Circumventing the White Cube: Digital Curatorial Practices in Contemporary Media Landscapes

By: M.Sc. Wade Wallerstein

 
Clusterduck’s Homepage.

Clusterduck’s Homepage.

 

Abstract

In contemporary digital culture, the word ‘curation’ is used to describe almost all  processes of selection or organisation online—this stands against traditional notions of  curators in fine arts or museum settings as those who put together exhibitions and care for artefacts and works of art. In recent years, a number of digital curators have emerged  who have begun to apply new media techniques to traditional notions of curating. By putting together independent digital curatorial projects on dedicated web pages or social media accounts, these curators produce new kinds of cultural outputs that push against established art world hierarchies. In addition to a recent history of digital art, this paper presents research conducted with 28 digital curators working today. I seek to uncover how digital curators manipulate the unique materiality of digital technologies and capacities for circulation made possible by those technologies to alter notions of what art objects can be and create new kinds of phenomenological art experiences. Ultimately, while institutions are not completely obsolescent in our current digital visual culture paradigm, digital curators have proven that it is possible to use networked capabilities to gain access to or even circumvent previously inaccessible art and museum worlds.

Introduction

‘Curating’ is a word thrown around casually today. Once an activity reserved for academics and art historians working at the highest levels of art and museum world hierarchies, curating is now popularly referred to in order to describe almost every kind of modern media practice—from ‘curating’ one’s social media presence to ‘curating’ websites, online radio playlists, web stores, data sets, digital archives and much more.

In the midst of these technocultural phenomena, a large number of young creatives have moved to cyberspace, using digital tools to curate art exhibitions in a context closer to the original fine art meaning of what it is to curate. These curators are applying the new skills and techniques developed in the digital age—ones attuned to the distributable, open, and modular nature of digital materials—to the creation of digital-native exhibition spaces outside, or at least adjacent to, the spheres of fine arts institutions. Given the flexibility and accessibility afforded by digital technologies, is it possible for those working in the arts today to use digital means to gain success by circumventing traditional institutions?

The impetus for this inquiry came during the Whitney Biennial in New York City in 2017. One of the artists selected for the show was an emerging game artist named Porpentine Charity Heartscape, who creates immersive game environments and hypertext art-games available for play in the user’s browser for free (fig. 1). I had played many of her games online in the past; but, I had never seen one displayed in a museum or gallery before. Upon appearing at the Biennial, her work seemed somehow flattened in the gallery space—the physical curation had rendered her incredibly immersive, deeply personal and affective digital works alien and colourless. I knew that there must be a better way to present born digital artworks in their native environments; a way that preserved their site-specificity and unique materiality. Indeed, in interviews Heartscape has said: “I always envision someone playing a hypertext game alone in their shitty apartment, on their computer in the dark, holed up and reclusive,” (Heartscape, quoted in Chan, 2017). This image is a far cry from the fastidiously curated presentation of Heartscape’s work in the Biennial.

 
Figure 1  Porpentine Charity Heartscape,  Girlwaste.

Figure 1 Porpentine Charity Heartscape, Girlwaste.

 

In his influential essay “Dispersion,” Seth Price poses the questions that represent the dilemma that I experienced firsthand:

“The problem arises when the constellation of critique, publicity, and discussion around the work is at least as charged as a primary experience of the work. Does one have an obligation to view the work first-hand? What happens when a more intimate, thoughtful, and enduring understanding comes from mediated representations of an exhibition, rather than from a direct experience of the work? Is it incumbent upon the consumer to bear witness, or can one’s art experience derive from magazines, the Internet, books, and conversation? (2002/2016). “

These are crucial questions which can be applied to all experiences of art today. What role do the devices and contexts of display have in the meaning of art? Do institutions still have a role in a world in which the direct delivery of digital art via the internet can bring a viewer closer to art objects than ever before? In order to get to the bottom of these issues, I decided to work with the community of people who were attempting to present new contexts that do justice to the specific materialities of digitally-enabled works cropping up in the art world. This study centres around research conducted with 28 different curators and digital practitioners of varying ages, races and genders who have created online platforms for the display and distribution of digital arts-based projects. Some of the curators work solely digitally, while others view physical-world curation as the primary focus of their curatorial practices.

Each participant was interviewed, and given the chance to provide their thoughts and ideas about different questions related to the state of digital visual culture today.  

Additionally, I spent time immersing myself within the digital environments that they have created to showcase innovative and cutting-edge digital art. Through this work within the digital art community, I hope to present an understanding of what digital curation means, how the specific material contexts of digital presentation affect digital art phenomenology and what this means for the state of visual culture and the art world.

The Oxford English Dictionary presents two definitions of curate. The first is “select, organize, and look after the items in (a collection or exhibition).” This is the definition closer to the anthropological or museological definition of the term in which curators preserve, display, and care for artefacts. The second is “select, organize, and present (online content, merchandise, information, etc.), typically using professional or expert knowledge.” This is the definition used in popular culture to refer to any kind of digital task that involves selection. Taking these definitions together will serve as a sounding board for the examination of what contemporary digital curation practices look like today.

There are a few main threads that guide this investigation. First, I explore the materiality of digital art. Each of the curators works in a material context unique to the present technological paradigm. Their practices are controlled by the affordances of the digital material, be it by the code by which the software that runs their exhibitions functions or the hardware that displays their work to the viewer. One of these specific affordances is the digital’s capacity for easy and nearly limitless transmission, and the second section of this text explores the effects of mass circulation—a phenomenon uniquely linked to contemporary visual culture. I examine the ways in which remediation of digital and physical artworks affects the aura of a work of art and how curators deal with these issues. Digital curation is of anthropological importance not only because the nature of art objects and artefacts is changing, but also due to the new modes of display pioneered by digital curators are reshaping visual culture. In the concluding section, I hope to demonstrate how digital materiality and circulationism restructure the relationship between curator, artist and traditional institutions.

A Few Notes on Terminology

The term ‘digital art’ refers to the scope of art practices that rely on digital technology. While some academics prefer the term New Media Art to encapsulate  aforementioned digital art antecedents (Quaranta 2013, 23), this term has fallen out of fashion to be replaced simply by digital art. In the words of Artie Vierkant, “New Media is here denounced as a mode too narrowly focused on the specific workings of novel technologies, rather than a sincere exploration of cultural shifts in which that technology plays only a small role,” (2010). Many of the scholars included in this study continue to use ‘New Media’ to describe the practices of digital practitioners. According to Lev Manovich, ‘new media’ can be described by the encounter between mass media and data processing (Quaranta 2013, 27-28). That said, Manovich himself later admitted the anachronicity of the term: “Ten years [after The Language of New Media], most media became ‘new media,’” (2013, 1).

