Coming off a year of Zoom meetings and constant digital updates, people may not want to turn to a screen to experience art. Yet it’s that inundation of information in a year packed with a pandemic, politics and protest that makes "Safetyfirst&Fantasies_BLOCKCHAIN" such a timely piece. The collaborative work by Kahlil Robert Irving and Richard Munaba is the first online exhibition for Cal State Bakersfield's Todd Madigan Gallery.
Gallery curator Jedediah Caesar said the exhibition came about after Irving served as a visiting artist this fall, working with CSUB students via Zoom. While the guest artist usually develops a project to display at the campus gallery, that sort of public exhibition wouldn't work under guidelines. So they brainstormed bringing a work to the digital space.
Caesar wrote of Irving in an email, "He brought this collaborative work he made with Richard Munaba for an exhibition at Wesleyan University to my attention, and we all agreed it would be great to bring it to our university through the gallery platform."
Inspired by the artists' engagement with content developed at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, "Safetyfirst&Fantasies_BLOCKCHAIN" is an interactive work filled with details in constant motion. It is reminiscent of the musical technique of sampling. Elements in the interactive work are in constant motion, mimicking the all-too-common digital experience of toggling between multiple browser windows, with videos and music playing, scrolling through Twitter and reading news headlines.
"The screenshots and different aspects of the social media that are included all relate to perception," Irving wrote in an email. "How one may see or have come across certain information all relates to context."
Imagery from protests against police violence is central in the work but Caesar said it moves in many directions at once, "taking on the structural language of the internet and our consumption of it."
Caesar writes about the piece: "This work asks important questions about political power as it manifests in our communities, both in a physical space like the streets of Bakersfield, and in the space of mass communication. It speaks to our relative ability or inability to confront the consequences of the application of that power, based in part on our personal position."
The curator said this won't be the last work that the gallery brings to the digital space.
"We are taking this time as an opportunity to work with artists thinking about creating ways of addressing the online space we’ve all become so acclimated to."
The next project is a series of performance lectures lead by L.A.-based artist Patrick Michael Ballard and a group of invited guests that will "blend exhibition and pedagogical forms that are particular to this time."
"Safetyfirst&Fantasies_BLOCKCHAIN" will remain on view through Saturday at the gallery's website at toddmadigangallery.org/safetyfirst.