Greg Thorpe creates the perfect playlist for The Lowry’s current exhibition of digital contemporary art; sit back, plug in, and consider how the world around us is changing via Kate Bush, Caribou and more…
Digital art doesn’t stand still for long, so it’s no mean feat for curators to attempt a representative snapshot of an ever-evolving and cross-disciplinary world. Right Here, Right Now at The Lowry (running until Sunday 28 February 2016) succeeds as a broad and surprising enough collection to give gallery-goers a healthy and engaging overview of the complex world of ‘digitally influenced’ practice.
Hannah Redler, guest exhibition curator, and the team at The Lowry have assembled ‘some of the most exciting contemporary art in our time’ from 16 international artists who are, they say, ‘defined as digital by their use of digital technology as a significant part and influence in their artistic practice.’
Mishka Henner’s large scale prints are a great example – painstakingly assembled high-resolution digital satellite images showing vast oil fields and plains of the Earth in seemingly infinitesimal detail – as are Stephanie Rothenberg’s Planthropy sculptures, which combine the philanthropy of online micro-lending with living plants hooked up to specific charitable topics and reliant on internet exchanges to live. Other examples abound of human interaction stimulating unique responses in the artworks, centring the human being in a way that’s perhaps pleasantly surprising and challenging to our preconceptions of a digital exhibition.
Speaking of human intervention, I was pleased to be asked to DJ at the launch event for Right Here, Right Now in November. I’ve played in art galleries before, and film festivals and book launches, and unlike club gigs the focus is no longer on the dancefloor (there isn’t one). Instead, I always want the music I play to engage with the content and give a ‘texture’ to the evening that helps people feel receptive to the work and puts the music in a relationship with the rest of the material being celebrated. The technology I use also speaks to the content of the exhibition: a mixture of taken-for-granted high-tech and easy-to-access and widely available software –Lenovo laptop, Hercules midi-controller, iTunes, digital MP3 files, Virtual DJ Pro software.
In my soundtrack, I aimed to include musicians who I consider both innovative and accessible and who I might broadly classify as digital, or as we used to say, electronic. Opening with the 12” mix of Kate Bush’s ‘Experiment IV’ to set the tone for open-mindedness (and potential calamity), and finishing with an extended astral-tinged mix from electro-wizard Caribou, the tracks aimed to combine a sense of futurism with the desire to maintain recognisable humanity in an increasingly digitised landscape. The sounds might bleep and bing, but the sentiments are human need and desire: Cut Copy’s Need You Now; Please Stay (Royksopp Mix) by Marc Almond with Mekon; Caribou’s Can’t Do Without You…
Enough words for now, here is my Right Here, Right Now exhibition mix uploaded for you to enjoy yourself. Perhaps before you visit The Lowry, or when you’re contemplating the digital artworks at home afterwards, or maybe even on your headphones as you walk around the galleries. However you decide to listen, I hope you find something to inspire you and to add an extra dimension to your experience. Music, no less than any other digital artistic practice, has the power to make another world possible, or at least seem possible, and that’s possibly the best kind of inspiration there is.
See the Right Here, Right Now exhibition — of digitally-influenced work which seeks to challenge perceptions – at The Lowry, Salford, until Sun 28 February 2016 — free entry
Open Sunday – Friday, 11am-5pm; Saturday, 10am-5pm
A detailed PDF catalogue of the exhibition can be downloaded here
Images from top: British artist Mishka Henner’s aerial photographs of large feedlots—features of industrial beef farming; Destructive Observation Field (2014) by Robert Henke, at Right Here, Right Now, The Lowry , Salford