Paul makes a distinction between two different kinds of digital art: “art that uses digital technologies as a tool for the creation of more traditional art objects,” and “digital- born, computable art that is created, stored, and distributed via digital technologies and employs their features as its very own medium,” (2003/2015, 7). I use the term digital art to refer to both kinds of art described by Paul, because both of which are important to the curatorial efforts of my participants. Additionally, in using the word “digital,” I rely upon Horst & Miller’s definition of digital “as everything that has been developed by, or can be reduced to, the binary,” or, the positive and negative electric impulses that designate 0’s and 1’s in code (2012, 5).

Some writers, such as Julian Stallabrass (2003), prefer to refer to this kind of work as ‘Internet Art.’ While all of the participants’ work relies on the internet for its distribution, I prefer the term digital art because, while many of the works that I describe exist online, some of them do not rely on the qualities of the network. For example, many of the works that curator Bob Bicknell-Knight includes in exhibitions on the isthisit? platform are videos or images that have been uploaded and are displayed online, but do not require a network connection in order to function—they have been created digitally on local computers, using 3D rendering or video editing software—and are simply hosted or shared using the internet.

Another term that is important for digital arts practitioners working today, is ‘post- internet’ (see Debatty & Olson 2008; Beard & Lonergan 2008; Vierkant 2010; Olson 2011; Quaranta 2013; Connor 2014; Chan 2014; Droitcour 2014; Cornell & Halter 2015; and Gronlund 2017). Marisa Olson first coined the term in a 2008 interview with Régine Debatty, while around the same time Guthrie Lonergan used the term “Internet aware art” in an interview with Thomas Beard (2008). Two years later, Artie Vierkant proposed that post-internet is “a result of the contemporary moment: inherently informed by ubiquitous authorship, the development of attention as currency, the collapse of physical space in networked culture, and the infinite reproducibility and mutability of digital materials,” (2010). This term describes life after the internet came into existence and pervaded all other spheres—in the words of Gene McHugh, “the internet is less a novelty and more a banality,” (2011, 4). Many of the aforementioned writers liken the ubiquity of the internet to the advent of electricity: at first a rare novelty, electricity quickly became ubiquitous and taken for granted. McHugh points to an interview between Olson and Lauren Cornell to demonstrate this shift: “What I make is less art ‘on’ the Internet than it is art ‘after’ the internet,” (2011, 11).

In the previous section, Kholeif’s demarcation of three different periods of digital art explain the progression of modern digital art: art during the internet, art after the internet, and post-internet art. But, this is not the full story. As Michael Connor (2014) writes, Olson’s use of the term ‘post-internet’ [...] “contracts with more recent practices  that have been associated with the same term in which the artist, even art itself, is assumed to be fully immersed in networked culture and is no longer quite able to assume the position of an observer” (57).

In a context where internet culture has simply become ‘culture’, “the idea of making art ‘after’ the internet no longer applied in the same way. There was no ‘after’ the internet, only during, during, during,” (2014, 61). There is no escaping the internet, no stepping outside of it. Offline life has become too intertwined with the online. This concept is echoed in the ideas of many media theorists and art historians—Quaranta, for example, writes that “the relationship between reality and its online mirror has changed to the point where the real and the digital have merged into a single thing: isn’t Google real?” (2015, 425). Towards a similar point, Manovich, writing on software rather than the internet (which is constituted by the functional relationship between software and hardware), says that software is “a layer that permeates all areas of contemporary societies,” (2013, 150).

While this may be true on a practical level, and seems to be agreed upon by digital practitioners, ideas about the ubiquity and control of digital cultures have been questioned by anthropologists. Tom Boellstorff argues against assumptions that the online and the offline are blurring. He posits that it is problematic to regard ‘sharp boundaries’ as “scholarly conceits that falsely separate online and offline contexts rather than ontologically consequential gaps that constitute the online and and offline [...] these sharp boundaries are real, and therefore vital topics for anthropological inquiry,” (2012, 41). He also asserts that “The virtual and the actual [the online and the offline] are not reducible to each other, even in their mutual constitution,” (2008, 18). These ideas have been foundational to my understanding of online community building—and I hold that both the online and the offline are equally real. In Boellstorffian tradition I utilise the terms ‘online’/‘virtual’ and ‘physical’/‘offline’/‘actual’ synonymously.

Indeed, the ‘mutual constitution’ of the virtual and the actual is a rich area. As Daniel Miller has written about his and Don Slater’s 2000 ethnography of Trinidian internet usage: “what we studied was not for us ‘the Internet,’ nor ‘Trinidadians’—it was the process of objectification that created what subsequently came to be understood as both contemporary ‘Trinidadians’ and ‘the Internet’ in its wake,” (2005, 44). Miller shows how Trinidadian culture affects digital Trinidadian communities, but also how the internet in turn shaped offline culture. These spheres are still separate and inscribed in specific materialities, but have tangible effects on each other. Explorations of processes of objectification within materiality studies are important in developing an understanding of how “the logic of a computer can be expected to significantly influence the traditional cultural logic of media,” (Manovich 2001, 46). This will show how the collaboration between curator, artist, and interface creates an affective experience which foregrounds any digitally-curated project.

What is Digital Curation?

For Pita Arreola of Off Site Project (fig. 2), digital curation is more than just putting together exhibitions: “digital curation is how we construct and arrange digital spaces.” As these spaces grow in number, size and volume of content that fills them, it takes a skilled curatorial eye to create meaning out of informational overload. At the same time, she admits that this view is problematic: “digital curated spaces also restrict the viewer [...] they only allow you to see perspectives the programmer has chosen to show.”

Curators make choices which eliminate other choices, framing content in particular ways. For Arreola, remaining conscious of the curator’s hand is important to maintain a critical perspective of any online exhibition. Her statements echo Manovich’s writing on digital media: “they represent/construct some features of physical reality at the expense of others, one worldview among many, one possible system of categories among numerous others,” (2001, 15-16).

 
Figure 2   Off Site Project ’s Homepage.

Figure 2 Off Site Project’s Homepage.

 

Stacey Davidson, of i.o.u.a.e., presents a different view, which sees digital curation as having different regulations from physical curation which may or may not be based upon the intentions of the curator:

“With a white cube gallery, you take a body of work and transfer it to walls and the whole exhibition is viewed in a controlled and managed environment [...] With digital curation, specifically via Instagram and its news feed, you cannot control the curation. It’s anarchy. The content and its framework can be muddled, dissected, and be seen in parts.“

Here, the algorithm can be seen as having some curatorial control. The curator can work with the algorithms (recall Noll’s quote about the computer serving as the artist’s partner) to create a desired result. For Davidson, the curator moving from physical to digital space must give up some of their autonomy to the machine and its functions.

