Digital Nights

Lab-au, Framework f5x5x5, Nuit Blanche 2009, Paris. Photo credit: Lab-au, Photographer: Natalia Kolesova.

Digital Nights, an adaptation of Nuit Blanche that prioritizes the technological in the multidisciplinary vision of contemporary art, is a 10-day showcase of a varied lot of visualization projects by European artists Miguel Chevalier, Bertrand Planes and Art collectives Visual System and Lab[au], currently on view at the Singapore Art Museum, one of the few venues anchoring this joint project.

It has been several decades since artists such as Roy Ascott envisioned the increasing convergence of computers and communication systems that would greatly impact artistic practices. Essentially, creative practices that assimilate computer technology, as Ascott had also suggested, would produce a collaborative text – a network of relationships – where ideas and images are in a constant flux and whose meanings are dependent on those who enter this collaboration. In a series of uniformly painted objects that seem to reference Piero Manzoni’s white Achromes, Bertrand Planes’s BumpIt! pieces are de-materialized and voided of any sign or meaning, and then re-coloured and re-textured by looped video projections. Applied in a variety of contexts (Planes has previously transformed a church organ into a peak-meter, and redressed the exterior of a Citroën) within the framework of consumerist and material culture, Planes creates the possibility of a space in which the viewer can attribute multiple meanings to entities resembling everyday objects.

Lab-au, Binary Waves at Art Grandeur Nature. Image courtesy of Lab-au.

While the notion of “distributed authorship” and the shift in emphasis to processes and interactivity have been central to technologically-based art has been established for at least 40 years, contemporary digital art has emerged in its own right as an experimental but sophisticated and complex genre calling for an interdisciplinary panel that draws on the diverse expertise of programmers, technicians and architects – just to name a few. Binary Waves exemplifies the manifold techno-architectural efforts of Lab[au], a Belgian collective that aims to examine the role of technology in the forms, methods and content of art in a post-industrial information age. A network of rotating and luminous panels that form a kinetic wall simulate urban flows, are derived from visual wave patterns generated by infrared sensors.

Like Binary Waves, A Digital Experience by Visual System (a collective of French artists whose projects explore the role of digital media in the city of the future) demonstrates the imaginative ways that matter and energy circulate and change form in between projections of light and sound. In a representation of a city of the future inspired by an artistic vision of Shanghai, pulsing LED systems accompanied by a musical composition by Olivier Pasquet take on the metaphor of our networked lives in this digital universe.

Visual System, A Digital Experience. Image courtesy of Visual System and Valere Terrier.

A Monet-inspired, interactive virtual reality installation by Miguel Chevalier, Ultra Nature is an impressionistic visual garden with several varieties of vibrantly-coloured plants that, through motion sensors, mime our every move in space. Yet their artificial life and programmed existence contain a measure of autonomy as they sway right and left in the projected video image, breathed life into them according to the swishing movements of visitors.

Miguel Chevalier, Ultra-Nature 2005, Daejeon Metropolitan Museum of Art, Daejeon, South Korea. Image courtesy of artist.

Digital Nights is held in conjunction with Nuit Blanche Paris, in partnership with ZoMedia Pte Ltd and supported by the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, Tote Board and Singapore Turf Club. It will run through this Sunday, 26 September 2010.