Alright on the WrongGrid

Human emotion or it didn’t happen” (NewHive)

The Wrong Biennale is a biennale taking place online. Websites are the pavillons. But the spatial and temporal concept of a biennale does not fit the digital realm. Even if exactly this contradiction is what is played out here, I am still unconvinced. Does the vast space of the net need the simulated spatial scarcity of a biennale? Why these simulated borders, why are there digital walls? The current wave of digital artworks online almost feels like when streetart became a hype, you had the young creative crowd joining for a short time and then dropping out again quickly. Usually it gets interesting after the hype. But as with streetart, also the current digital aesthetics hype has provided surprising experiences for me:

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How I found out about the artists that I will write about is a bit connected to what I want to show you in particular, so let me tell that story first. Some time ago I noted some disruption carried out on the social networks, by artists inserting their works quite prominently in the feeds. Some where hacking facebook with obscure hieroglyphs, by reaching out across the possibilities of the UTF-8 spectrum. For example with the Game Over Facebook channel. And there was something similiar to the streetart and graffiti movement, artists designing aesthetic projectiles of icons and stylized letters that reappear over and over, for example the GrandLapin. But the facebook police was cracking down on this, re-establishing order in the CSS-containers, rebuilding the borders of posts, to catch the escaping UTF-8 characters that had been spreading in all directions. So one might wonder, what if these visual experiments were to be produced in an unlimited space? And this is what happens in one of this year’s Wrong Biennale pavillons.

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When I started to explore the net 20 years ago, one frustrating part of the experience was that it did not at all resemble what I was reading about digital spaces at the same time in literature. In the literary imagination about cyberspace, users were connecting their avatars to a grid where they would enjoy immersive aesthetic and social experiences. But from Habbo Hotel to ego shooters and finally Second Life, in the decades that followed nothing really came close to the cyberpunk novels. Two weeks ago, I bought a head-up-display kit for my smartphone, and I am starting to experience digital aesthetics that I feel resemble finally what I was promised in the 90s and before…

The WrongGrid is a immersive art space, a virtual reality pavillon. At first, it seems to resemble previous experiments with 3D art environments online, like Chris Markers Second Life pavillon, or The Immaterial Art Stock Project, but I see the older approaches more related to the idea of a museum or gallery space online. What is different with the WrongGrid is it’s immersive structure in large parts: you are not shown works in a 3D space, but you enter the 3D works themselves. The WrongGrid artists surely didn’t “invent” this, they just have established a very impressive realisation of the idea.

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There is a broad variety of approaches coming together in the WrongGrid Pavillon. Several of the installations are little islands or floating platforms that you can fly or wander around and explore like you would explore a city or a beach. But in particular I found those contributions intruiging that were using the endless digital space quite excessively. These are the same artists that are launching their digital fireworks on social media channels constantly. They face strict limitations on the corporate networks, so it is quite fascinating to see what they come up with once there is no scarcity.

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The installation of GrandLapin.

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The installation of Vash Yeah.

In particular impressive I found those sections of the pavillon where there was no more urban structure. This is not a pavillon anymore, these are little worlds. These worlds are neither resembling urban space nor natural environments, they are digitally organic. This is really what I had imagined when I read for example the descriptions of Tad William’s treehouse avatar hangout in the Otherland books. Or in general, the cyberspace imaginations starting with Gibson, to Stephenson. I found it also to hint at the aesthetics of the Moebius drawings, as you can see in this juxtapostion with the installation of Ynfab Bruno:

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Another view of Ynfab Bruno’s installation:

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After all this digital debris, you can also float over the night sea, listen to the DJ mix of the opening, and watch the cyber sea horses drift in a big sphere that Fotis Begetis has constructed for them:

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Or you can also start to interact with the installation. When you log in, you will sometimes meet the creators. Nikolas Koroloff teleported me to his sound installation, where you run over colorful squares that emit recordings as you touch them:

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And later, spending time in his installation, it got really convinced that the net-dadaism of GrandLapin needs its own world instead of only being injected into facebook feeds. But the interactions that are happening on the WrongGrid then also make their way back and the feeds and immersive worlds start to be interconnected, on the profiles of the artists and in the facebook group of the WrongGrid pavillon. For example when I put on my favorite digital dress, a 10x10x10 metres light-emitting white cube, it made for some nice screenshots vis-à-vis the sculptures in the pavillon.

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Many screenshots of the pavillon circulate in the linear and flat feeds and enrich them. I hope they encourage others to enter the WrongGrid and find how it relates to their own past phantasies of virtual worlds. From overloaded to quiet spaces, you will find a lot to explore and experience. Instructions can be found here: wronggrid.com

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