Doreen Ríos of ANTImateria feels similarly, seeing the digital as a radical departure from earlier forms of curation because the digital permits the curator to bend previously unbendable boundaries and create new kinds of interactivity that permit things such as direct manipulation of artworks. For her, the ‘old rules’ that apply to museums and galleries do not apply online. New forms of curation emerge that can serve to more adequately address certain conceptual concerns and create new contexts for viewing artworks. Rules such as ‘you may not touch the art’ do not apply online, where anything can be ripped, augmented and redistributed at will. According to Ríos, this not only makes for a more interesting art experience but also redefines the relationship between a viewer and a piece of art. Interactive works can be manipulated in ways either inappropriate, awkward or impossible in physical space. The lack of control that Davidson describes is exactly what makes digital curating such a rich field of exploration for Ríos.

Leah Beeferman and Matthew Harvey of now defunct platform Parallelograms straddle the line between sharing their curatorial autonomy with machine functions and revolving their practice around a conceptual basis:

“Each project was created by first sending an invited artist a group of 4 or 5 images that we found via targeted images searches geared around that artist’s practice [...] We then asked the artist to choose one of these images and to propose, or make, a piece in response to it which was meant to live on the web. “

Here search functions work in tandem with a conceptual framework to foreground specialised projects. Rather than algorithm as filter, a tool to achieve a curatorial ends, the algorithm becomes a collaborator and a key component of the project. This kind of practice fosters collaboration with the artist, allowing them to also have a say in how their work is going to be exhibited. The curator becomes not just a “selector” of content, but someone who fosters the growth and development of a creative production from beginning to end. Yet, different from traditional museum curators, curators such as Beeferman and Harvey must also curate a technological process that depends upon algorithmic function.

Furthermore, the role of the digital curator is highly variable. Oliver Durcan of curatorial collective It’s Kind of Hard to Explain (IKO) says that curation is truly kind of hard to explain: “For me, the term ‘curate’ has expanded from the dictionary description. I’m not sure that what I do is just curating anymore.” In addition to selecting artists and putting shows together, there is administrative and marketing work that accompanies each exhibition. Curators coordinate communication with artists, oversee the development of visual materials for marketing exhibitions, write press releases, handle artworks, post to social media, plan advertising strategies, organise events, conduct email marketing campaigns and countless other tasks that diverge from the selection and care of artworks.

Almost all digital curators that I spoke to identified with this ambiguous role of the curator. Keiken, a curatorial collective whose members are distributed around Europe, tackles this through a divide and conquer strategy: “different members have different roles and different ways of doing things that are unique to the individual.” These roles are amorphous, changing to match the skills and interests of each member. For projects that are beyond their scope, Keiken invites new collaborators to achieve a shared vision based upon specific narratives that they want to tell. This is a similar outlook to Clusterduck, a collective split between Italy and Germany. Each member of their group comes from a radically different background, and they see their collective as “different abilities coming together, each has a piece of the puzzle. The more pieces we have, the better.” In their view, and contrary to the popular image of the computer geek alone in their bedroom, digital culture and net surfing can only be experienced collaboratively.

Why Become a Digital Curator?

Beyond conceptual interest, there are a number of practical reasons why a curator begins curating shows online. Bob Bicknell-Knight of isthisit? (fig. 3) began curating online exhibitions because of the low start-up costs associated with creating an online gallery—to own his domain and pay for a content management system, Bicknell-Knight pays under £50 per year. This eliminates costs that are associated with the production of physical exhibitions such as rent, transport and insurance on artworks.

 
Figure 3   isthisit?  exhibition “Why don’t we get a kickstarter going for an ISP?” (22 December 2017 - 22 January 2018).

Figure 3 isthisit? exhibition “Why don’t we get a kickstarter going for an ISP?” (22 December 2017 - 22 January 2018).

 

Additionally, according to Bicknell-Knight, artists often allow him to use work that already exists online: “people are way more likely to say yes to me if I ask to use a video that has already been posted online,” he says. Indeed, digital exhibitions put a much lower strain on artists in terms of labour encouraging more people to say yes to Bicknell-Knight when he asks to include their work in a group exhibition.

Lack of resources has been the impetus for the birth of many digital curatorial projects. Drew Nikonowicz’s platform LocalHost Gallery exists entirely within the popular game Minecraft. After the cost of the software, creating shows within this space is free.

Beyond funding and available resources, the accessibility afforded by digital technologies also helps digital curators obviate time and space constraints. Nikonowicz explains:

There isn’t a bustling, ever-changing collection of museums and galleries within walking or reasonable driving distance from my home here in St. Louis, Missouri.  So in some sense I saw [LocalHost] as an opportunity to enjoy other people's work without making massive travel commitments, and hopefully other people in similar situations to mine can find value in the gallery as well.”

Using the internet to find art and artists to collaborate with, and then using LocalHost to disseminate the results, allows Nikonowicz to connect to the wider digital arts community without having to physically travel.

Tobias Seymour and Lachlan Kosaniuk-Innes of AVD.XYZ, started their project for similar reasons to Nikonowicz:  

“Nobody had studios anymore or any money—so [a mobile gallery] was a good way to keep in touch, keep discussing work and keep busy [...] You can be anywhere and as long as you’ve got 3G you can be online. We feel that digital platforms are especially useful for young artists as they alleviate many of the issues and costs one encounters when attempting to find a space and make physical work. Distribution is much easier and the potential pool of viewers much greater.“

Without access to funding, space to show or a local community to help put together an exhibition, a curator’s life can be difficult. Spread across large distances, using digital communication to create digital projects becomes the most viable option for budding creatives eager to engage with the arts community.

While modes of digital curation may be vastly different, the accessibility and low financial investment in addition to the potentiality for wider distribution and visibility that are afforded by the digital make digital curation an attractive option for curators. For digital practitioners at the beginning of their careers, these qualities afford a level of autonomy, and potential success, that may permit them to skip the conventional route of traditional gallery representation that was paradigmatic of success in the world of contemporary art. Conceptually, digital curation is the logical mode for curators wanting to explore the effects of the networked society on visual production. Digital technologies have made available distributed collaboration and collectivity from which new forms emerge, and to which formalised rules do not apply. Digital curators present the attitude that digital technologies democratise the art world and provide access to those  previously relegated to the periphery of the art world. In the next section, we will see how material considerations of the digital play both a practical and a conceptual role in digital curation.

Digital Material

In this section I show how the particular materiality of the digital plays a role in the affective experience of digital exhibitions. These notions are important, because they counteract a turn during the 20th Century and throughout the birth of digital art which saw the rise of popular conceptions of immateriality or the dematerialisation of art (Quaranta 2013; Gronlund 2017). In order to analyze the role that materiality plays in digital curation, I draw heavily from the ideas put forth by Haidy Geismar (2018), in which she argues that “we need to think about the digital not only as material, rather than immaterial, but also in terms of a trajectory of materiality that links our commonplace understandings of the digital to the analogue, information to material, systems to structures, knowledge to form.”

