Artists Reimagine How Covid-19 Will Shape the Art World

While some artists are running out of screens, others have discovered some advantages inherent in digital, socially distant projects. First, the internet is much more accessible than a SoHo gallery; a living canvas for the other. Conceptual artist Agnieszka Kurant says “The idea that works of art are completed once and for all is untenable.” “They must evolve like living organisms and physically react to changes in society and the world.”

Kurant, this notion Conversions (2019-2021), an ever-changing series of “pictures” using data from social media feeds from members of different protest movements, including Black Lives Matter, Women’s Strike in Poland and Extinction Rebellion. Each piece relies on artificial intelligence to analyze the emotional tone expressed among thousands of posts. This information is then transferred via computer simulation to a special circuit board that heats the layers of liquid crystal on a copper plate, its colorful patterns constantly evolving with the tones expressed on the Internet.

“Paintings” in the series of conceptual artist Agnieszka Kurant Conversions change according to the style expressed in social media posts.


Photo: Agnieszka Kurant / Tanya Bonakdar Gallery

The internet powers many artworks today, and why bother making a physical piece when there are very few places for people to see them? For Denny, this is the antidote to the brutal screen time initiated by the pandemic. “At first I was like, ‘Okay, great, digital. I’m an artist interested in technology,” Denny recalls. “And then, a month later, [I thought] “I never want to look at another website again.” I was more obsessed with tactility, space, materiality, and objects than ever before. “For Kurant, the concrete work is not about buying real estate in the gallery, but about the redistribution of capital. ConversionsEvery time a crystal “painting” is sold, some of the profit is distributed back to the social movements that inspired the original posts. “Now I want to divert the flow of capital from the art market,” says Kurant.

Unlike visual artists, the pandemic created even greater barriers for musicians who needed sweaty bodies filling crowded concert halls. Singers like Phoebe Bridgers and Lianne La Havas went straight to streaming performances from their bedroom or even from the bathtub to recreate intimacy with their fans. While some parts of the internet love this content, it cannot undeniably replace live shows. And the musician is also suffering, now coping with the impossible expectation of becoming a social media influencer in addition to the creator.

Experimental composer Holly Herndon explores the demands of online culture from artists on her new podcast Solidarityhosted with his partner Mat Dryhurst. “We’re trying to get away from this independent artist idea,” Herndon says. “I think the future of the creative industry is a kind of network of interconnected actors who can benefit each other, rather than independent actors competing against each other.” Similar to Kurant, Herndon identifies that a mutual aid system is critical to helping performers survive in an unstable economy. Herndon explains that these new networks will encourage creative collaboration, increase the visibility of new talent, and empower artists to demand fair pay. However, it all depends on how Herndon says it can be “so embarrassing” that the pandemic is over and saves the musicians from their live streams going home.

Just because artists find new ways to showcase their work doesn’t mean that street art is a relic of the past. As cities adapted to their new realities, the restructuring of public spaces provided more opportunities for some artists to showcase their work. New York City-based Chashama encourages property owners to allow artists to use free space until it’s rented. It’s a win-win: Artists get the resources they need, and neighborhoods experience an increase in pedestrian traffic (aka work).

Chashama’s model also creates a community that the nonprofit Problem Library is trying to reproduce in San Francisco. Not long ago, artist Vanha Lam, known for his work using folded paper and canvas, came up with the idea of ​​the Problem Library to build a large-scale indoor zen rock garden that he would build on a daily basis. Blake Conway, the director of the organization, found its place on the ground floor of Mira, the new apartment complex near Embarcadero. Large-scale projects like this “broaden thinking about what is possible in these areas,” says Conway. Possible now and possible in the future.

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