” … criticality of the digital medium.”
The primary frame for this article is the network that has been established over the past five years through Floating Reverie. Floating Reverie is a digital residency programme which I started in early 2014; it consists of two components, an online digital residency programme called ‘//2Weeks’ and annual Post-Digital instances. Floating Reverie was started as a result of a perceived lack of platforms and opportunities for artists engaging with contemporary new media and digital culture in South Africa and Africa.
The //2Weeks residency happens once a month for two weeks. An artist is invited to respond to the brief and produce or ‘check-in’ online on a selected platform of their choice such as Instagram or Tumblr. This happens daily for two weeks, thus establishing a network through the online medium of their practice. Through the monthly process, which is specific to Floating Reverie, the artists find methods and modes for displaying creative practice online. The Post-Digital instances occur at the end of the annual residency period. Artists are invited back to participate and re-engage with the residency in a physical exhibition component. The primary focus of this article is the //2Week residency component. Some questions that I have tried to reflect on and share in this submission are: What do the connections between the artists look like? Are there similar tendencies or themes that the artists have explored that have emerged frequently due to the medium, platform, or their practice? Is there a pattern in the occurrence of these tendencies or themes? How does the network embody these tendencies or themes?
For this article, I present a map and visual representation of the curatorial network, which explores how this network has grown and developed over the past five years. It first appeared in the publication titled Floating Reverie 5 Years 2014 – 2019 which was self-published in late 2019. The map in the publication is titled Networked Connections and designed with Daniel Rautenbach (18–19). It is a visual representation of the artists, their connections to me as curator and their location, reflected in the Floating Reverie network, specifically the relationships and the connections as they formed and evolved. The map as presented in this submission is an exploration and engagement with the network the residencies have formed as it shows how artists are connected to each other. This connection is indicated in the same colour as the heading of the article (blue), acting as the primary navigation. The user can select an artist’s name and the connection highlights in blue. The secondary navigation is on the left of the map. For the scope of this article, I have selected and correlated three common themes that have emerged through the different residencies in context driven methods – habitual (light blue), performance (green) and contextual (pink). Each theme can be clicked on, which then reveals selected artists’ connections on the map associated with that theme (in light blue, green or pink). Further information pops up in a separate window, contextualising the theme in relation to the //2Weeks residency along with selected artists’ residencies which represent this theme. This pop-up can be selected and moved around and size adjusted. The artists name can additionally be clicked on though this pop-up, and the user is then navigated to their //2Weeks residency.
The residency exists as a habitual space for making and creating, processes which are reflective of the digital medium and online behaviour, a collective experience. The artists residencies selected for ‘habitual’, are Tiger Maremela’s These are the memes that will save us., Brooklyn J Pakathi’s my weight in grams and I S S I I S S A’s 14 vases. I further correlate how the residency is performative through the iterative nature of the online digital medium. The artists residencies selected for ‘performance’ are Tabita Rezaire’s (‿ꜟ‿) LOOK @ HER BUTT (‿ꜟ‿) digital thoughts on twerk and I S S I I S S A’s 14 vases. I engage with the unique contexts the artists have selected for their residency and then the unique contexts that the residencies are often viewed in. The artists residencies selected for ‘contextual’ are Tiger Maremela’s These are the memes that will save us., I S S I I S S A’s 14 vases and Tabita Rezaire’s (‿ꜟ‿) LOOK @ HER BUTT (‿ꜟ‿) digital thoughts on twerk.
The Internet was deliberately selected as site for Floating Reverie because of its unique characteristics and its flexibility. Floating Reverie was started as result of a perceived “lack of spaces for digital artists” (Whitaker 12) practicing in South Africa. The Internet offers a space for artists to connect and link ideas in much the same way people think, connecting ideas, concepts, memories and sounds in a relational manner. Internet art relies on the Internet’s defining characteristics the hyperlink and hypertext. As the Internet’s capabilities have evolved, so has our relationship with it and the behaviours or actions performed online. In Curating Immateriality: The Work of The Curator In The Age Of Network Systems, (2006) Joasia Krysa describes this contemporary time as the “age of network technologies” where “the network itself is a machine that links other machines of collective desire into a ‘meta-machine’“ (Krysa 13). She goes on to describe the Internet as a “recent embodiment of networked computational systems” which some still may describe as “relatively free, unregulated space”. However, criticality around issues of control situated in “connectivity, collectivity and participation” (Krysa 15), are necessary. Floating Reverie embodies a critical practice through the frame of a residency. It is a space for the criticality of the digital medium to emerge through the artists artistic practice. Many of the artists question this network and the role that it plays in our collective lives and its embodied related practices or behaviours through their residency.
