CO-WORKERS: THE NETWORK AS ARTIST EXHIBITION, MUSEUM OF MODERN ART OF THE CITY OF PARIS, PARIS, FRANCE, UNTIL 31 JANUARY 2016.
January 2016 The centuries-old idea of an artist is that of a solitary individual painting or sculpting reclusively in a studio. This exhibition in Paris showcases how today's upcoming generation of artists is the opposite. Instead of working in a singular way, they often collaborate directly or through the internet, download imagery created by others and use high-tech software to create virtual worlds. All this is explored in the exhibition 'Co-Workers – The Network as Artist' at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, which brings together 28 international artists, many of them born in the 1980s. “Today being an artist covers several jobs: a writer, a filmmaker, a producer of objects and a marketing director. It's no longer an isolated figure,” says the curator, Angeline Scherf. “The idea of co-working is a new utopia but it's also real because artists work in a community, in a network.” The title of the exhibition comes from DIS, a New York-based digital media platform. Besides their own piece, 'The Island (KEN)' – a kitchen and bathroom installation that is surrounded by work benches lined with flatscreen computers, DIS has created the overall scenography. In one of the main rooms, sliding glass doors and a glass box space mimic co-working environments, where freelancers pay to work in an open-plan office, typically with strangers, as an alternative from working at home. “We wanted to create a space that felt like a collapse of different transitional spaces, work spaces and domestic spaces,” says Solomon Chase from DIS. “It mimics the shifting ways of people creating work and art.” DIS invited Pin-UP magazine to create the co-working space, which includes a conference room, and asked Douglas Coupland to create writing for the wall. The Canadian novelist's words are technologically savvy and paranoid: “The machines talk more and more among themselves behind your back. Take a break and breathe deeply. Now press on the hash key. Pretend to be dead. Delete everything.” Cécile B. Evans, a Belgian-American video artist living in Berlin and London, says that the subject of the exhibition “is about my whole practice”. As she says, “This is how I make my films – I find freelancers on websites where you can post what you want and people bid if they want to work on the project. I have freelancers in the US, Turkey, Indonesia and the UK.” Evans, who has won awards from Frieze Art Fair in London and the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, creates digital films that examine how society values emotions. “I'm working on a new film called 'What the Heart Wants', which is set in the future,” she says. “A huge question is what makes a human within this system, which manifests itself in the form of a woman, and the different scenarios and characters are the consequences of her very best intentions.” Evans, 32, updates the content as she receives input from her collaborators. Her installation shows film imagery on two screens and uploaded conversations with her collaborators on the third screen. “You can see how we travel together, from web chat to Skype, to have a meeting in a space that's better suited to the kind of conversation that we need to have,” Evans adds. While Evans collaborates virtually with international freelancers, Nøne Football Club is a duo of French guys who collaborate physically and get others involved too. Their project takes as its starting point Man Ray's 1920 photograph of the back of Marcel Duchamp's head shaved in the form of a star. Nøne Football Club asked French footballer Djibril Cissé to have his hair shaved in the same way before a match. They filmed his hair cut and then filmed his performance while sitting among the spectators. “It's about marketing and product placement in the sports industry,” say the two artists. “The idea was that the universe of Marcel Duchamp would travel into the universe of football and come back to the museum [where Man Ray's photograph is in the permanent collection], transformed with a 100-year gap. We wanted to infiltrate the TV networks monetising the match and diffuse Marcel Duchamp's image without anyone noticing. It's as if we did a project with Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp and Cissé.” Satirizing a sports shop, their installation features printed T-shirts and a billboard-sized photo of Cissé, with a white neon shining on the shaved star at the back of his head. Some of the proposals treat the co-working theme with subtlety. Parker Ito, an American artist based in Los Angeles, is presenting a 24-part work of photographic images that he made over two weeks. The images portray diverse subjects, from flowers and paintings to company buildings, some featuring his own handwriting. Some pictures he took himself, others were downloaded from the internet, others are screenshots. The images are printed on light-reflective fabric, with a layer of vinyl on top. Take a photo of them by using the flash on your iPhone, and the colours change dramatically. “They're participatory images that look quite different when you interact with them,” Ito explains. It relates to how museum visitors snap famous artworks and post the shots on Facebook. As he says, “People go to the Louvre and take their photo in front of the 'Mona Lisa', so the art experience is distributed through a network and my work is explicitly dealing with that.”