District Fray is on the road. We are excited to be in Austin, Texas for SXSW 2022 after the festival’s two-year hiatus. All week long, we’re covering local and international artists and creatives showcasing their talents. To learn more about SXSW 2022, visit their website here. To stream shows, including panels and musical performances, visit here.
The artist-driven app Marcel.Art is presenting the NFT Gallery showcasing 64 emerging artists of multiple disciplines at SXSW. Running March 14-16, the Marcel.Art XR showcase blends IRL and digital experiences to explore the future of experiencing creative content.
Attendees can experience eight exhibitions focused on cultural identity, trends in digital creation and more by curators from the U.S., Italy and Ukraine. Through a mix of visual media and presentations, each exhibition highlights the conversational discourse between the curators’ intention and artists’ creativity.
We sat down with curator Jesse Damiani to discuss his exhibition “Uncannyverse,” which examines how virtual realms and digital generation affect our perception of the strange and unusual. “Uncannyverse” features work by artists REO, Renderfruit, Sofia Crespo and Ziyang Wu.
Read on for a preview of “Uncannyverse” – and the Marcel.Art artists – and Damiani’s insights into the showcase as a whole.
District Fray: What inspired you to participate in Marcel.Art’s SXSW NFT Gallery?
Jesse Damiani: I’m a longtime fan of SXSW and was excited about Marcel.Art’s goal in bringing an ambitious NFT gallery exhibition to the festival. Marcel.Art has built a global community through a platform that is accessible and puts artists and creative practitioners at the center, offering a space to share their portfolios and connect with others in their creative journey. SXSW is always a fantastic place to introduce audiences to novel, offbeat and experimental ideas and SXSW Film Programmer Blake Kammerdiener’s incredible curation is a testament to this ethos. The pieces just felt perfectly aligned.
Tell us about “Uncannyverse.” How would you describe the overarching theme of the exhibit — and how did you determine its focus?
Because of its multidisciplinary approach, SXSW is something of a yearly “state of the union” for art, media and creativity. When imagining a curation on the show floor, I wanted to think big about the ways digital art has exploded into the public consciousness — revealing the new ways we think about ourselves as individuals and as a collective species. Our reality is increasingly an expression of hybridity: One that interweaves physical and digital realities — and it seems clear this intermingling is only going to increase. “Uncannyverse” draws inspiration from the notion of the “uncanny valley,” the sense of strangeness or dread we feel when a digital creation just doesn’t look quite right. When I first started working in emerging technologies nearly a decade ago, this conversation was fairly commonplace. These days, particularly in the wake of the pandemic, it’s seemingly much less of a concern. The title is intended as a tongue-in-cheek provocation: Have we acclimated to the uncanny? Have we entered a phase where the digitally strange simply reflects new facets of a hybrid reality? Each of the incredible artists in the show offers a glimpse of this emergent reality, whether that’s by channeling new notions of ugliness, cyborg and posthuman identities or the impact of algorithms in the creation of art and culture.
Is there one aspect of the exhibit you find particularly resonant? Why?
I’m consistently excited to exhibit digital art in physical spaces, especially to audiences encountering such work for the first time. The term “NFT” brings with it a lot of presumptions, often negative — there are certainly problems to address in NFTs. But what I’m encouraged by is the way the NFT explosion of the past year has prompted big conversations about power, value and equity — and its artists who are at the forefront. I’m thrilled we have the chance to honor their contributions to this major shift in art, media and culture.
What do you hope attendees will take with them after experiencing “Uncannyverse” — and the NFT Gallery as a whole?
My hope with “Uncannyverse” is that it provokes new ideas about the ways digital is becoming part of our everyday lives. With the SXSW NFT Gallery, I hope audiences can get a sense of how big the picture is with the changes afoot in art and creativity. Each of the eight curations in the gallery brings a different and refreshing perspective about the state of art in 2022 — from digital to performance art — and makes a clear assertion that the NFT explosion has opened up channels for artists across a wide variety of genres.
At SXSW, you can check out the Marcel.Art XR Showcase from March 13-15, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. CT at the Fairmont in the Congressional Ballroom. Marcel.Art’s co-founders will also be speaking on the panel “Artists and Curators in the Evolving NFT Landscape” as part of the SXSW Culture Track on March 16 at 4pm at the Austin Marriott (304 E. Cesar Chavez St) Ballroom ABC.
Learn more about Jesse Damiani and his work on Instagram @JesseDamiani
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