Defining the Digital

Primarily, it is important that the digital and the various lifeworlds contained therein “are neither more nor less material than the worlds that preceded them,” (Horst & Miller 2012, 4). Ideas that the digital is ‘immaterial’ or existing outside of the confines of a material infrastructure are unfounded because digital information cannot exist without the “physical devices that manipulate, store, and exchange them [...] computing systems are suffused through and through with the constraints of their materiality,” (Blanchette 2011, 1042). While digitally encoded information may be functional across a variety of physical assemblages, a material infrastructure must be present in order for it to exist— indeed, the internet itself only exists due to its material infrastructure of fiber optic cables, storage servers and host terminals (see also Kittler 1995; Chun 2006; and Groys 2016b, 178). This extends to digital art, for no digital art object can be either created or experienced without a screen and electricity.

There are a number of specific qualities inherent to digital objects that make them unique. In 2001, Manovich described digital material as having the following qualities: numerical representation (being reducible to 0s and 1s in binary code), modularity, automation, variability and transcoding (27-47). This last idea, transcoding, is exceedingly important because it shows how the materiality of the digital creates a particular understanding of information: “cultural categories and concepts are submitted, on the level of meaning and/or language, by new ones that derive from the computer’s ontology, epistemology, and pragmatics,” and ultimately how the logic of the computer can be expected to infiltrate anything that passes through its circuits (47).

Ten years later, Kallinikos et. al. presented their own definition of digital objects: digital objects are: editable, interactive, open, distributed, and rely on a modular composition (2010, 2-3). Importantly, they draw on ideas but forth by Bijker (2001), who reminds that the meaning attached to technologies work under a specific technological frame created by the society from which technology emerges. Viewed under a different lens, Manovich notes that today all software is social software (2013, 28; see also Galloway 2012, 58). These characteristics of digital objects are critically important, as they are what imbue the digital art that curators work with the qualities that afford the affective experiences to their viewers that are conceptually interesting to them.

In speaking of these experiences, Manovich explains how the material relationship between software, hardware and digital objects in specific technical assemblages imbue each particular instantiation of a digital exhibition with uniqueness:

“I use the word ‘performance’ because what we are experiencing [on screen] is constructed by software in real time [...], we are engaging not with pre-defined static documents but with the dynamic outputs of a real-time computation happening on our device and/or the server. “(2013, 33-34)

Manovich shows that you cannot examine a digital object on its own, because the experience of digital objects is shaped by a particular interface in a particular moment.

Rather than digital objects existing as pure information, untethered from their material constructs, this information is reliant upon unique physical assemblages. Art historian and theorist Boris Groys also uses the concept of digital objects being ‘performed’ through an interface to denote the affective experience of digital art: “a digital image can never be merely copied [...] but is always newly staged or performed. And every performance of each data file is dated and archived,” (2016b, 185).

The power of these unique performances comes from the fact that they are not obvious to us as such—in fact, we rarely ever take note of the material contexts of digital materials. As Miller explains:

“Objects are important not because they are evident and physically constrain or enable, but often precisely because we do not ‘see’ them. The less we are aware of them, the more powerfully they can determine our expectations by setting the scene and ensuring normative behavior, without being open to challenge.”(2005, 5)

We cannot challenge technological conventions because we hardly recognise that they are there. Our focus remains on the content, and it becomes exceedingly difficult to decipher what effects the frame has on the picture inside.

Speaking to this, Alexander R. Galloway (2012) discusses phenomena of interfaces being invisible.

The interface is “those transparent devices that achieve more the less they do: for every moment of virtuosic immersion and connectivity, for every moment of volumetric delivery, of inopacity, the threshold becomes one notch more invisible, one notch more inoperable [...] becoming as naturalized as air or as common as dirt,” (25; see also Lialina & Espenschied 2015, 1).

Because we do not see the screen, but rather through it, we are unable to comprehend the effects that the frame has on its contents—or, in the words of Manovich, the logic that the computer system imposes upon its contents. To effectively communicate a particular project’s aims, curators must work with the complexities of the material assemblages and remain cognizant of their effects.

Materiality in Digital Curation

For many digital curators, the materiality of the digital is one of the most important aspects of digital curation. AVD.XYZ is an entirely mobile gallery that does not work when viewed on any device besides a smartphone. As Seymour and Kosaniuk-Innes explain:

“The work embodies the device and therefore the device becomes a part of the work. This means that we can create a digital piece that can be handled and interacted with by the viewer. That interaction is personal and it’s cool to be within that space between the user and ‘their’ device. We feel that mobile presents a different kind of engagement between the viewer and the artwork. For example, rather than walking around a gallery, the user manipulates the space around their viewpoint. Ironically, that can allow for a more physical interaction than with a physical work.”

Those affordances of digital material that are taken for granted or overlooked become that which fosters a powerful affective relationship between viewer and artwork. On a mobile, the viewer can hold a piece of art in their hand and thus have a more embodied connection with it. This creates a greater sense of intimacy between the work and its beholder, ultimately leading to a deeper understanding of the piece. While smell and taste cannot be digitally transmitted, adding touch to art spectatorship can provide more powerful, multisensory affective experiences.

This idea of holding a piece of digital art in your hands, and this providing a more intimate experience is what inspired Duncan Herd to name his digital project HOLD: I think that ‘HOLD’ as a name echoes this in its roots to mobile consumption; users digest images of works that have a definite physical presence. Evidently the work is intangible and removed from a physical context yet users ‘hold’ this content in their hands. The physicality of the exhibition is condensed to the device and the gestures of device-specific navigation.

What once seemed far away, hosted on a server elsewhere and displayed locally, is presenced through the interaction between digital object, hardware and software. Here the artwork is not distributed information, but a located performance enacted through the interplay between the user, their device and the exhibition. Indeed, what both HOLD and AVD.XYZ show is that the body is an important consideration, and tactility becomes crucial to digital art experiences. Their projects also rely on the fact that devices can be ‘transparent’ and dissolve into the banality of the everyday. As devices becomes more invisible, and physical gestures that allow for interaction become more routine, the exhibition becomes that much more impactful. The process of objectification by which digital devices become normalised becomes an essential tool for these curators.

 
Figure 4  Kristina Ollek & Kert Viiart,  @exhibit_onscroll  (2017).

Figure 4 Kristina Ollek & Kert Viiart, @exhibit_onscroll (2017).

