Realness exists on many levels, in different perspectives and temporalities.
Imagine you are standing in the micro-studio of a street artist in Luanda, and the next moment you find yourself behind a guy picking up money from a Western Union Counter in Nairobi. Suddenly you are on a stage with a young spoken word poet in Berlin and see people in the audience sharing images of this moment on Instagram. You step out of that Berlin bar into a gallery space in Lagos and from there move into the abstract digital universe created by an art collective in Jakarta.
ARE YOU FOR REAL is a new, participatory web-based project, testing unique and interactive artistic practices. It brings together artists, researchers, filmmakers, writers and coders to create exclusive works, each offering an understanding of and approach towards the concept of “reality”.
Initiated by ifa and curated by Julia Grosse, Paula Nascimento and Yvette Mutumba, ARE YOU FOR REAL launches in December with newly commissioned participative and interactive digital works by artists Nushin Yazdani & Can Karaalioglu and Nolan Oswald Dennis via an online platform designed and coded by Yehwan Song.
How do we interpret and apprehend what we are seeing and experiencing? Are privileged perspectives becoming more real than others? Who can judge if something is real? Who is allowed to judge? Can digital space ever be a neutral location?
The average teenager spends eight hours being “connected” every day, around the world, people connect with friends on social networks, and much of contemporary communication and interaction takes place in virtual environments.
Concepts such as digital transformation, artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR) are steadily becoming a bigger part of our daily routines and cultural practices. Increasingly, video games expose us to alternative, inspirational universes, while algorithms impact our decision-making or even control our behaviour.
Simultaneously, we seem to assume that it is evident that we live in a world that is real and easier to reach and grasp than ever before. In this context, realness can refer to a common understanding that because of constant digital interconnectedness we see, learn, and know about the world in real-time.
ARE YOU FOR REAL is about engaging with and visualising connections of people, thoughts, things, and places—communication happening through the trading and training of data. It addresses the material and immaterial aspects of the digital, and how these are perceived from the perspectives of various disciplines. Contributors have been and will be commissioned to create works that offer us various understandings of and approaches to reality.
This ongoing project is a platform of exchange that supports formats such as exhibitions, workshops, digital art spaces and apps. Physical events will be planned over the course of the project and the coming years. These will take place in arbitrarily chosen sites, as wide-ranging as betting halls, post offices, gaming venues and cultural centres.
While there is no intention of forming a linear narrative, a thread links events and creates moments of encounter. Like the children’s game in which a message is created, passed on, and distorted between one player to another through whispering, the outcome is always unexpected and unpredictable. This playful approach generates conversations between perspectives and concepts, helping explore the overlaps and interstices that link fields, formats, and contexts.
ARE YOU FOR REAL aims to create an international cultural exchange as well as a contemporary co-creative practice of exhibition-making. It challenges the inflexibility of the classic touring format and explores other models that respond to the questions posed through international collaboration and new artistic production, confronting the decades-long format of touring exhibitions.
The artworks produced will change over the course of the project, as new artists join and take over, add and react. This means that certain qualities of a travelling exhibition will become visible, articulated through the touring of thought and the changes and traces in each work.
Among the projects being launched in December are works by artists Nolan Oswald Dennis and Nushin Yazdani & Can Karaalioglu and contributors Ibrahim Cissé & Asmaa Jama, João Renato Orecchia Zúñiga, Nelly Y. Pinkrah, Ainslee Alem Robson & Kidus Hailesilassie and Michelle M. Wright.
Nolan Oswald Dennis (developed with Noa Mori):
a sun.black, 2020, essay-game
A black sun rises and “one has to be in a perpetual state of change, without holding on to any certainties”
“It may be lonely. Certainly painful. It’ll take time. We’ve got time.”
—Toni Cade Bambara
Commissioned and produced on behalf of ifa, a sun.black is inspired by Dambudzo Marechera’s Black Sunlight and Toni Cade Bambara’s On the Issue of Roles, taking the form of a generative essay-game; a procedural study in distributed poetics where every fragmented statement is assembled from bits and pieces, estranged and recollected.
Nushin Yazdani & Can Karaalioglu:
Into the Pluriverse, 2020, VR work
feat. Aylin Karabulut, Dounia Hagenauer, Rafiou Bayor, Tiara Roxanne and Ulla Heinrich
Realness exists on many levels and through different perspectives and temporalities. What is real about an entire continent, a country, or a person?
Commissioned and produced on behalf of ifa, this virtual reality work explores the idea of what is real. With Into the Pluriverse, we enter through a wormhole into seven different lives, different places, and different perspectives. One by one, we encounter seven people and experience how their thoughts interact.
Tiara Roxanne, an Indigenous cyberfeminist, scholar and artist who investigates encounters between the Indigenous body and AI in writing and in performances with textiles. Aylin Karabulut, who conducts scientific research into institutional racism, bringing proof and inspirational acknowledgement to many. Ulla Heinrich, who serves as managing director of the queer feminist MissyMagazine, while constantly pushing boundaries in her production of music and art festivals off the beaten track. Dounia Hagenauer, a singer, songwriter, and community activist with big visions and a powerful voice. Rafiou Bayor, an exceptional digital and analogue artist creating 3D imaging with bold strokes. Can Karaalioglu, automation engineer and VR researcher, exploring how technology impacts identities and digital culture, and Nushin Yazdani, transformation designer and artist, whose work examines AI technologies and social justice from an intersectional feminist perspective.
How do these artists, scientists, and feminists envision our collective future? What do they fight and wish for? What do they have to say to each other? What questions arise within this discourse? We invite you to explore ARE YOU FOR REAL to find out.
Trailer ARE YOU FOR REAL
Concept film by Ainslee Alem Robson and Kidus Hailesilassie