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New Museum Presents "Free," An Exhibition Exploring How the Web Has Expanded Our Cultural Space
Hanne Mugaas, Secondary Market, 2010. Mixed-medium installation. Dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist.

NEW YORK, NY.- Today, culture is more dispersed than ever before. The web has broadened both the quantity and kind of information freely available. It has distributed our collective experience across geographic locations; opened up a new set of creative possibilities; and, coextensively, produced a set of challenges. This fall, the New Museum presents “Free,” an exhibition including twenty-three artists working across mediums—including video, installation, sculpture, photography, the internet, and sound—that reflects artistic strategies that have emerged in a radically democratized cultural terrain redefined by the impact of the web. “Free” will propose an expansive conversation around how the internet has affected our landscape of information and notion of public space. The philosophy of free culture, and its advocacy for open sharing, informs the exhibition, but is not its subject. Instead, the title and featured works present a complex picture of the new freedoms and constraints that underlie our expanded cultural space.

“Free” is curated by Lauren Cornell, Executive Director of Rhizome and New Museum Adjunct Curator. Artists featured in “Free” are Liz Deschenes (born 1966 in Boston, lives in New York), Aleksandra Domanovic (born 1981 in Novi Sad, Serbia, lives in Berlin), Lizzie Fitch (born 1981 in Bloomington, Indiana, lives in Philadelphia), Martijn Hendriks (born 1973 in Eindhoven, Netherlands, lives in Amsterdam), Joel Holmberg (born 1982 in Bethesda, Maryland, lives in New York), David Horvitz (born 1982 in Los Angeles, lives in New York), Lars Laumann (born 1975 in Brønnøysund, lives in Berlin), Andrea Longacre-White (born 1980 in Philadelphia, lives in Los Angeles), Kristin Lucas (born 1968 in Davenport, Iowa, lives in Beacon, New York), Jill Magid (born 1973 in Bridgeport, Connecticut, lives in New York), Hanne Mugaas (born 1980 in Stavanger, Norway, lives in New York), Takeshi Murata (born 1974 in Chicago, lives in Saugerties, New York), Rashaad Newsome (born 1979 in New Orleans, lives in New York), Lisa Oppenheim (born 1975 in New York, lives in New York), Trevor Paglen (born 1974 in Washington D.C., lives in Oakland and New York), Seth Price (born 1973 in East Jerusalem, lives in New York), Jon Rafman (born 1981 in Montreal, lives in Montreal), Clunie Reid (born 1971 in Pembury, United Kingdom, lives in London), Amanda Ross-Ho (born 1975 in Chicago, lives in Los Angeles), Alexandre Singh (born 1980 in Bordeaux, France, lives in New York), Ryan Trecartin (born 1981 in Webster, Texas, lives in Philadelphia) & David Karp (born 1986 in New York, lives in New York), and Harm Van Den Dorpel (born 1981 in Zaandam, Netherlands, lives in Amsterdam).

“Free” is inspired in part by “Dispersion” (2001–), an essay by the artist Seth Price that is available as a free online booklet and will be featured within the exhibition as a large-scale sculptural installation composed of nine panels each imprinted with a page from the original booklet. The essay traces the increased dispersion of culture, by examining how its circulation and reception has changed across mediums from print, to video, and to the web. In light of the way we now experience political events and pop culture, Price offers a new description of public space and questions the viability of public art as we understand it. Price writes: “Publicness today has as much to do with sites of production and reproduction as it does with any supposed physical commons, so a popular album could be regarded as a more successful instance of public art than a monument tucked away in an urban plaza.” The works in “Free” alight from Price’s statements to demonstrate and explore the multiple ways artists utilize, appropriate, and reenact material sourced from the web, and also address pressing questions like: What do we have access to? What is hidden? What are the possibilities and excesses of a more open and tranparent culture?

For Lisa Oppenheim’s 35mm slideshow projection The Sun is Always Setting Somewhere Else (2006), the artist sourced from Flickr snapshots of sunsets taken by US soldiers based in Iraq, and re-photographed the soldiers’ photos against her own horizon in America, framing a common tendency to connect to a universal experience from a foreign vantage point. Artist Aleksandra Domanovic instigates a process of cultural transubstantiation in her work 19:30 (2010)—for which she traveled around the former Yugoslavia collecting visual introductions of nightly news shows from national television stations. She then uploaded these clips online and encouraged DJs to use them as the basis for new techno tracks—a genre of music chosen because it is based on the creation of infinite variations of original productions. Exhibited within the gallery as a two-screen video installation, 19:30 creates an unusual national archive while demonstrating how flexible the meaning of media can be, by revealing how easily obsolete culture from this former country (the nightly news sequences) can be rejuvenated into something vital with a shift in context.

Other works in the exhibition explore strategies around the appropriation of digital imagery. Take No Photographs, Leave Only Ripples (2009) by Clunie Reid is comprised of a series of found images the artist layers with hand-drawn anarchic expressions. Dark Current (2010), a series of photographs by Andrea Longacre-White, explores the aesthetics of photographic degradation, through images that the artist rephotographed countless times. Takeshi Murata, in a premiere single-screen video, explores the way public images are interpreted, transformed, and personalized as they cycle through different contexts and hands. For this new video, Murata used the 3d modeling program Cinema 4D to investigate the notion of knockoffs through Popeye, a popular character that has been endlessly remixed online and whose copyright in Europe recently expired. Artist Trevor Paglen investigates information—be it personal, scientific, or governmental data—that is masked from public view. In his new series of large-scale landscape photographs, Paglen reveals classified information: federally sanctioned eavesdropping facilities deep in West Virginia and the orbits of dead spy satellites around the moon—all secret activity made visible with extensive research and a long-range lens. Martijn Hendriks considers common forms of mass communication in his Untitled (Black Video) (2009). Hendriks sourced anonymous comments from an online video forum who participants were responding to the leaked video of the execution of Saddam Hussein: some crude, some unsettled, some laissez-faire, all demonstrating the kind of freedom associated with being unidentifiable. Artist Joel Holmberg asked searching, existential questions in the user-generated forum Yahoo Answers, like ‘How does it feel to be in love?’ or ‘How do I best convince someone I am an artist,’ in substitution of the mundane questions usually asked about pets or parking needs. Holmberg’s performance Legendary Account (2007-10) turns Yahoo Answers against itself by asking profound questions, instead of easily answerable ones.

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