 

Rather than relying on the banality of the interface to create a seamless experience that inserts digital artworks into the viewer’s everyday experience, Kristina Ollek and Kert Viiart’s exhibition @exhibit_onscroll upends the traditional relationship between user and interface, making the user reconsider how their body relates to the content on screen (fig. 4). @exhibit_Onscroll is hosted on Instagram as a series of tiled images. Ollek and Viiart subvert the material form of Instagram’s software interface, organising the images that comprise the exhibition horizontally rather than vertically. To view the show, the user must rotate their phone, and swipe sideways as opposed to the normal vertical scroll users are accustomed to. Text within the exhibition reads: “The infinite screen of content invites to scroll through. In a moment things flash and seeing becomes inhabiting.” This forces the viewer to reconsider the normative control that Instagram has over user experience, seeing the frame rather than allowing the frame to fall away, which, as this text intimates, is what allows platforms like Instagram to maintain their affective grip. Because the user’s physical orientation to their device is different, different gestures must be used to navigate the show. Suddenly, the viewer becomes aware of their body and once normal, unconscious movements become awkward. This upheaval of the regular norms that govern Instagram reminds that digital material is not neutral, but rather coerces the viewer into adopting a particular way of seeing. Ollek and Viiart are keenly attuned to Miller’s notion that the power of the object lies in our inability to see it, and, unlike other curators who utilise that power, seek to undermine it by asking the viewer to actually look at the device in their hands. Different digital worlds operate under different material logics. For Nikonowicz, the materiality of the Minecraft game is a key consideration which affects every show that he puts on at LocalHost (fig 5):

“Minecraft is built upon a series of blocks which are perfect cubes, and you place blocks to create really anything you can think of. Each block [...] has a texture. So by creating a grid of unique blocks on the ‘walls’ of the gallery I can create custom texture packs that ‘install’ the artwork into the gallery. Then I upload the world and the custom texture pack to LocalHost’s server, and anyone with a copy of Minecraft can visit the exhibition. I rebuild the entire gallery each exhibition to create a unique space and a unique viewing experience specific to the work being exhibited.“

Each exhibition shown at LocalHost becomes encoded in the visual logic of Minecraft’s virtual world. Because of this, the relationship between software, hardware, artwork and the viewer becomes more clear as the works included adapt to Minecraft’s visual limitations. Rather than walking through a physical gallery, the viewer moves the buttons on their keyboard and adjusts their view with the mouse, calling attention to their own device’s specifications. Minecraft’s servers store the exhibitions, waiting for the user’s interface to recall them. The result is an art experience at once defined by Minecraft’s unique aesthetic performed through the user’s device.

 
Figure 5   LocalHost Gallery  exhibition “All Vectors Point to This,” (16 March - 30 April 2018).

Figure 5 LocalHost Gallery exhibition “All Vectors Point to This,” (16 March - 30 April 2018).

 

The idea of the viewer’s device and software performing a digital work is not unproblematic for curators. In fact, it is this phenomenon that can cause much headache. Elliott Burns of Off Site Project explained that this is similar to curation in offline space. There are certain physical limitations that cannot be overcome. He expressed frustration at the lack of autonomy he has over the constraints imposed not only by the materiality of the viewer’s device, but also the software interface itself.

Rather than being totally free form and limitless, there are certain things that are just not achievable through digital curation—similar to how there are certain things that one just will not be able to achieve in a physical exhibition. This highlights the precariousness of performances of digital art objects, showing how individualised and unpredictable each instantiation might be.

For Harvey, these particularities set digital curation as unique from working in other material contexts:

“The digital seems to lose something of its own unique materiality in moving out into the world, away from the code that generates its existence and its possible evolution [...] or deterioration (un-updated coding or new hardware/operating systems.”

Though deterioration may occur, this is preferable to the work rendered outside of its native environment (recall Greene’s quote from the history section). Each performance of a work on a different technical assemblage may be slightly different and obviate some of the choices of the curator, but for Harvey this comes with the territory of working with digital material.

Indeed, these considerations of what constitutes the ontology of the digital are what make digital curation such a valuable endeavor for him:

“A screensaver, or a website for that matter, has always been interesting as a purely digital phenomena. They both occupy a physical/sensory space that are fully of their own realm [...] A word document or an image file has a very active role in the input/output equation, it becomes a transitory set of rules for interpretation between the digital and physical space, whereas the screensaver never leaves the virtual realm, something that might form the basis for thinking about the ontology of digital works. I think with Parallelograms we were always very interested in that space on it’s own terms rather than this input/ output question.”

Here, Harvey seems to sum up the main impetus for much digital curation since the inception of the internet—the exploration of the digital realm on its own terms, based on its unique materiality. Digital curators deal uniquely with the complicated interplay between various technological assemblages of hardware and software to deliver a presentation of digital art that stays as true as possible to the concepts that they want to convey. Yet, the limitations and difficulties posed by hardware and software can be considered somewhat analogous to the constraints posed by a physical space. As has been seen, digital curators explore not only what this means, but also how they can play within the confines and stretch the limits of digital material.

Networks of Power and Affect

To understand circulation, it is first important to consider networks. Manuel Castells (2010) argues that “Networks constitute the new social morphology of our societies, and the diffusion of networking logic substantially modifies the operation and outcomes in processes of production, experience, power, and culture,” (2010, 500).

Simply put, “a network is a set of interconnected nodes,” (501). In more detailed terms, networks consist of actors and their interactions with other beings in a field of heterogeneous relationships comprised of hybrid assemblages of humans and materials and the flows between them (Law 1992, 382-383; Strathern 1996, 521). These concepts are important to underline, because all of the participants and theorists included in this study rely upon conceptualisations of networks.

Castells argues that in recent years the structure of networks has increasingly come to represent the structure of society. To effectively analyse how interactions between curators and digital objects that they circulate create meaning, it is necessary to keep in mind the qualities of networks. Marilyn Strathern (1996) explains, “In terms of social process, alternating socialities come to be affected by [...] the sustained difference between flow that spreads and growth that gathers or stops the flow,” (529).

Circulation plays a key role in digital curation practices; to understand circulation, one must also understand the networks within which circulation occurs. Following flows through the network reveals key insights in to how meaning is imbued in digital images.

Circulation, Post-Internet Practices, and the ‘All-Out Internet Condition’

These anthropological accounts foreground contemporary writings on the nature of digital images and the impact of circulation. Previously, I detailed how post-internet practices explore the blurring of the online and the offline as the logic of digital culture diffuses throughout popular culture. Hito Steyerl (2017) writes at length on how the circulation of digital images affects life off-screen. In her view, images are “nodes of energy and matter that migrate across different supports, shaping and affecting people, landscapes, politics, and social systems,” (143-144). Here Steyerl uses the same term, node, as Castells. The meanings imbued in images are mutable, and this is contingent upon how images move through different material instantiations. As digital images move across their native digital environments to affect the non-digital world, they transform the world into an “all-out internet condition”: “Data, sounds, and images are now routinely transitioning beyond screens into a different state of matter. They surpass the boundaries of data channels and manifest materially [...] Images become unplugged and unhinged and start crowding off-screen space,” (2017 146; 144). Steyerl provides a theorisation of digital image circulation which can also be seen as an extension of the ideas expressed by Poole and Geismar, who both showed how the circulation of images have real, material effects in the world.  

In another writing, Steyerl presents the concept of the “poor image”, which is an image that “has been uploaded, downloaded, shared, reformatted, and re-edited. It transforms quality into accessibility, exhibition value into cult value [...] it is a visual idea in its very becoming” (2012, 32). The poor image becomes the emblematic form of the circulating digital object, whose meaning shifts and symbolic weight bears different significations as it moves through the network. She goes on to explain why circulation and poor images are so important:

“Poor images are thus popular images [...] poor images present a snapshot of the affective condition of the crowd [...] The condition of the images speaks [...] of the countless people who cared enough about them to convert them over and over again, to add subtitles, reedit, or upload them.”(2012, 41).

