Though we might talk of longing for a return to IRL experiences, the fact is, the virtual realm very much is part of ‘real life’, and the separation between it and offline existence is growing narrower by the day. After a year of Zoom gatherings, online teaching, and work meetings attended from the kitchen table, the need to address the nature and politics of this (not so) new space in which life, work and culture now occur, has only intensified. Especially as the digital sphere – once celebrated for its utopian potential – has increasingly come to reflect the power structures and social inequalities so deeply engrained in the non-digital world from which it spawned.
With this in mind, Site Gallery’s latest online programme, Digital Realness, seems a pertinent vessel to carry us through the (hopefully) final few months of lockdown. The programme will explore the merging of digital and physical realities through immersive online exhibitions, discussions, family workshops, reading groups, and screenings, which will centre around three core themes: How we touch and feel online; how we enable digital learning; and what biases and systems of oppression are built into our online structures and what we can do to subvert them.
A series of new commissions by artists Sian Fan, Rebecca Jagoe and Vishal Kumaraswamy will also consider how performance can not only exist, but expand and flourish in an increasingly digital world. Each artist has approached the question very differently. Fan using motion capture to record and map a live performer’s movements onto a set of ghostly video game characters dancing in a glitchy digital forest. Jagoe through a piece that will broadcast in two versions – audio-only and visual-only – exploring touch-based interactions between the body and ancient healing stones. And Kumaraswamy, through a networked series of performances occurring in a range of physical and digital spaces that will explore questions of race, caste and the subaltern body.
Together, this wide-ranging programme looks set to invite a fascinating closer look at the strange world in which so much of ‘real life’ now occurs – taking in the opportunities and challenges it presents, and asking important questions about how we might want to shape its ever-evolving creation.