Counting its viewership in the millions, The Wrong just might be the world’s largest art biennale — the digital world’s answer to Venice. To visit, art lovers needn’t purchase a plane ticket, book a hotel or queue outside galleries: Admission requires only internet access. Now in its third edition,running through Jan. 31, The Wrong presents the work of some 1,500 creators who show across more than 100 online exhibition pavilions, with the field’s boldfaced names — such as Carla Gannis,a multimedia artist — alongside upstart talents like Pieter Jossa, a 3-D animator.
The Wrong’s founder, David Quiles Guilló, runs the festival from an off-grid home in Alicante,Spain, far from traditional art centers. Though intended as an alternative to the often elitist system of biennials and fairs, The Wrong seemingly operates by the tenets of older internet culture: It’s decentralized, accessible and democratic — anyone who wants to participate, as artist or curator, can apply.
Its organizers practice “instant radical inclusion,”a phrase coined by Mr. Quiles Guilló and The Wrong’s council member Patrick Lichty. “If you believe your art or your curating talent must be part of The Wrong,”Mr. Quiles Guilló said in a FaceTime interview, “then for us, it’s a must.” The festival accepts submissions of artwork and proposals for pavilions until its final day. “I’m not a specialist in digital art,” Mr. Quiles Guilló added. “I’m a specialist in making structures to support art.”
Christiane Paul, the adjunct curator of digital art at the Whitney Museum of American Art, has watched The Wrong since its birth in 2013 and worked with a number of its organizers and participants. (Some, including Elisa Giardina Papa, Marisa Olson and Lorna Mills, are in the Whitney’s collection.)Inclusive doesn’t mean unimportant. “Anyone interested in the field of digital art,” she said, “ought to pay attention to The Wrong.”
The unwieldy size and picture-free directory of thewrong.org may overwhelm users. Mr. Quiles Guilló admitted he won’t see all of it. Instead, he invites visitors to snack on the art and make return trips. Like early web surfing, before online environments were personalized and organized by algorithms, The Wrong’s magic lies in the sense of discovery yielded by a simple click. Here are a few pavilions and points of interest.
Envisioned as an open and unlimited forum, Homeostasis Lab is the only exhibition pavilion that has appeared in each of The Wrong’s three incarnations. Its growing collection includes the work of Santa France, a 24-year-old Latvian artist. “Leftovers,” her series of digital illustrations, depicts the stray objects that remain after a breakup. The works are thoroughly contemporary still lifes, showing familiar and banal objects that form the detritus of a relationship. Composed digitally, they bear the brush strokes or idiosyncrasies of the 3-D computer graphics software that created them.
Finding an exhibition venue is a challenge for young digital artists, Ms. France explained. Social media platforms are fickle, and offline galleries are difficult to penetrate. “It’s hard to find a nice community where you can post your work,”she said. Ms. France applied to The Wrong —whichenjoys a smaller viewership than, say, Instagram — because it attracts an audience that actively wants to engage with digital art. “When you publish your work on Instagram or Tumblr, there’s an accidental audience,” she explained. “People who look up your work but don’t recognize it as art.”
Mr. Quiles Guilló calls The Wrong “a website of websites” and “an exhibition of exhibitions.” Michaël Borras a.k.a. Systaime is a Valencia-based artist, curator and founder of the virtual outpost Super Modern Art Museum, known as SPAMM. Created with Françoise Apter (known by her screen name Ellectra Radikal), Mr. Borras’s new catalog of artworks is calledSPAMM Power. It offers a snapshot of the moment in net art, evidencing some of its various aesthetics and techniques, through the work of more than 140 artists and artist teams.
Stocked with hours of content, the pavilion is basically a festival within the festival. As a typology, however, it is subjective and incomplete, Mr. Borras said. “SPAMM has to be so big because there are so many artists on the internet.” It’s the mission of the Super Modern Art Museum to continue documenting those ever-emerging art practices.
Mr.Borras’s own video,“Attract Money,”appears in SPAMM Power.
The work is a maximalist mash-up of icons, clip art and GIF characters. It collapses the partitions of our everyday net habits — the many tabs, windows, and screens — and empties their contents into a single over-rich frame.
In the pavilion Lucky Charms for Dinner, the Italian artist and curator Kamilia Kard explores the theme of acceleration: how technology has sped up and increased demands on our time.Sometimes, we’re so crushed, she said, that we’re forced to eat Lucky Charms for dinner. One month before The Wrong opened, she invited artists to show new or recent work that considers hyper-connectivity and the ever-present rush. In Kate Durbin’s performance video, “Hello Selfie Miami,” for example, a group of performers, costumed as what Ms. Kard calls “Hello Kitty mermaids,” mug for their smartphone cameras, heedless to the crowd of real-life onlookers.
The institutional art world, where budgets and programming calendars cover years at a time, and the digital art world, with its relative lack of hierarchies and logistical restraints, move at different tempos. This makes The Wrong nimble, responsive and fast. “But fast doesn’t mean shallow,” Ms. Kard said.
“Online initiatives are often based on low production costs, quick communication within networks of friends and followers, and a strong motivation that makes artists participative and makes them believe in your project.”
Adjacent to its pavilions, The Wrong also has a number of offline gallery events called “embassies.” The Canadian artist and curator Erica Lapadat-Janzen gathered the work of what she calls “the world’s best GIF artists” for a two-day exhibition,GIF Fest 3000, projected on the walls of a Vancouver warehouse. (The show is cataloged online.)
Ms. Lapadat-Janzen, who has participated in every version of The Wrong,said “it shows just how many people are doing this weird thing we like to call net art.” Sure, it’s unwieldy, she admitted. “It would do well with more organization, easier ways to access things, more spotlights on certain projects. You’ll find really good work, but there’s also a lot of noise.”
But it continues to inspire her to seek out interesting projects, including work by Carla Gannis, whose “Nasty Woman” GIF extends the resistance into virtual space. Her avatar protests from its cyber bedroom, surrounded by other Gannis artworks, reflecting how her personal and private creative thoughts “are increasingly impacted by the politics and inequities of the outer world.”
For the pavilion Mutant Club, the Buenos Aires-based curator Enrique Salmoiraghi wanted to create an accessible, inclusive and collaborative experience. “What better metaphor than the dance club?” he says. “The place where a group of mutants come together and different styles and genders coexist. The dance floor is a space to celebrate integration.”
Navigating the virtual environment with their cursor keys, club-goers explore artworks and architecture, encountering other patrons of this alien discothèque, built by an international team of designers, artists and developers. When digital art and artists are spread across both the web and the globe, Mutant Club, like The Wrong itself, is a venue intended for communities to gather and share.
The Wrong Biennale runs through Jan. 31. Information: thewrong.org.
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