gateways. Art and Networked Culture

May 13 – September 25, 2011
Kumu Art Museum, 5th floor, Gallery of Contemporary Art


“The number of Internet users has doubled between 2005 and 2010. In 2010, the number of Internet users will surpass the two billion mark, of which 1.2 billion will be in developing countries. A number of countries, including Estonia, Finland and Spain have declared access to the Internet as a legal right for citizens. […] Access to mobile networks is now available to over 90% of the world population and 80% of the population living in rural areas.”


The exhibition gateways. Art and Networked Culture presents artists whose work deals with the changed conditions of an interconnected world that increasingly is transmitted through media, and with the electronic linkage of all spheres of life through the Internet. The artistic works presented here use various means to tackle the theme of gateways that open to realms of action and experience in our digitally interconnected culture.


Network technologies have led to fundamental economic and social changes in society. The Internet culture, with its space-and community-building potential, sets the tone for today’s society. Mobility and connectivity are significant aspects and characteristics of our modern networked society; laptops and smart phones are the dominant accessories of the age of information. They offer constant and ubiquitous connection and access to a globalized digital network of data and information that overlays our reality like a second skin and that also influences our perception of the real objects surrounding us. Linked with GPS, RFID, and other geographic information systems, mobile technologies enable us to temporally meld real space and virtual space. Data retrieval is accomplished directly on site and provides information on exact geographical location, on local shopping possibilities or on products themselves. The Internet, too, has developed into one of the most important participatory media, next to the mobile phone. Computer games, Second Life or online portals like Facebook offer opportunities for worldwide exchange and global networking.


The gateways exhibition presents works that deal with communication and networking, and that reflect a global Internet culture through the societal changes introduced by digital media. How do we deal with expanding networks? How we take advantage of the potential of global networks? How we behave within them? “Gateways” means access – access to spaces, to information, to data networks or communities. In computer science, a “gateway” is a switching apparatus for converting data, which functions as an interface between various types of networks and accomplishes the digital transcoding of various media. The works shown in the exhibition thematize – in a manner analogous to the digital function of transmission – the transcoding or even translation of data and its evaluation in new contexts of meaning. By raising issues, these works lay out the consequences of increasing networking on our actions, our perception and experience of the world. The artistic confrontation with the significance of digitalization in society is not primarily about a reflection of technology per se, but rather about the consideration of its impact as a socio-economic phenomenon. Along with the question about changing space and the increased layering of information, the question about the development of the self – which also exists through and within existing networks – comes to the fore.


A central aspect of the exhibition is the reconfiguration of public space through the increasing overlap of the informational sphere and geographical space. Artists are pushing the envelope of mobile media, testing their potential to provide gateways into spaces and communities and to identify alternative ways of networking beyond a largely consumer-oriented society. Mobile technologies are used in unexpected ways to render the invisible data network visible and tangible. These artistic interventions are not limited to data visualizations of virtual space, but rather provide an opportunity to reveal suppressed knowledge.


The artistic positions on display take advantage of local and global networking to create access to information and to actively intervene in political and social developments. Media art in the 21st century thus does not limit itself to media forms, but rather reflects the importance of new technologies for societal and social change in a world increasingly influenced by media. The exhibition will present these concepts through a variety of artistic formats.


Twenty-seven artists from across Europe were invited to present their interpretation of the significance of network technologies and its social and cultural impacts on society. Their 29 works include photography, video projections and sculptural environments as well as sound walks and cell phone applications. The networking aspect will be reflected not only in the works on display, but also will be made tangible for the visitor. The exhibition will extend into the urban space of Tallinn, with interventionist projects and actions. It invites the public to experience both the museum and the city anew, to receive unaccustomed perceptions and to get involved in the projects themselves.

Sabine Himmelsbach