As the initiator of the project I act as curator, facilitating, engaging, and documenting the residencies. The residency is designed as both a space for artists to practice and for myself to act as curator. I identify and frame tendencies and themes presented by the participants specific to digital practices and processes. These methods are ingrained in the context, the online digital medium, and are unique to each artist’s residency.
When I first started Floating Reverie, I reached out to my own immediate contacts and connections, later engaging referrals from participating artists and the online community of artists. Through this approach, the network of artists expanded and grew from location to selected platform. Through this a network started to evolve and develop, existing virtually and to an extent – intangible as it is only through my articulation that is formalised. In order to acknowledge the practices and tendencies of both the artists and myself, visualising this network has enabled me to draw connections. In Updating to Remain the Same, Habitual New Media (2016), Wendy Hui Kyong Chun describes networks as “time-based interactions and intervals into spatial representations” which “embody ‘glocal’ combinations by condensing complex clouds of interactions into definite, traceable lines of connection (or connections imagined to be so) between individual nodes across disparate locales” (Chun 2). As Floating Reverie’s network has shifted and expanded it has become increasingly necessary to articulate and identify these “traceable lines”.
This is the embodiment of a networked practice, one of expansion, flexibility and fluidity. In this manner of unfixed referrals and encounters, Floating Reverie has established a large archive of Internet based practice. Seen through the lens of an embodied network, the reader can navigate the various associations and relationships that have been established, thereby reading the archive as an almost mitochondrial embodiment of a practice in time.
Conclusion and reflection
Over the past five years of Floating Reverie, and as the residency continues, it has become increasingly necessary to acknowledge the practices and tendencies that have occurred as a result of Floating Reverie. This article is a direct engagement with how the established and evolving network embodies specific themes and related tendencies. The supposition at the start of this article, both the reflective component and the interactive component, was that there were overlapping themes, common tendencies and behaviours in the residencies. A few selected artists’ residencies were chosen in order to visually explore or experiment with how network embodied practices and tendencies exist for the artists and curator. A deeper, broader analysis is required to determine conclusively what these patterns are, however based on the sample and interactive component there are initial similarities and common themes. Further writing and future exploration on the similarities and relationship between artists thematically and their chosen platforms is required, identifying these traceable lines and patterns. The research as artistic practice exists within the residency as method, the artists’ work and the broader curation of Floating Reverie and evolution through a network embodying relationships and associations in a single form. It speaks to my role and the methodologies of curatorship in identifying, connecting, reflecting, forming and understanding how this network of embodied practices takes form.
Bronner, Simon J. The Oxford Handbook of American Folklore and Folklife Studies. Oxford University Press, 2019.
Chun, Wendy Hui Kyong. Updating to Remain the Same: Habitual New Media. The MIT Press, 2016.
Krysa, Joasia. Curating Immateriality: The Work of the Curator in the Age of Network Systems. Autonomedia, 2006.
Leeker, Martina, et al. ‘Performativity, Performance Studies and Digital Cultures’. Performing the Digital, edited by Martina Leeker et al., Transcript Verlag, 2017, pp. 9–18. JSTOR, https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctv1xxsxb.3.
Whitaker, Carly. ‘The Start of Floating Reverie’. Floating Reverie 5 Years 2014 – 2019, Floating Reverie, 2019, pp. 12–17.
Whitaker, Carly, and Nicola Kritzinger, editors. Floating Reverie 5 Years 2014 – 2019. First, Floating Reverie, 2019.