As images are born and spread, they become material manifestations of culture. Their presence, movement throughout the network and transformations as they migrate become representative of their networks. Thus, as images circulate, they construct reality.

There is a link between Steyerl’s poor image and Miller’s work on images on social media. He also shows how circulation of digital images visualises personal identity. By sharing images on social media, one attains visibility. This visibility, achieved through circulation, constructs reality. Offline realities, the indexical nature of images, seem to fall away. Miller’s work provides weight to Steyerl’s theories, as the subjects of his research post images online to concretise social realities. Scott McQuire (2013) summarises these points when he describes the important shift that has occurred in visual culture as being dependent on new modes of image production and the “new logistics of hyper-circulation”: “the evidentiary value of photographic images...depends on the protocols that are developed to respond to the images’ capacity to travel into new contexts,” (227). Value and meaning are therefore connected to circulation—the ability for an image to expand a network’s connections— rather than to traditional concepts of authenticity, originality, indexicality or beauty.

Furthermore, a connection to actor-network theory underscores these points. Writing on technical mediation, Bruno Latour (1994) describes how technology delegates human tasks: “an action in the distant past, in a faraway place, by actors now absent, can still be present, on condition that it be shifted, translated, delegated, or displaced to other types of actants,” (50). In our context, digital objects are actants which serve as technical materialisations of the intentions of its creator. As these objects spread and circulate, those actions or intentions are translated to new nodes of the network. The wider the spread, the more efficacious digital images are.

Actor-network theory emphasises Steyerl and Miller’s points, who both have shown how the presence of images creates visibility through circulation, and this visibility endeavors toward the construction of reality. According to Latour, “The relative ordering of presence and absence is redistributed—we hourly encounter hundreds, even thousands, of absent makers who are remote in time and space yet simultaneously active and present,” (40). This seems to represent the current media paradigm, in which individuals are exposed to innumerable images daily. Concepts of presence and absence are important because, as Castells explains, “Presence or absence in the network and the dynamics of each network vis-à-vis others are critical sources of domination and change in our society,” (2010, 500). By circulating the intentions of the maker, digital objects gain momentum as each additional connection translates and amplifies those significations to a new audience.

Digital Curation and Circulation

In short, for Steyerl, “aura is no longer based on the permanence of the ‘original,’ but on the transience of the copy,” (2012, 42). This directly relates to the work of digital curators. As Olson describes surf club practices: “the act of finding is elevated to a performance in its own right, and the ways in which the images are appropriated distinguish this practice from one of quotation by taking them out of circulation and re-inscribing them with new meaning and authority,” (2015, 159). Olson shows how the endeavor of surf clubs and the digital curators involved therein revolved around circulation. Their work was political in that it interrupted normal circulation patterns, adding new signification and then recirculating the images in new contexts. Removed from native networks, these images gained new meaning and importance from new electronic distribution pathways. For ‘surfers’, circulation and the networks created through circulation were the central and most radical factors in the meaning of their work —and this is still important to digital curators today.

For Beeferman and Harvey, these exact ideas were the starting point for Parallelograms: “We wanted to create a place online where the images could take on new meanings through the different ways that they might be seen or interpreted.” Their practice asked artists to respond to images found through targeted internet searches.

These projects were then uploaded and redistributed online, thus joining and adding meaning to the networks in which the images were found. The defining questions guiding this approach recognise the importance of circulation, seeking to determine the artist’s place in the network. Networks are not static, but constantly shifting as new associations and ‘trajectories’ form between different nodes.

Korol-Gold’s platform Earth Sciences deals in documentation of existing shows. He takes images of exhibitions and artworks, circulated by artists or curators, and re-circulates them to Earth Sciences’ network. These images are not simply derivative of offline experiences: “Digital documentation is a constitutive material component of the contemporary art object or exhibition. The art object has become distributed and includes both its gallery instance and its various digital instances, both archived and online.” This mindset is representative of post-internet art practices, echoing Steyerl’s idea that the digital image of an offline exhibition can move off-screen, affecting its value or meaning. Not quite a blurring of the online and the offline, this practice demonstrates the complexity of contemporary curatorial work—exhibitions existing in multiple places are seen in a variety of contexts. Moreover, circulation works as a tool to help artworks and images of artworks reach their intended audience. As communities (networks) form around these images, they become more meaningful.

A number of curators emphasised that grappling with the circulation of images is not a conceptual choice for exploration, but rather an inescapable reality. Bicknell-Knight is aware that the artworks he shows have already been distributed by the time he has a chance to work with them: “The majority of the time, [what I show] is not work that’s new. It will always have been shown somewhere else or will have a half-life somewhere else.” Bicknell-Knight must remain aware of the circulation of these works and merge the network surrounding isthisit? with a work’s pre-existing network. Because certain meanings and values have been inscribed in these works prior to him showing them, he loses control over how his audience might perceive these works. Digital curation becomes a task of managing these meanings imbued through the movement of images through different networks.

Elliott Burns of Off Site Project feels that not only must curators grapple with how images have already been circulated, but in turn also must circulate work in order for them to be successful. He explains that “people are recognizing their work needs to be accessible online, and that’s changing the way that work is done in galleries as well.” It is no longer enough to create a work and show it—it also must be circulated online in order not only for it to be seen, but for it to accrue what Steyerl describes as “cult value.” This relates to ideas of presence or absence in the network: work must be made visible, or present, through circulation in order for it to hold any power in the art world. Circulating work becomes a compulsory task for curators. Connecting to Oliver Durcan’s explanation of what curator’s do today, requirements to manage circulation are one of the reasons for expanded curatorial roles. As Durcan explained, he must act as a marketer or advertiser in addition to his traditional curatorial duties in order to properly circulate IKO’s exhibitions.

For Matthew Epler, of ReCode Project, circulation is not just compulsory—it is inevitable: “I believe that we live in a world where code is shared, stolen, and dispersed very independently of our desires for it to do so or not....by publishing code based art anywhere, you are opening yourself up to participation in the exchange of information.

Anyone can copy or distribute a digital image or the source code for a digital artwork, making it impossible to stop the spread once it exists online. Curatorial agency comes in to play in conscious choices to make work available. The mission of ReCode Project is creating a digital archive of code-based artworks for new artists to learn from. According to Epler, choosing to make these works available (rather than them being co-opted or stolen) is a powerful way to contribute value. In this way, they become more like a public resource than a black market good. The more these works circulate and provide instruction to young artists, the more weight they carry.

Social Media

In order to circulate artworks, exhibitions, and images of both online, digital  curators depend on social media. All of my participants use social media in some form to share images of their curatorial work, and all of them expressed that this is crucial to their curatorial practices because social media is the main vehicle for getting an exhibition seen by an audience.

