabbit.
An/Other is a short 3D interactive game for social change about a typical day.
232henley is a playable 3D sketch of the house that artist Lee Tusman lived in throughout most of his childhood. The work is an attempt to capture the artist's memory of the place even as it fades further and further away in his memory. As he has been confined to a small space under COVID-19, Tusman meditates on home and remembering the places most important to him. In 232henley, this memory doesn't include all of the events and milestones of the artist's family that occurred in this space as much as the feeling of the space itself. All sketches were created in Tusman's notebook and photographed with his phone, as access to other cameras and equipment remains difficult while staying inside.
Qirou Yang's hometown of Donghai, China is the site of the artist's childhood memories as well as an example of the 'ghost zone' phenomenon, in which new housing developments outnumber their demand, eroding ideals of home and community as these units sit vacant. How to be Satiated in the Dark is a docu-fictional project that Yang began producing in the summer of 2019. By tracing her dream, family history, and deepest fragmented subconscious memories of her childhood home, Yang reveals her psychological belonging to her provenance. By photographing and constructing photographs from her hometown, Yang creates a virtual replica of Donghai's ghost zone. The process of virtually moving within the abstract and pixelated computer-generated buildings resembles uncertain longing: Yang wanders in the familiar yet detached space which exists as an anchor in her life. How to be Satiated in the Dark focuses on delivering a story that provokes the viewers’ phenomenological contemplation between their self-perception and their living space.
Syrus Marcus Ware
Ancestors: Do You Read Us? (Dispatches From The Future) is an 8 channel video work shot in 4k. Commissioned by the Toronto Biennial of Art and the Ryerson Image Centre, artist Syrus Marcus Ware draws on the shared language of speculative fiction and political activism to transform screen into a portal through which the next generation of racialized activists communicate with us, their ancestors, and offer us insights into the future.