Guerrillas in Flatland: Unite! Digital Voyagers
25/03/2021 — 27/06/2021
curators: Wu Yue, He Jingfei
Artists: Cao Shu, Chen Tianzhuo, Ge Yulu, He Shouyi, Huang Anlan, Xia Cheng’an, Yang Chuan’er, Ye Funa, Zhao Bang, Zhang Xiaotao, Zhang Xinyi, Zuo Pula
"As a reponse to the special COVID-19 situation, the “Emerging Curators Project 2O2Online” (ECP 2O2Online), initiated by the Power Station of Art last year, has decided to embrace a major innovation – the edition will not host physical offline sessions, and instead, shift to never-seen-before exhibition experiences exclusive to the online world and encourage curators, artists and programmers to work together for inspiring cross-disciplinary creative endeavors."
-- Power Station of Art, Shanghai (PSA)
"Guerillas in Flatland" is an online intervention of showcasing young Chinese new media artists' work on the internet. As the co-curator, I led a team of 2 web developers, 5 designers, 12 artists with a $50k budget, negotiated with tech companies including TikTok, Tencent, WeChat, and Alibaba for collaborations, and realized the first virtual exhibition for PSA, China’s largest public contemporary art museum.
The exhibit is a network of interconnected websites where we duplicate existing web and social media interfaces, embed artists' work into popup ads, navbars, buttons, preview thumbnails, chat boxes, and other interactive components that are native to the web. Every artist's work situates in a unique website that's individually built. Each website contains hyperlink portals camouflaged as buttons or clickable elements, which lead to other websites that house other digital artwork.
Screen recording compilation of artworks in the exhibition
The exhibition is a network of interconnected websites and people.
Each artwork in the exhibition is showcased on its own custom website, individually built and thoughtfully curated to fit its context. Artworks are cleverly interlinked using one ubiquitous website feature: the hyperlink. The journey from one piece of art to another is concealed in a hyperlink portals camouflaged as buttons or clickable elements, which lead to other websites that house other digital artwork.
Every player in the Internet ecosystem is also interconnected, forming a united front that we call the or the "voyagers." The exhibition employs Mao's "Mass Line" strategy, aiming to engage the mass, or the "voyagers" - internet users who stumble upon the art project unknowingly. By doing so, we challenge the typical behaviors people exhibit when browsing websites. Through innovative design twists on standard practices like hyperlinks and scrolling, we aim to surprise the visitors to this online exhibition.
Demo of the interlinked websites that house individual artworks in the exhibition.
Screen recording from the 'Flatland Guerrillas' exhibition webpage showcasing artworks by Ge and Cao.
Original artwork formation:
GE Yulu, Watching the Watchers, 2016, Social intervention
CAO Shu, Sisyphus, 2017, 3D Rendered Moving Image Installation
Artist Ge Yulu wanders through the city, seeking out surveillance cameras in public spaces and making eye contact with them until the person monitoring from behind the camera reveals themselves. This performance art piece has been exhibited in art galleries in the form of photography. The curator acquired the surveillance footage from the artist and recreated a now-defunct surveillance live-stream platform called "Water Drop Live." On this faux website, the piece is played alongside other fabricated surveillance clips, allowing users to step into the shoes of the artist during his art project. As they are stared by the artist in the footage, the audience experiences a reversed surveillance relationship.
After users watch these surveillance videos for a continuous two minutes, the website suddenly pops up many small, floating window. The images in the pop-up come from the dreamscape of artist Cao Shu. Without any narrative, the 25 images repeatedly flash back. They float scattered across the page, much like pop-up ads vying for the user's attention without any real purpose. If one tries to click the "X" in the top right corner of the screen, they are only met with a piece description and cannot close the pop-up. This satirizes the tactics many websites use to unscrupulously increase ad clicks for profit.
Screen recording from the 'Flatland Guerrillas' exhibition webpage showcasing artworks by He.
Original artwork formation:
HE Shouyi, From There to Here, 2020, 3D model
To commemorate his deceased father, artist He Shouyi collected tidbits old photos of the moments when his parents met and fell in love. Through 3D scanning, he transformed these flat photographs into a massive structure constructed from memories, named "Home." We've embedded this artwork within a real estate listing website. Scattered around the artwork, details such as property listings, post dates, and appraisal prices are filled with He Shouyi's treasured memories and nostalgia for these priceless moments. The artwork itself represents the transition from two-dimensional to three-dimensional, and the real estate website also bridges the online and offline realms.