New project highlights artwork in the ‘Post-Internet’ era

Angela Kaisers, photo: archive of Contain[era]

Contain[era] is a project bringing together the work of eight up-and-coming European artists from major cities including Prague, Rome and Berlin. Each artist’s work, installed in an actual transport container, is being rotated from city to city and put on display in outdoor locations. Overall, the project tackles expectations about the presentation and dissemination of artwork in what many increasingly refer to as the Post-Internet era.

Angela Kaisers, photo: archive of Contain[era]
I spoke to Alexandra Karpuchina, one of three young women who put the project together. We began first by discussing what ‘post-internet’ means in art terms.

“In our understanding it is a new term for something which is very current today and that is ‘interference’ between the real world and the internet world. The overlapping of these two realities is so common that we lose an understanding and live reality in this virtual reality.”

Would an artist working on these terms ‘shun’ internet tools?

“I would say some post-internet artists don’t use them at all, working in traditional media like sculpture or painting. It is more about analysis about what is happening today with interference but it can be in any medium. They can use traditional methods but with new methodology, new symbols, with a new iconography, new lifestyle. Interesting work is coming out of this mix of the old and new.”

Whose idea was using shipping containers?

“That strange idea was mine. It was a wide idea with no specific leanings at first but others involved the project with me, the project manager and art curator, shaped the whole idea.”

The containers themselves serve as kind of mobile galleries…

"Post-Internet is more about analysis about what is happening today with 'interference' but it can be in any medium."

“Yes. We take them as informational units. What we wanted to do was the materialisation of information. If you look at a photograph on the internet, the information is the ‘same’ but the work is changed by the context. Where and how it is displayed, how it is displayed, surrounding text and so on – the understanding of it is changed by the surroundings.

“Whether it is sent in an email, or seen on google and so on. We wanted to show work in a materialised, more complicated form. The container units have visual information, which is unchanged, but the space around it does, depending on the city. As they are put on view, you cannot think of the container without considering the surroundings. The surrounding plays an important role.”

Just to be clear: you mean the surrounding architecture but there are also the walls of the container itself.

“The architecture. The installation will be seen differently by different people depending on where it is seen, for example, in Warsaw than somewhere else. Some of the cities the site chosen were historic centres, such as in Prague or Rome. The impression can change when it is transferred somewhere else.”

Adéla Součková, photo: archive of Contain[era]
When someone see the exhibit, do you think that the container ‘disappears’? Because in my mind it is the frame through which the piece is seen.

“It is white and I think it is neutral and that it plays less of a role than might seem. I think you consider the exhibition more out of the box so to speak. You compare the installation with the space you know.”

All eight of the artists share a similar cultural space from central and western Europe. Are there similarities or perhaps differences as well?

“That was another layer of the project. Today, it can appear that a lot of the work is similar but we wanted to see if there were differences or remaining elements in today’s globalised world of national heritage. We wanted to see if they cropped up in the actual work. All of the artists are young, working in multi-media. So you have a global sharing versus local units and heritage.”

Adéla Součková was the artist whose work was chosen for the ‘Czech leg’ of the exhibition – how would you describe her installation, her work?

"Moving the containers cross border at this particular time has also proven difficult. It can be difficult to explain what it is we are moving."

“She is already quite well-known and our curator wanted work by her because her work is very personal but she also uses symbolic meanings and is very multi-media in her approach. For this container, there are several quite expressive drawings. She digitalises and uses quite well-known Czech symbols in history and converts them for her own purposes. She works with the idea of ‘touch’: how something as personal as touch became impersonal through the use of internet tools or electronic devices.”

Swiping, posting, and so on.

“Yes. She analyses what the moves meant before and how they became a tool.”

With eight cities, what are the logistics like? That can’t be easy.

“It is a little bit tricky moving around the containers. Every time a new one comes a new opening is held so that is eight times eight openings. Moving the containers cross border at this particular time has also proven difficult. It can be difficult to explain what it is we are moving, that it is an exhibition and so on.”

Carlo Zanni, photo: archive of Contain[era]
I was thinking about that as well: containers, converted transport containers are being used now as temporary housing now for refugees coming to Europe. That is quite the coincidence.

“Absolutely. But is it a coincidence. At the time we were putting the project together there was no crisis yet, no migrants moving on such a scale to Europe. One of the artists involved actually picked a similar theme for his project, about different influences, new cultures coming to the borders, which is a little bit fragile topic now. He makes no pronouncement, it is just a story, and it is up to the viewer to decide how to interpret the information.”