“I don’t spend too much time on the Internet, because it just makes me anxious to have two separate lives,” explained Giselle Zatonyl, whose immersive net art installation, Discrete Systems, is now showing at East Williamsburg’s TRANSFER gallery.
For a net artist, Zatonyl is surprisingly resistant to the rules that govern the Internet. “I have so much social network anxiety, and it stems from this rigidity, which no one ever discusses,” she says. “I’m really into more fluid ideas.” Which is why her work brings gallery-goers face-to-face with a blissful and arguably more poetic vision of the Internet.
Actually, describing Zatonyl as a net artist doesn’t tell the whole story. The Argentina native was trained as a painter at New World School of Arts in Miami before moving on to photography, video, and finally 3D animation and installation work.
TRANSFER is a petite gallery housed inside an old warehouse. Earlier this week we walked down the desolate block of Metropolitan in East Williamsburg, but when we entered the gallery we suddenly found ourselves in a soothing serenity box. Bluish forms float along, rotate and transform, projected at various points along the white gallery walls, though they are constrained by metal frames. The lights are dim enough that it feels like the less popular room in an aquarium.
Zatonyl explained that she made use of parametric equations and helix formulas to animate the objects. The cold mathiness of it all is soothing, as satisfying as a proof. Brooklyn-based artists Arian van Gelder composed the ambient sounds that ebb and transform in relation to the visitor’s position within the gallery. A pulsing, coppery triangle in the center of the floor sucks you further down into an aquatic dream world.
Watch these soothing shapes closely and you’ll find they become part of a grid — in effect, a network — projected onto an adjacent wall. “The idea was to sort of make this really complex system into something that relieves anxiety just by being immersed in it, and it being so figurative that you don’t necessarily think about what the structure is,” Zatonyl said.
One of Zatonyl’s major concerns is that rigidity of form on the Internet leads to the oversimplification of ideas, and even reality. “You have these really complex concepts that get distilled into hashtags, for example. And those hashtags are thrown in with other ideas, and the context just gets totally mixed up.”
However, Zatonyl acknowledged the Internet is constantly evolving — “and that’s why the grid isn’t absolute. That’s why there are objects invading the space of the gallery. There’s an ability to free-flow, but you have to work within the system that’s given.”
Zatonyl’s exhibition embraces paradox (for instance, the apparent contradiction of displaying net art in a gallery space), and in doing so it highlights the various tensions that are inherent in net culture. The Internet has evolved as an intensely social space, yet at the same time it’s incurably alienating. By and large users browse while they are physically or attentionally alone, separated from other users by vast space, broadband radio waves, and fiber optic cables. There’s also a struggle between greater control of the Internet and a return to the more freewheeling days.
Zatonyl noted that the Internet, in its current form, reflects capitalism, and is therefore inhospitable to art. She specifically pointed to a pressure to market oneself according to the virtual social structures. “There is very little room for the abstract and poetic,” she said. “Like in capitalism, there is very little opportunity if choosing to abstain.”
But despite her apprehension about the current digital order, Zatonyl said she’s eager for further technological innovation, particularly virtual reality (see of virtual reality technology Oculus Rift). “The installations people are going to make will be fantastic. I can’t wait for that. That’s definitely something I think most net artists are excited about.”
“If anything, the Internet will become more immersive and people will learn to deal with their anxieties,” Zatonyl explained. “It will become more a part of real life, and more like real life.”
There’s still time to check out Zatonyl’s installation. Discrete Systems will be on display until June 28th. So head over to TRANSFER any Saturday between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.