Right Here, Right Now at The Lowry (Review)
I have never been to a digital art exhibition before, but since I’m doing a digital art project with the Raspberry Pi Foundation, when I found out about this one I decided it was about time I did. I found out about The Lowry’s Right Here Right Now on their website before Christmas, and was finally able to fit in a visit yesterday. The exhibit boasted 16 international digital artists, each looking at different aspects of technology and modern life, from DNA to Skype and even the Darknet.
As there were 16 various artists, I will talk through just a selected few that stood out to me, but each exhibit was interesting and thought provoking in its own right. The first piece, Stutterer, right by the entrance to the exhibit, probably had the most impact on me. Thomson and Craighead, London based artists, have created a self-assembling poetry machine based on the thirteen year long human genome project. I loved this one in particular because it combines two things I am so passionate about: science and creative writing. Some basic biology as background: the human genome project sequenced every gene in human DNA. There are actually only four unique bases that form DNA, commonly known as; A, T, G & C. It is the sequence of the 3.2 billion of these that form human DNA. Whilst one screen prints the DNA sequence, another creates a self-assembled poem based on clips from the thirteen years the project took. When each letter is typed, a clip of a word starting with the same letter plays. It is both a reflection on the progress we have made in those thirteen years, and the shift in world culture based on major world news.
As with a lot of digital art, many of the exhibits were interactive, and of these I thought Daniel Rozin’s Darwinian Straw Mirror incorporated this element most uniquely. Like Thomas and Craighead, Rozin took inspiration from science, in the form of Darwin’s theory of evolution. The software’s behaviour actually incorporates the parameters of natural selection, the process through which evolution is achieved. Organisms of all forms change their behaviour and design over time, not through an intentional process, but because better adapted individuals survive and pass on their genes to the next generation. Rozin created his artwork with ‘evolutionary pressure’, which forced it to resemble the viewer’s mirrored image. It responds and adapts to the presence of the viewer, meaning that as soon as you enter the room, your movements are represented on screen using simple, straight lines.
Another exhibit also incorporated interaction, although this time through social media. Stephanie Rothenberg’s Planthropy uses twitter to examine crowd-sourcing and the ways in which charity is changing. It consists of a series of indoor hanging plants with LCD screens, that are connected to the internet through wifi. Each plant represents a different charity cause, and when someone tweets about that cause, the tweet is read out and the plant is watered. The LCD screen then displays information about that charity. Often social media projects are uninventive and gimmick-y, but Rothenberg was able to throw light on an aspect of society through hers. My own project is exploring the relationship between community and aid, so it was great to be able to see a similar project. Rothenberg states she was influenced by the rise of ‘micro-lending’, the lending of funds to third world projects and business through charities such as Kiva. This development is somewhat of a contradiction, making business out of charity, and Planthropy was created as both organic and digital to express this.
The exhibit itself was well curated, with each piece complementing each other, and throwing insight into a new area of the modern age. The exhibit is running until the 28th of February, and if you have any interest in the digital it is a must see. It’s accessible to all, with the exhibition being free but accepting donations. You don’t need any prior knowledge of technology or even really art, but curiosity is a must. My favourite kind of art changes the way you think about the world around you, and I definitely feel this exhibition achieved that.