Cede Control of Your Web Browser to This High Tech Exhibition
Real-Time Constraints explores artificial intelligence, algorithms and big data, whether you want to or not.
Jake Elwes & Me (@methedragqueen), Zizi & Me (2020). Work in progress with the Edinburgh Futures Institute. Courtesy the artist and arebyte Gallery.
Unprompted and unconcerned with what else you might be doing, windows containing digital art works suddenly pop-up on your computer screen. Faces of figures dressed in drag melt and morph in Jake Elwes' computer-generated video Zizi—Queering the Dataset (2019), for example, adding a layer of digital ambiguity to a composite portrait of people whose ethnicity, age and gender are all in flux.
Elwes is one of seven artists whose work comes to you in arebyte Gallery's new exhibition Real-Time Constraints, a browser add-on you can install on Chrome or Firefox. The artworks appear onscreen every hour from 11am through 7pm— of course, the add-on already knows your time zone. The other participating artists are Gretchen Andrew, Sofia Crespo, DISNOVATION.ORG, Ben Grosser, Libby Heaney, and Joel Simon.
The exhibition, programmed by digital designer Rob Prouse, was supposed to take place in person at arebyte's Gallery's space in London, but underwent a metamorphosis in light of the pandemic. The browser add-on will be available until 30 September.
'We've seen a huge increase in the number of online exhibitions over the past few months, but for the most part they only offer a regular browsing experience: scrolling, text and image layouts, Instagram takeovers, mock-ups of existing gallery spaces etc,' said Rebecca Edwards, curator at arebyte Gallery, who developed the exhibition with co-curator Luba Elliott. 'We really wanted to offer something different, to look at alternative ways to present works on the Internet.'
Among the other works in the exhibition are digital deceptions, such as Libby Heaney's use of deepfakes video editing software to become Elvis, and computer confessions, such as Ben Grosser 's Tracing You, which admits to a small fraction of what the Internet knows about us by revealing live webcam footage from near your GPS coordinates. Grosser describes it as 'a website's best attempt at seeing the world from its visitors' viewpoints.'
The gallery is presenting the exhibition as a playful interruption to our online lives, which became even more overstuffed under lockdown.
'The plug-in exhibition speaks to a society that is already quite accustomed to spending an increased amount of time online for work, for entertainment, for socialising, and so we wanted the pop-up works to interrupt this daily flow,' Edwards said. 'It's interesting in this way that the work visits the user, rather than the user visiting the work—the automatic nature of it seamlessly entwines with the mundanities of working from home.'
Of course you can uninstall the extension if you don't want to be interrupted. There's even an option to pause it. But to really experience the works requires the consensual non-consent we've come to expect of our relationships with tech companies: blindly scrolling through a long list of terms and conditions before agreeing they can do what they will with our attention and our data. —[O]