“My generation became adults in times of recession, to be confronted with debt even before spending, encouraged to save and not invest” says Argentinean born artist Amalia Ulman.
If you can remember renting VHS tapes instead of DVD’s, or even have a vague memory of TV images showing the Berlin Wall coming down, you are older than the generation she is describing. Born in 1989 Amalia Ulman is part of the 89plus project, which introduces a group of artists representing the generation that grew up with the internet at their fingertips, in times of defining geo-political changes. Hans-Ulrich Obrist, co-director of the Serpentine Gallery, and independent curator Simon Castets, are bringing 89plus to DLD13 and present a new generation of artists to be reckoned with.
Reflecting the signs of globalization 89plus is made up of artists from all over the world - Mikahil Lylov from Russia, Zakara Raitt from South Africa, Abdulah Al-Mutairi from Kuwait and three artists from the US: Max Weisel, Brian Khek and Niko Karamyan. Despite different geographical backgrounds their work resounds with similar tunes of growing up in a world between abundance and scarcity, between a digital revolution and the reshaping of political realities.
In Amalia Ulman’s work a recurring theme is the societal shift that was kick started by the digital revolution. She believes that “once upon a time” the access to information gave people power and status, it defined their place in society. In her view the internet has torn down these class frontiers, and information is consumed by many, which leads Amalia to observe people’s online behavior. She suggests that “in many cases consumption is actually stimulated by its potential to be rewarded through online feedback."
The digital artist and programmer Max Weisel also draws on the close connection between an online life, consumption and personal behavior. Although only born in 1991, Max’s first app predates Apple’s App store. On his website it says he is driven “to write software that helps humans communicate with computers.” The musician Björk became a fan of Max’s work and commissioned him to create an app for her latest album Biophilia. The result is an aesthetically stunning piece of sound animation with the added value of connecting the listener in a way to Björk’s music that supersedes the non-digital music experience, as you get to be part of the composition and play with it.
The idea to form a network of artists born in and after 1989 was born in the far flung harbor of Yokohama, where in 2008, Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Simon Castets met at the Triennial and began an ongoing conversation. Inspired by old masters of the arts who had shown great talent at an early age they wondered why youthful masters were less frequent in modern times. Obrist’s and Castets’ search for today’s young talents soon lead them to the internet, as cyberspace seemed like the natural environment for the digitally native generation.
The artists who will be on stage at DLD13 may not yet be well known but all have done an incredible amount of work, and they form a core group of a much larger collection of artists who will be included in the 89plus project. In an attempt to break down traditional hierarchies of the art world 89plus is in the process of building a website, which will allow artists to upload their work and be in direct contact with the curators.
The ambition of the project also lies in bringing together young artists from all over the world, who might know of each other through the internet but have never met. Given the right platform, artists with technological acumen are likely to make conceptual breakthroughs which can influence even more than the arts. “Using the label of age for a whole group of such varied artists has its limitations” says Castets “but using it as a mapping device really broadened our horizons.”
At #dld13 the 89plus panel discussion will take this path-breaking exploration of the next generation one step further.