Burns explained that for Off Site Project, there is no viewership without social media: “We’re very much aware that without social media, we don’t get views. [...] No one is plugging in our URL without being directed by social media.” Not only does social media direct traffic to the site and boost viewership, but also attracts collaborations with new artists. According to Burns, artists are only willing to work with Off Site Project if it raises their profile. Numbers of followers become hugely important; each additional follower is potentially an additional viewer. The way that people treat followership on social media is indicative of the value of circulation: the wider an image is able to spread —the greater its capability to travel into new contexts and make linkages to new networks—the more valuable it becomes. Today, circulation potential is an important factor for any digital curator’s public profile.

Michael Pybus of WELCOME SCREEN is a firm believer in the value that social media can add to one’s career:

“I had ZERO career before I joined Instagram, within a month of signing up I had started selling and I was working with a gallery [...] Without presenting my work online and utilizing social networking, the people who could take me to that next level would never have discovered my work.”

Because Pybus circulated images of his work online, he became visible and therefore ‘real’ in the eyes of those who could help advance his career. One could equate circulation to financial value in that the visibility that achieved through circulation might lead to sales, gallery representation or other forms of economic success. For Pybus, circulating images online led the manifestation of material change in his offline practice.

While utilising social media is important for digital curators, and some curators see the space of Instagram as a primary site of curatorial activity, some see images shared on social media as external to their core curatorial practice. AVD.XYZ sees images posted to Instagram as marketing materials rather than being a part of the show on display. Burns and Arreola post images to social media to document the ‘real’ curatorial work, which can be found hosted on their website. For them, Instagram is for promotional and archival purposes only. Francesca Verga of Liaux.org similarly expressed that social media “plays the role of merely supporting the sharing of artistic works and images related to the projects” featured on the website.

Similar to Burns, Durcan sees social media as being a key driver of traffic to IKO’s exhibitions, yet also sees the images posted there as secondary to the meat of their curatorial work: “For any art show, the journey to an art space is step one. Step two is actually seeing the show. Instagram is step one.” Circulating images via Instagram may add value to the show, but for Durcan, this is only in the same way that marketing materials or advertisements add value or meaning to a product. Despite the derivative or secondary nature of images posted on Instagram, Durcan does not understate the value of social media: “social engagement is like a new currency.” By inviting engagement on social media through circulation and recirculation, curators add real value to both artworks and their careers.

Like Durcan, Mark Sabb, founder of digital arts platform FELT Zine, pays close attention to the value of social engagement through circulation. According to Sabb, digital curation today “is all about engagement and impact.” On Instagram, Sabb posts images of works by digital artists that he holds in high esteem with the goal of using FELT Zine’s rather large following to gain visibility for under-represented artists (fig 6).

As a rule, Sabb says that FELT Zine aims to show work by artists that have less of a following than Felt Zine does. In this way, he is able to leverage his network to add value to the work.

In his view, this accumulating value through social networking is an important process for any digital creative: “I’d rather be an artist with a following and no institutional support than to be an artist with institutional support but no following.” By this he means that circulating work through online social networking can hold more weight, or produce more value, than having traditional institutional support. As Castells and Strathern show, flows through the network have a massive impact on sociality today. Castells writes that “the power of flows takes precedence over the flows of power...the switchers are the power holders” (2010, 500). In this context, Felt Zine acts as a switch that controls flows of information and power within the online digital arts community.

 
Figure 6   FELT Zine’ s Instagram.

Figure 6 FELT Zine’s Instagram.

 

Sabb understands that manipulating those flows potentially has the ability to wrest the control of power from traditional sources and redistribute it to artists and curators outside of those institutions.

Conclusion – The Role of Institutions

Curation has adapted to a digital world—specifically, curators working with digital materials have partially redefined what it means to curate. These curators work in a context where the word curation is used to describe almost all activities of selection online, regardless of their relationship to museological or arts practices. In a cultural milieu in which average internets users must ‘curate’ themselves in terms of what information they share online, digital curators emerge to re-stake a claim for arts curation in the digital world. While there is no single definition of what it means to be a digital curator, a multiplicity of practices has evolved which both expands upon traditional notions of curation while maintaining a connection to specifically arts-based practices.

The digital curator of today has descended from a long line of artists, curators, and thinkers predating the invention of digital technologies and rooted in notions of accessibility, appropriation, recombination and medium subversion.

Traditionally, curation has involved the selection, display and care of artworks.  These roles were reserved for those at the top tiers of cultural institutions. Today, though access to the digital technologies is still unequal and inclusion online restricted, digital curation is more democratic than ever. Anyone with a computer can potentially become involved in the art world on a curatorial level. While the role of curator as exhibitor and caretaker is still important, digital curators work in an expanded field. They must take into account the affordances of digital material, which alter the way that they handle and treat artworks. These considerations include the material circumstances of display, and the technical assemblages of software and hardware that are unique to each ‘performance’ of a digital artwork. These affordances lead to a circulation paradigm in which the life of an artwork is not contained to its instances of curatorial intervention, but rather all of its instantiations as the object moves through networks. In addition to the care and maintenance of the digital objects, digital curators attend to their circulation and movement. I end by exploring whether digital materiality and circulationism have made it possible for digital curators to circumvent traditional and elitist arts institutions and engage in a more democratised field of digital art.

Theoretically, the internet has utopian potential. Art historians and theorists have traditionally considered the democratising power of the internet to be the foil of ingrained institutional power (Quaranta 2013, 110-111; Quaranta 2015, 431; Troemel 2015, 38-40; Zebracki 2016, 531; Gronlund 2017, 3). Groys asserts that today, “the internet has replaced traditional institutions as the main platform for the production and distribution of art,” (2016a, 6). As seen, a networked structure defines the morphology of modern society. It makes sense that the internet could replace institutions, because as Geert Lovink (2015) explains, “Networked practices emerge outside of twentieth-century institutions, leading to a ‘corrosion of conformity’ [...] The institutional part of life is another matter, a realm that quickly falls behind,” (167). Given the decentralised nature of the internet, networking occurs outside of institutional control. The logic of cultural production and organisation is affected by this context, rather than the institutional contexts that used to house most cultural outputs.

These statements largely hold true for my participant digital curators, many of whom started curating online in the first place due to the high barriers to entry into the art world. Bicknell-Knight and Burns both explained how the expense, rigidity, and lack of availability of physical exhibition space was a key factor in their move to online curatorial platforms. They have achieved a remarkable amount of visibility and prestige from their pursuits without the support of any gallery or museum. Sabb explained how in his view, having power over the flows of information online (i.e. having a large, influential following on social media) is more important for artists and curators than having the backing of any institution.

