Since the publication of Baudrillard's Simulations and the rise of simulationism in art we have come to accept virtuality not only as part of our culture, but also as an increasingly important part of e-commerce, dating, information networks, systems analysis work, scientific projections, health care diagnostics, etc. In other words, we almost no longer know where the virtual ends and the real begins because they are mutually implicated in every aspect of design, art and culture. But just because we are well past our entre into dialogs about the virtual, and nearing its supposed high point with what scientists call the moment of the singularity, this doesn't mean that its naturalization is something we should accept as the status quo. In fact the relations between the virtual and the real are always shifting, or as Deleuze said, the virtual is a line divided by points, and each of these points represents the possibly of a growing divergence with the actual, making potentiality the hallmark of what we call virtuality today. 

And it is in this spirit that we examine the works of seven of the valley's most prolific purveyors of virtuality in film, video, dance, performance, painting and sculpture. Whether addressing the submersion of the figure in denaturalized settings, patterns, geometries, or cinematic distortions, Parables of the Virtual seeks to ask questions about how representation functions at the crossroads of concrete referents and immaterial references, both of which are bound by so many different projections of a future anterior to our own, and which seems to have become wholly self-generating as well as infinitely reproducible the world over. The virtual is, afterall, that common substrate of interactivity in all of its given forms, making it the central dispositif of globalization. 

As such, some of the works in Parables of the Virtual look at the dissonant effects of the production and reproduction of iconicity while other pieces play with the symbolic import of more traditional forms of sign, system and meaning production. Figures and the idea of their disappearance play a central role throughout the exhibition as does the intensification of artifice, color and technological colonization. Genres as different as figuration, abstraction, landscape painting, video art and printmaking are brought together in an effort to understand how artists are pushing those mediums to the edge of their legibility, ultimately playing with mixed media or the post-medium condition as a 'status' that is generally representative of the paradigm of virtuality in art production today. 

In other words, Parables of the Virtual proposes that a leveling of medium specificity may also create a conflicted sense of reciprocity between everything real and its mirror image in another medium. Thus, the idea of living a simulacra existence and of the categorical imperative to dive head first into irreal worlds of ever greater depth and complexity is what is at stake in thinking through the implications of contemporary aesthetic experience. Regardless of whether such developments are actually a sign of genuine progress, or simply a symptom of infinite degradability, escapism and diatribes about the utopian impulse, they are now part and parcel of the culture of connectivity. As such, the artists in Parables of the Virtual are addressing some of the central concerns of aesthetic experience today. Despite how conflicted the terrain is that surrounds the idea of the virtual, or how overwrought the debates have become about affect and experience, what the artworks in this exhibition offer is an update to the discourses around dematerialization set forth by Arthur Danto in the eighties, and which continue to gain momentum even today, not to mention the many projected futures we call tomorrow. These images and discourses are not only pictures of a doppleganger reality, but in fact, they are religious experiences of our projected transcendence beyond the human condition. That is why they might be called so many Parables of the Virtual. 

Artists: James Angel, Lori Fenn, Tovah Goldfine, Mike Jacobs, Lily Montgomery, Dewey Nelson, and Ben Willis.


The Phoenix New Times

The Phoenix New Times



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