Arts » Visual Arts

What is a citizen, asks iMOCA's Global Space


Clement Valla, "Seed Drawing," from Global Space at iMOCA
  • Clement Valla, "Seed Drawing," from Global Space at iMOCA

iMOCA's December show, Global Space, will bring together work by artists from around the world to explore what it means to be a global citizen in the Internet era. Ben Valentine curated, and participants include Art404, a new media duo intrigued by branding and identity; and Clement Valla, who's into algorithms and considering the status of the work of art in the age of mechanical (and/or digital) reproduction.

Global citizens are invited to interact with An Xiao's piece "We Meme," which employs two panels, one bearing GIFs and memes popular in China's microblogging world, the other shows GIFs and memes from Tumblr in the U.S. Xiao will supply the initial batch of images, but participants are invited to create their own meme, in a sense, by sending images throughout the course of the show, up through Jan. 19.

Valentine, an Indy native and Earlham grad who has since lived in Brooklyn and Berkeley, and has curated shows at Christopher West Presents and Greencastle's Low Road Gallery, tells us more about An Xiao's work.

Jasper Ellings, "Sharing a Beautiful Sunset"
  • Jasper Ellings, "Sharing a Beautiful Sunset"

Ben Valentine: An Xiao is an artist, designer and writer whose practice deals so much with online identity and social media, she was perfect for the show. We first met when she had organized a brunch with a close group of NYC art and tech people at a dim sum place in Chinatown. She struck me as someone who is extremely committed to being very present both in real life and online. When I asked her, instead of her telling me everything she was thinking about, she started grilling me about Indiana and Indianapolis. She wanted to know about the specific location, what growing up as a Hoosier meant, what Hoosier itself means, important things about Fountain Square or Indianapolis, etc. Her research led her to become interested in the phrase "crossroads of America," and we talked about the saying for a while.

This whole process was interesting because I had to recall what I knew of Indiana for someone who had never been. An thought that for this show she wanted to take that phrase and apply it to the Internet. She thought she could reveal some of the physical specificity of the internet, by thinking of its visual culture online, and how that changes and intersects on platforms like Tumblr or Sina Weibo [Tumblr's Chinese equivalent]. These two platforms are both "of the internet," but they both have a visual vocabulary that has some culture and geopolitical specificity to them. Much like a train can span an entire continent, that doesn't mean the towns it passes are no longer unique. Figuring out a way to show examples of content that is online but locationally specific had many iterations, but An really settled on a very interesting installation.

NUVO: Do you think the show - taken as a whole or through one individual piece or another - makes an explicit (or implicit) argument concerning this state of the world? Say, is a world of consumers united by pop culture better than one of landed gentry united by high culture?

Valentine: The show is all about common interactions online - with our computers, overseas or with corporations - that we never real think about. The show doesn't provide, or attempt, a moral statement about how these new technologies are changing us, only that these changes must be investigated. We often vilify what we don't understand. I hope this show helps the viewer start to think about how culture is changing and what technologies are causing the changes. I guess my personal belief for the show is that technology and globalization is neither bad nor good, but it can be awfully dehumanizing if we let it.


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