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Exhibition of Nordic digital, moving image, and light-based art opens at Scandinavia House
Jacob Tækker, Sea of Love, 2010. Video loop with sound Courtesy of the artist.

NEW YORK, NY.- Voyage to the Virtual, an exhibition dedicated to digital, moving image, and light-based Nordic art, opened at Scandinavia House: The Nordic Center in America, in New York City, on Saturday, January 24, 2015. Combining video, animation, light sculpture, and interactive media, the exhibition takes the metaphor of “the voyage” as a starting point for an exploration into the ways contemporary artists are expanding on the human perceptual experience.

On view through Saturday, April 4, 2015 Voyage to the Virtual is curated by Tanya Toft and organized by The AmericanScandinavian Foundation (ASF), and features the work of ten contemporary artists from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden: Katja Aglert, Elina Brotherus, A K Dolven, Olafur Eliasson, Jette Gejl Kristensen and Peter Møller-Nielsen, Petra Lindholm, Ann Lislegaard, Per Platou, Jacob Tækker, and Anders Weberg.

The “voyage” is a concept deeply anchored in Nordic identity. The word evokes ancient journeys into foreign territories, arctic sea travels, expeditions across icecaps and to the far north, and journeys into Nordic myth and worlds beyond our own. It encapsulates our curiosity about the unknown. In a contemporary context, the voyage also encompasses the concept of mediation: between ordinary and uncanny, rural and urban, natural and artificial, real and virtual.

The title of the exhibition, Voyage to the Virtual, suggests a journey to somewhere beyond our physical location. Often when we refer to “the virtual,” we mean something simulated, or artificial— something computer generated. Here, the virtual is explored beyond these understandings and taken as a philosophical concept describing the intuitive passage between perception and memory in which the viewer is not separated from the visual space or image, but rather “enters into” it. The voyage to the virtual is a journey towards a state of being post-human, where we might reach new modes of consciousness from which we can challenge the perceptual ideas that organize our contemporary world.

In the works featured in Voyage to the Virtual, the artists create vantage points from which viewers might reflect on the voyage as a perceptual concept, and embark on journeys into new territories of perception.

Jacob Tækker’s animation Sea of Love (2010) invites the viewer on a journey to the sea where the artist, multiplied, drifts in an orange rescue tube, evoking existential questions about a digital reality. Per Platou’s sound and video installation The Works (Wash) (2008)—a rough, unpolished walk across the salt flats of the Great Salt Lake Desert, captured via GoPro—evokes a mythical memory of ancient Nordic nomads crossing the icecap. Petra Lindholm’s video Empty Vessels (2014) follows in the thoughts and footsteps of climbers on the peaks of one of the world’s highest mountains, bringing the viewer on a hypnotic journey into the cultural mindset of today’s goal oriented society. Jette Gejl Kristensen and Peter Møller-Nielsen’s interactive installation Hyperkinetic Kayak (2010) invites visitors on a journey into augmented reality, navigating (via kayak) graphic icescapes and geometric patterns generated by their own movements and a daily data feed of Greenlandic air temperatures. And Katja Aglert’s 32013 Years of Aurora Evolution (2013) simulates the “light materiality” of the northern lights while questioning our obsession with the artificial light that constantly challenges our experience of natural light and phenomena.

In several works in the exhibition, the viewer is invited on journeys into mediated representations of space and abstract architectural and urban realms. Ann Lislegaard’s Bellona (after Samuel R. Delany) (2005), an installation centering on a 3D animation of writer Samuel R. Delany’s fictional city Bellona, explores a perceptual architectonic environment, calling attention to the recent expansion of our sense of space and place through computer-rendered virtual environments. In Elina Brotherus’ Wrong Face (2012), shot on 16-milimeter film in a Manhattan loft, the viewer enters an intimate psychological space through reflections in mirrors, windows, and the cornea of the eye. And in Anders Weberg’s Impressions videos (2010-2014), the viewer joins the artist on abstract investigations of place and atmosphere—all captured by mobile phone—that reflect new forms of perceptual experience mediated through technology.

Moving further into the abstract, in A K Dolven’s video installation change my way of seeing I (2011), the viewer is drawn into the depths of an enlarged close-up shot of the artist’s pupil, as if investigating perception behind the eye. And in Olafur Eliasson’s Fivefold dodecahedron lamp (2006), the viewer joins a conceptual exploration of the shape of the dodecahedron, a figural symbol associated in Plato’s philosophy with a fifth element, aether, beyond the classical four. Today, the fifth element relates to a nonmaterial fabric of reality, perhaps a hyperspace constituted by a reciprocal flow of energy and information.

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