The Tenth Anniversary of VITRINE
Breathing second life into the title of their 2010 opening, VITRINE’s new exhibition Sounding Off 2.0 signifies a new chapter; stronger and rising from a decade of experience.
The first Sounding Off was an energetic performance event in Bermondsey Square, which remains the location of VITRINE’s London gallery today. Sounding Off 2.0 is based on the same values as that first event. These values are a continued exploration of experiential art, and a commitment to performance, while encouraging space for new, interactive media. They endeavor to support talent at all stages; two artists in the show, James Stopforth and Natasha Rees, were involved in the original ‘Sounding Off’. Some are at an earlier stage in their relationship with the gallery; including Milly Peck and Rene Matic, who have their first solo shows with VITRINE in Basel (Peck) and London (Mati) this Autumn. This work with artist’s in New Media is reflective of VITRINE’s engagement with mediums underrepresented in the art market. This underrepresentation only empowers VITRINE to create a stronger platform to promote and commission new work.
Echoing their efforts to evolve alongside the fast-paced sector of arts and media, this show differs from those in their previous 10 year programme. The two existing locations of VITRINE are London (opened in 2010) and Basel (opened in 2016). Sounding Off 2.0 sits in the third and latest location of the gallery; ‘VITRINE, Digital’.
VITRINE, Digital had been an idea in the pipeline since the Summer of 2019, but due to the current challenges of holding physical events, the idea began to take shape rapidly. Sounding Off 2.0 was originally planned to take place in Bermondsey Square until lockdown restrictions made this unsafe. Alys Williams, who is Founding Director of VITRINE and a believer in the importance of timing, quickly decided the 10 year anniversary should coincide with launching the digital platform; leading the gallery into a new decade and new era.
Alys, along with the gallery’s new Director, William Noel Clarke, commissioned 21 artists to make work for Sounding Off 2.0. This work was all made between the months of May and July 2020, which might explain why there is an underlying background noise; an overarching feeling of solitude, yet deep connection that binds the work together.
Everything about the show speaks of the present. From the subject of each piece down to the fact that we are viewing it online, it bubbles away together to produce a strange virtual feeling of this moment we are living in. Alys says ‘many works present new directions for artists that were instigated due to lockdown, such as Jamie Fitzpatrick’s 3-D rendered sculptures in his animation. He has been developing video work for some time, but the lack of access to his studio and sculpting materials meant that he focused on making 3-D renders for proposed public sculptures which he set in an imagined landscape and narrates the viewer through.’
Kara Chin’s bizarre and funny Fitbit Worship animation is evocative of people at home throughout lockdown doing their indoor exercises to stay active.
There is a touch of the ASMR (Autonomous sensory meridian response) phenomenon to Sounding Off 2.0. From the first entry point, which is a website homepage designed by one of the artists, Candice Jacobs. Visuals of Jacob’s lips, moving around the homepage, are the gatekeepers of each artwork. The viewer must hover over the lips for them to speak the name of the artist whose work lies behind them. Many of the works behind the lips share this intimate involvement of close speech. Campbell Mcconnell’s surreal video titled ‘Genetically Modified Aquadvantage Salmon’ was originally planned as a live performance in Bermondsey Square, but re-imagined as a film; permitting him to come close to the camera, distorting his face further and enhancing the sounds of his voice. Natasha Rees’ audio work ‘Nation Undressed’ condenses the Prime Minister’s press conferences in the run-up to the UK coronavirus lockdown in March 2020, into a continuous stream of breath intakes. While Nicole Bachmann’s 40 second audio work titled ‘under your skin, I imagine, my temporary, refuge, held by, invisible hands, passing me around’ attempts to break down language and narratives to leave the listener to make sense of their bodies with sound.
Experiencing these artworks alone feels more intimate than viewing or listening in company. Several pieces hit a sentimental and emotional note, to which Alys says: ‘We were touched by the number of very personal works offered, including Charlie Godet Thomas’s MOLLY.otf and Sophie Jung’s ‘Something’s Been Changed Under the Bed’ which both reveal their experiences of parental care and loss.’
Even with their physical galleries, VITRINE creates spaces that differ from the four walled galleries built for traditional arts. The existing VITRINE locations in London and Basel were designed using glass so exhibitions could be viewed in the round, 24/7. Similarly, VITRINE, Digital can be accessed at all times of day, and can now be viewed around the world. New Gallery Director William Noel Clarke says it ‘offers the opportunity to grow our network in unparalleled ways as it’s accessible to anyone anywhere with an internet connection.’
The first half of 2020 certainly spurred on a movement towards digital exhibitions; from galleries to the first fully digital degree show. With more institutions looking to the digital space, this is the moment for the New Media arts that VITRINE have nurtured over the past decade. The work in Sounding Off 2.0 feels truly at home on VITRINE, Digital; a gallery space re-designed specifically for New Media art. It’s enjoyable watching something from the comfort of your home, and being able to return a day later to experience it again. Moving image, sound, and computer-generated animations have so much to work with in an online space, so with platforms like VITRINE, Digital, it will be exciting to see where they can be taken.