When the inaugural digital art biennial The Wrong launched in 2013, it was the first of its kind. A massive undertaking, the online art show organized by David Quiles Guilló, founder of the São Paulo-based arts organization ROJO, aimed to bring together the best of net art and display it not on the walls of galleries or museums, but in its native medium. Two years later, and the biennial has just launched its second show with more than 1,000 artworks on display in over 50 curated online pavilions, all of which are accessible to anyone with an Internet connection.
“The natural media of digital art is in a browser, not in a big screen,” says Quiles Guilló, who first had the idea for an digital biennial in 2002, when he organized The Wrong Festival, a parallel event to the Sonar festival in Barcelona. After an unsuccessful initial attempt, he decided to shelve the idea until Internet access was better and faster, but never forgot his resolution to create a better venue for showcasing digital art.
“You know where to put the paintings and sculptures but don’t know where to put the digital artwork,” he says. “I thought it was time to gather all these artists who are doing digital work that have an established background and try to bring them all together under one big flag.” The question is whether that “big flag” will help digital art–the market of which is growing, but small–sell.
Much like a physical biennial, The Wrong is exhaustive and sprawling and overwhelming. The directory on the site might be the best starting point–it lists all 50 of the pavilions, which each have a curator in charge. Quiles Guilló considers himself a “curator of curators,” but he leaves the design, organization and selection of the artists to the individual curators, some of whom were hand selected by last year’s curators and some of whom answered an open call. Each pavilion is its own rabbit hole, an immersive pocket of the Internet full of videos, interactive installations, strangely beautiful GIFs, 3-D graphics, incredible data visualizations, poems translated into binary code. Pavilions range from Code Nebula, which features code artists, to Crystallized Skins, an exhibition dedicated to 3-D graphics. Color Hybrids features works that are designed to be experienced using a Google VR headset and Sub Art Department lets viewers manipulate GIFs, text boxes and images in an interface that looks like it could be very early version of Wikipedia.
The best way to explore is just to browse without an agenda, though you could spend an entire afternoon clicking through the pavilions and barely scratch the surface. Digital tours led by writers, artists, and friends of the biennial offer another mode of discovery–one that ditches the structure of the pavilions all together and just takes you through individual works. Ultimately, the show is as unpredictable and as unwieldy as the digital art genre itself, and it’s still being added to and worked on even as it progresses.
The constantly evolving nature of digital art is one of the reasons its market hasn’t matured. Quiles Guilló draws a parallel between digital art and street art, an open, free, democratized medium that has found a way to be profitable in a traditional art environment.
“People say [digial art is] not easy to sell, it’s easily copyable, and it doesn’t have any value. But I do see people selling digital art in various ways, and very successfully,” Quiles Guilló says. He points to Rafaël Rozendaal, an artist who buys up clever domain names, fills the site with his interactive art, then sells it to an art collector, who takes up the charge of updating and maintaining it. There’s also Undervolt, an experimental video label that releases video albums for download using the same model by which a music label sells the work of their artists. Artists like Beyonce and Rihanna are starting to sell video albums with their new releases, opening up a new market for video artists who would do well to have label representation.
Digital-only museums and exhibitions are also being born online, and some hybrid digital-physical galleries have been successful at making digital art salable. At Transfer, a popular gallery in Brooklyn, gallerist Kelani Nichole encourages digital artists to create site-specific works that have both a digital and physical element and can be sold through exhibitions or in digital editions on their nicely designed website.
Quiles Guilló envisions The Wrong creating a network in which digital artists can discover each other and these types of opportunities, and then create more opportunities. After self-funding the first show, he successfully crowdfunded this one, but his goal is to become financially self-sufficient by the fifth show, through either art patrons or sponsors. Digital art is more democratized and inclusive than the traditional art world, argues Quiles Guilló, and it operates at a different pace. It should have a venue that fits its needs. “It’s very open, and because of this openness more people can participate. And you can participate now, not in two years time,” he says. “The more channels you have to make this happen and show your work in a frame that is related as serious and official, and where you get public feedback. That’s one more step forward.”
The Wrong (Again) – New Digital Art Biennale runs from November 1, 2015 to January 31, 2016.