While in some ways Covid-19 has limited our daily adventures, in other ways it has ignited new opportunities for exploration. With more time, perhaps a little more head space, and a practically unbounded universe available to us on the web, we are now able to investigate questions we might never have taken the time for. Prompted by the Lumen Prize’s launch this year of its Nordic Award, I’ve used this time to explore the Nordic contemporary digital art scene with the newly published book Digital Dynamics in Nordic Contemporary Art as my guide.
As an art atlas of sorts, the book offers a comprehensive understanding of digital art’s role globally and within the Nordic context in particular. It is framed by three core questions as editor Tanya Toft Ag outlines: “How does the digital participate in evolving contemporary art and aesthetics? How can we characterise an ‘image of thought’ emerging in the context of the digital era as orienting current artistic practices and discourse? And how does this ‘image of thought’ effect, encourage or enable contemporary modes of political aesthetics and resonance in the art?”
Inviting the reader to ponder those questions throughout the rest of the book, it leads one on an expedition through a diversity of dialogues around digital art in the Nordic region. As it maintains a balance between artists’ perspectives and curators’ perspectives, it features artists’ responses to questions regarding digital art and Nordic aesthetics, depictions of recent works created by those artists, and articles written by curators and artists alike.
The artist response section—or ‘Artist Testimonials’ as it is referred to in the book — is particularly interesting because it provides the reader with an array of artist perspectives on different topics so that one can think about the digital works showcased later in a broader and more richly contextualised framework. It allows for these digital artists and artworks to be compared and contrasted individually, collectively and variously.
For example, in one such response, Copenhagen-based artist Jacob Remin says; “the digital is in everything we do, it is how we exist in the world.” His work, eroding screen landscapes, displays a video monitor of social media streams with a green substance oozing out onto the gallery floor (pictured at top of blog). Contemplating his work eroding screen landscapes together with his above quote and comments from other Nordic digital artists engenders a deeper and more dynamic understanding of the piece than one could perhaps otherwise glean. In fact, the very structure of the book: beginning with more free-form opinions of Nordic artists, then presenting various artists’ works and finally ending with scholarly articles across a number of subjects allows each voyager through the pages to settle on his or her own informed interpretations of Nordic digital art.
In an art world that increasingly uses digital processes as a powerful platform for connectivity, creativity, and innovation, the term ‘digital’ seems to overlap almost everything we do. As Tanya Toft Ag writes, “while digital tools, software, and environments increasingly constitute pencil, paint, and canvas, the digital’s influence on art is no longer a matter of experimentation with technologies in the peripheries of the world of contemporary art.” It is exciting to engage in a specific area of the digital art space like the Nordic region especially because with the pace of technology, it only has room to grow and evolve. If you fancy an engrossing journey into a new terrain while sheltering at home, I cannot recommend a better tour guide than Tanya Toft Ag’s Digital Dynamics in Nordic Contemporary Art.
You can purchase the book on Amazon or by visiting the website.
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