How would you describe your curatorial practice?
As a curator, I see my role as that of a mediator between artistic expression and public perception. Artists reflect on the political, social or visual conditions of our surroundings. I carefully choose from these artistic expressions and embed them into a new societal and spatial framework to contextualise the artists’ ideas in order to communicate their present intentions and relevance. As a curator and contemporary witness, I seek to create visibility for artistic expression and to link themes or aesthetic approaches that can be traced back to common influences, especially given the internet and digitalisation.
How did you arrive at your curatorial focus?
After my studies in art history, I planned to become a photography curator. Soon after, Maja Block and I founded peer to space in Munich in 2010. For our first exhibition, we invited VVORK to work as curators. The exhibition space had four huge two-metre-by-two-metre windows in a row, so they decided to screen moving images by digital artists on rear projection foil. The show could be seen inside and outside from the street. The windows became the channels for the exhibition MULTIPLEX with 35 artists: Paul Chan, Petra Cortright, Constant Dullaart, Agnieska Polska, Rafaël Rozendaal and Timur Si-Qin among them. That was my first contact with so-called internet-based art, or digital art. I understood that this was and is THE contemporary artistic expression involving new media of our time. In my following shows, I also included digital or internet-based artworks, which finally secured my curatorial focus on the medium.
Can you describe your method or practice methodology?
The themes of my exhibitions are derived from what I see at openings, on the internet, read in books or hear through different networks. While examining many different artistic expressions and approaches, I notice common themes or topics that describe current conditions. Then I research artists dealing with these topics. I am less interested in one single work of an artist but rather in overall concepts or artistic approaches—the worldview an artist manifests in his or her work. For the concept itself, I usually write a text that circles around the topic in a free but clear and comprehensible way.
These days I am very much interested in Virtual Reality as it enables humans to (visually) fully dive into another world for the first time. In VR, the viewer is the centre of the environment and decides where to look or go; the viewer senses proportions in this space, and perceives the virtual world in three dimensions. In my show The Unframed World, I focused on artists using different media, many of whom have a non-digital background and yet are using the new possibilities of Virtual Reality.
What inspires you about curating the kinds of artworks/aesthetics you work with? How do you see these as ‘expanding’ contemporary art/art forms, and where do you see them going as aesthetic tendencies or directions?
Seeking new forms of contemporary artistic expression quickly led to my occupation with the digital and the internet as crucial inventions of our time. In the 1990s, image editing software was very basic and visual elements of the real world rebuilt in the digital had been very rough—for example, a tree trunk contained few brown shades thus making it appear unrealistic. In the mid-2000s, digital illusion of surfaces surpassed real ones. With digital means it became possible to create even more “realistic” surfaces and visualize things that could not be done in real life. A new aesthetic was born. With this development, it became interesting to transfer digital aesthetics to the real world. This factor also influenced the development of post-internet art, which was fascinating to witness. Firstly, it was a new set of digital aesthetics. At the same time, these visuals crossed over into the real world, involving many new forms, materials, found objects and ways of presenting works. Finally, it remains interesting to observe how the aesthetics of the digital merge with the real. In my show WHEN THE CAT’S AWAY, ABSTRACTION, I discuss this phenomenon via the example of abstract visual language with artworks by Juliette Bonneviot, Manuel Fernández, Philip Hausmeier, Vince Mckelvie and Cecilia Salama.
How do you see the installations and exhibitions you curate in relation to the broader contemporary art field and aesthetic orientations in society? How would you describe their place, contribution, role or ‘urgency’?
In my exhibitions, I explore how artists from different backgrounds working in different mediums deal with the effects of the digital and the internet on our personal lives and our society. As DIS said, everyone now works under post-internet conditions. As a contemporary witness, it is important for me to reflect, address and communicate crucial changes due to new media. My show LAYERED LANDSCAPES with artists from Asia, Australia, Europe and the USA explored the phenomenon of layers in contemporary landscape depictions. Layers, like the ones we see when many windows are open on our computer screens, highly influence our perception as we now constantly and quickly switch between different worlds, networks, communication tools and projects, for example. My recent show THE UNFRAMED WORLD explores how artists from different fields like sculpture, installation or performance discover and use Virtual Reality as a means to further enhance or extend their artworks to the virtual world. The show addresses how elements are translated to or constituted in both the real and the virtual world. RESET III and Virtual Reality deal with virtual spaces in the digital age and speak about the different meanings of the term “Virtual Reality”.
TINA SAUERLÄNDER is an art historian, curator and writer based in Berlin. She focuses primarily on the impact of the digital developments and the Internet on individual environments and society. With her label peer to space, she has been organizing and curating international group exhibitions in various institutions, e.g. The Unframed World. Virtual Reality as artistic medium for the 21st century (Basel, 2017), Layered Landscapes (Düsseldorf, 2016), Sometimes You See Your City Differently (Tel Aviv, 2016), When The Cat’s Away, Abstraction (Berlin, 2016), PORN TO PIZZA—Domestic Clichés (Berlin, 2015). She is the author of many texts on contemporary artists, contributes to the New York based blog ArteFuse about contemporary art exhibitions in Berlin and she is the founder of the SALOON, a network for women working in the art scene in Berlin.
Recent curatorial projects:
RESET III AND VIRTUAL REALITY, PRISKA PASQUER Gallery, Cologne, Germany, 2017
THE UNFRAMED WORLD. Virtual Reality as Artistic Medium for the 21st Century, HeK (House of Electronic Arts Basel), Switzerland, 2017
MERMAIDS AND UNICORNS, Online Exhibition, 2017