Overwhelming in its degree of sensory immersion, Jon Kessler’s hypnotic new installation, The Web is currently on view at Swiss Institute in New York. Welcoming new perspectives into the participatory nature of the Internet, and the endless variations of image and sight that result from an information-centered society, the artist creates a powerfully immersive work that commands the viewer’s full attention.
Upon entering the gallery space, the visitor is greeted with a bizarre cavern of wood and cardboard, Mac Computer boxes and iPad frames, blue screens, cameras and cloth. In one corner, a self-automated loom weaves an endless stream of blue fabric, spun and wound around the upper rafters of the space. Automated robots, sculpted as elderly men in hoodies and jeans, sit in woven hammocks, listlessly browsing on their iPads as cameras film the movement of their hands. The viewer, passing through the space, is greeted with an endless set of variations, caught on camera and projected on-screen from any number of angles.
Taking the hyper-connected online experience as his starting point, Kessler has focused his efforts on creating a dense, reflexive environment that reframes the visitor as an active participant in the closed network of the installation. Countless cameras are turned on the interior of the installation, reframing movements and spaces inside itself as sites of focus. Using these cameras, screens and basic editing technology, Kessler mirrors the images and architecture of the broader Internet, constantly processing and presenting the contents of its interior while welcoming open-ended participation.
Following this line of reasoning, Kessler welcomes smartphone users to use his home-built application to upload images into the network’s database, which are in turn broadcasted through the numerous screens populating the space. The installation, then, becomes a framework, supporting the physical experience of any visitor as they pass through it. Perhaps more interestingly, the viewer becomes a user, utilizing the refracted viewing experience of the gallery to see beyond a singular perspective, and to move freely through a multifarious field of sensory information. Engaging with the space and its architecture both physically and digitally, the user drastically alters the installation’s presentation and history.
Given this intensely interior experience, caught in the hyper-loaded space of The Web, the viewing deck placed alongside the installation is of particular significance. Offering a second look at the external architecture that the viewer is so easily trapped within, one must reconsider the seemingly endless interior of The Web, recognizing the physical constraints and definitive location of the Internet as a series of wires, cables and servers in a finite, located position on the globe. While The Web welcomes an endless set of permutations on its experience, its finite physical realm makes an equally powerful statement.
The Web is on view until April 28th.