Yet, the picture is more complicated. Today’s digital curator has not completely severed ties with institutions, and many argue against the internet’s so-called utopian potential. Pybus used social media to gain the attention of institutions. Digital curation was a gateway into the museum and gallery world rather than an alternative pathway. Nikonowicz also sees non-institutional digital curation and the more traditional curatorial pathways as working hand in hand: “I almost see artist run spaces, and more community-driven projects, as the skin and veins of the art world...but the skin cannot have form without the underlying structures, and the structures can’t survive without the skin. In my opinion you cannot have a thriving culture of art-makers without this institution.” Both the independent projects and curators included in this study and more formal institutions have a role to play in shaping the future of the art world.

Emilie Gervais of Museum of Internet agrees with Nikonowicz in that she does not think that social media and digital curation have the capacity to circumvent institutions.

Rather, digital curation can help to reframe relationships to institutions: “I believe [digital curation] can allow us to emancipate our reflection on art in general (as collectible items, its distribution process, its meaning, etc.). It’s a tool to circumvent our thinking process and behavioral patterns.” When the grip of the institution becomes too rigid, digital curation and independent arts practices can expand one’s frame of mind and think outside of the white cube, so to speak.

While Beeferman and Harvey noted that they do not know if the internet will “dismantle institutional practices,” they did say that digital curation practices “change the tone and scope of how institutions operate and who their audience is [...] the rules regarding ‘who gets canonised’ are starting to change: they aren’t necessarily defined by museums and their curators as they perhaps once were.” Ultimately, the issue is not whether or not digital curation will take down institutions, but rather how it will change them. As Epler puts it, “we’ll need museums less and less. We’ll need galleries less and less for this work to be displayed.” This does not necessarily imply that institutions face obsolescence, but rather they will not be the only pathway toward shaping the conversation around fine art. Museums and galleries will exist, but they will no longer hold a monopoly on cultural outputs.

Not only has the materiality of the digital created new lines of inquiry into the meaning of media and the art forms used to interrogate it—leading to a new phenomenology predicated upon the unique assemblages of hardware, software and data—but also changed the form of social organisation. Across western culture, a networked structure has come to define the shape of sociality. Given the openness and distributable nature of digital material, new sources of power are found through the circulation of information through networks. Digital curators accrue value for their work by controlling trajectories of circulation online. These practices emerge to stake a claim for fine arts curation in a world that popularly refers to all kinds of selection as ‘curation.’

Yet, these practices are not completely different from traditional modes of value accumulation in the art economy, as the materials that constitute art objects and the contexts in which they are shown historically play a large role in the meaning imbued in art. Indeed, “humanity is not one iota more mediated by the rise of the digital,” and while digital curators may seem to grapple with a changing art world, it appears that those traditional practices are being differently mediated rather than irrevocably altered (Horst & Miller, 2012). What has changed is that in online art worlds,secondary experiences of digitised artworks may be more meaningful than physical encounters with works. Digital curators play in this field by capitalizing on new forms of interactivity and intimacy made possible by circulating works directly to viewers’ devices. While utopian rhetoric describes a future state in which the internet could eliminate the need for institutions, that day has not yet arrived. Regardless of whether or not institutions still have the same traditional roles, it is clear that for digital curators, the internet and digital curation practices made possible by digital technologies have been able to advance their careers—even if that has been to help them get their feet in the door with museums or galleries. While many roadblocks are still in place, today a Wi-Fi connection and a reasonable command of digital techniques can lead to success in creative worlds.


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Appendix (Participants)

The following is a list of all of the participants in this study and the curatorial projects that they are a part of that informed their inclusion in this project. While some of the projects that they are involved in are fully-fledged platforms for the distribution of digital art, others are one-off projects or curatorial collectives that produce exhibitions in both online and offline contexts. The nature of and links to each project have been noted below.

Pita Arreola & Elliott Burns -Off Site Project: online gallery and artist residency project -www.offsiteproject.org / Instagram: @offsiteproject1989 / Facebook:

www.facebook.com/offsiteproject

Leah Beeferman & Matthew Harvey -Parallelograms: online curatorial project -http://parallelograms.info / Facebook: www.facbeook.com/parallelograms

Bob Bicknell-Knight -isthisit?: online gallery and offline curatorial project -www.isthisitisthisit.com / Instagram: @is_this_it_is_this_it / Twitter:

@isthisitgallery / Facebook: www.facebook.com/isthisitisthisit

Tommaso Cappelletti, Silvia Dal Dasso, Aria Mag, Noel Nicolaus & Franziska Von Guten

- Clusterduck: curatorial collective -http://clusterduck.space / Instagram: @realclusterfuck / www.facebook.com/ realclusterduck

Tanya Cruz, Hana Omori & Isabel Ramos -Keiken: curatorial collective -www.keikencollective.tumblr.com / Instagram: @_keiken_ / Facebook:

www.facebook.com/keikencollective/

Stacey Davidson -iouae: online and offline curatorial platform and artist residency project -www.iouae.co.uk / Instagram: @i.o.u.a.e / Twitter: @iouaecoop / Facebook:

www.facebook.com/iouaecoop

Oliver Durcan -It’s Kind of Hard to Explain (IKO): curatorial collective -www.itskindof.com / Instagram: @itskindofhardtoexplain / Facebook:

www.facebook.com/itskindofhardtoexplain

Matthew Epler -ReCode Project: online archive for the distribution of code-based works -www.recodeproject.com / Twitter: @ReCodeProject

Emilie Gervais -Museum of Internet: online curatorial project -www.museumofinter.net / facebook: www.facebook.com/MuseumOfInternet

Duncan Herd -HOLD: online curatorial platform and artist residency project -www.cargocollective.com/hold/feed / Instagram: @holdresidency /

Zachary Korol-Gold -Earth Sciences: online platform for the showcase of curatorial projects -https://earthscienc.es / Instagram: @earth_sciences / Facebook:

www.facebook.com/sciencesearth

Lachlan Kosaniuk-Innues & Tobias Seymour -AVD.XYZ: online gallery presenting mobile-specific exhibitions -www.a-v-d.xyz / Instagram: @avd.xyz / Facebook: www.facebook.com/avd.xyz

Drew Nikonowicz -LocalHost: online gallery within the virtual world of the MineCraft video game -www.localhostgallery.nikonowicz.com / Instagram: @localhost_gallery

Kristina Ollek -@exhibit_onscroll: Instagram-based digital exhibition -Instagram: @exhibit_onscroll

Michael Pybus -WELCOME SCREEN: online & offline curatorial project and exhibition space -www.welcomescreen.biz / Instagram: @welcomescreengallery

Doreen A. Ríos -ANTI Materia: online curatorial platform -www.anti-materia.org / Facebook: www.facebook.com/antimateriadigital/

Mark Sabb -FeltZine: online editorial and curatorial platform -http://feltzine.us / Instagram: @feltzine / Twitter: @FeltZine / Facebook:

www.facebook.com/FeltZine

Francesca Verga -Liaux: online gallery -http://liaux.org / Instagram: @liaux_org / Facebook: www.facebook.com/liaux.org