5 Eastern European creatives trailblazing the world of digital art

15 April 2020

Museums and galleries remain closed, but the stream of online art in our feeds keeps coming. Long before the Covid-19 pandemic reiterated the importance of digital media, the traditional museum had already lost the monopoly of art to the internet.

Which is why in December 2019, Moscow’s Garage Museum of Contemporary Art launched Garage Digital, a virtual platform that aims to bring together artists to explore new forms of visual culture that emerge from the contemporary dialogue between technology and society. Working on disciplines ranging from big data analysis to 3D printing, these five artists have been selected as the first cohort to be featured in Garage’s virtual platform, setting the trend for their new digital museum experience.

Aleksei Taruts is a Moscow-based artist working across different media, ranging from live performances to video and art installations. Through his work, Taruts seeks to problematise the idea of event and presence in the context of art spaces.

In his 2017 project, Let All Your Dreams Come True, two performers dressed in white (the dress code of the Beyond Sensation electronic music festival in Amsterdam) randomly approached attendees at the Cosmoscow Art Fair, whispering in their ear, “let all your dreams come true”. Through this performance, Taruts wanted to draw a parallel between the experience of an art fair and that of the festival, both of which allegedly seek to overwhelm the senses of those present.

Taruts’s project for Garage Digital, All Dungeons Will Fall, will be built around the alleged remains of Noah’s Ark found in Chechnya in 2017. Based on these, the project aims to reflect on the relationship between instant communication and the production of historical knowledge.

Image: Google Maps screenshot showing the location of the alleged remains of Noah’s Ark, discovered in Chechnya. All Dungeons Will Fall, Aleksei Taruts, 2020. Courtesy of Garage

The work of Moscow-born, Berlin-based artist and researcher Valentin Golev focuses on alternative approaches to the physical materiality of technology. Combining notions from computer games, graphic design, and mathematics, Golev has previously worked on several projects centred around the use of modern technology and its effects on communication. Golev mostly works with moving and static images, both producing his own videos and transforming archive footage.

As part of the Garage Digital program, Golev will produce an interactive research project based on the use of 3D rendering to produce digital visual art.

Image: Melencolia I, Valentin Golev, 2019. Courtesy of Garage

Due to safety concerns, London-based artist Anna Engelhardt uses an alias borrowed from a 19th century women’s rights activist and writer born in her home city of Kostroma, in Russia. Ranging from environmental issues and feminism, to colonialism and fake news, Engelhardt’s work reflects on poignant contemporary social and political topics.

In her most recent project, Crimean Bridge, Engelhardt uses deepfake technology to analyse Russia’s colonial politics and ideas of propaganda and disinformation. Similarly, in her project for Garage Digital, Machinic Infrastructures of Truth, Engelhardt will explore the notion of truth-production as an exact art regulated by taught algorithms.

Image: Machinic Infrastructures of Truth, Anna Engelhardt, 2020. Courtesy of Garage

Writer and artist Dzina Zhuk, and artist, computer scientist, and researcher Nikolay Spesivtsev, founded EEEFFF Group, an international art collective focused on the emotional effects of new economic regimes and modern technology.

Based between Moscow and Minsk, the collective combines the production of digital work with offline public performances. In their 2018 project, Automated Recreation Zone, EEEFFF invited delivery workers in London to stay for a picnic and share the food they had brought, which they usually transport but never get to try, as a means of reflecting on the injustices of the gig economy.

EEEFFF’s new project for Garage Digital, Outsourcing Paradise, will allow random performers hired through an online recruitment platform to meet each other. Through this, the group will explore the translocality of the post-Soviet space, problematising the modern notion of stress as well as the political economy of the contemporary division between labour and leisure.

Sara Culmann was born in the Russian town of Kirovsk but now lives in Amsterdam, where she is currently completing a Rijksakademie residency. Fascinated by digital innovation, Culmann uses CGI and animation to explore the influence of the economy and technological advancements on socio-cultural stereotypes, semantic paradoxes, and political engagement.

As part of her project for Garage Digital, Agency of NOWHERE, Culmann will explore the potential application of digital software and gaming engines outside of the gaming context. This will be a continuation of the research in her video The Birth of Asset, a 3D animation of a lecture on the concept of an asset—a term used in video game design to describe an indivisible digital entity that contains an idea. In analysing this concept, Culmann ponders on the ways in which programming language could influence our post-digital world.

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