Imagine that you are standing in the micro-studio of a street artist in Luanda, and the next moment you find yourself behind a guy picking up money from a Western Union Counter in Nairobi. Suddenly you are on a stage with a young spoken word poet in Berlin and see people in the audience sharing images of this moment on Instagram. You step out of that Berlin bar into a gallery space in Lagos and from there move into the abstract digital universe created by an art collective in Jakarta.

How do we interpret and apprehend what we are seeing and experiencing?

The continual digitalization of the world impacts cultural production. How does this happen? When and why does 'realness' start, and where does it end, if at all?

These questions have been explored by many thinkers – from artists to scientists to philosophers – and gain particular relevance in current debate, as tensions between the physical and the digital increase. These tensions create new possibilities of accessibility, which is not only important for growing and maintaining networks, but also for the daily, if not hourly, movement of ideas, commissions, and money between global collaborators. All these factors have never been more pressing than they are now, during a time of worldwide crisis. Paradoxically, as we move towards immaterial experiences, we increasingly rely on physical infrastructure to construct them – from fibre optics cables to data centres.
 
An average teenager spends around eight hours 'connected' per day. Some people have millions of friends on social networks, and much of contemporary communication and interaction takes place in virtual environments. Concepts such as digital transformation, artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR) are steadily becoming a bigger part of our daily routines and cultural practices. Video games expose us more and more to alternative, inspirational universes, and algorithms impact our decision-making or even take control of our behaviour. Simultaneously, we seem to assume that it is evident that we live in a world that is real and easier to reach and grasp than ever before.

Realness exists on many levels, in different perspectives and temporalities.

What is real about an entire continent, a country, or a person? What is real about a digital image presented in the daily news and on social media? Which perspectives are 'more' real? 'Realness' here refers to a common understanding that because of constant digital interconnectedness we see, learn, and know about the world in 'real-time'.

Trailer ARE YOU FOR REAL

Concept film by Ainslee Alem Robson and Kidus Hailesilassie

The web-based project ARE YOU FOR REAL is about engaging with and visualizing connections of people, thoughts, things, and places – communication happening through the trading and training of data. It addresses the material and immaterial aspects of the 'digital' and how they are perceived from the perspectives of various disciplines: artists, researchers, and coders are commissioned to create works that offer us their understanding of and approach to reality.

This ongoing project is a platform of exchange that supports formats such as exhibitions, workshops, digital art spaces, and apps. It takes place in arbitrarily chosen sites, as wide-ranging as betting halls, post offices, gaming venues, and cultural centres.

While there is no intention of forming a linear narrative, a thread links the events and creates moments of encounter. Like the children's game in which a message is created, passed on, and distorted between one player to another through whispering, the outcome is always unexpected and unpredictable. This playful approach generates conversations between perspectives and concepts, helping explore the overlaps and interstices that link fields, formats, and contexts.

The artworks produced will change during the course of the project, as new artists join and take over, add, and react to them. This means that certain qualities of a traveling exhibition will become visible, articulated through the touring of thought and the changes and traces in each work.

The approach for this project challenges the decades-long format of touring exhibitions, as developed by ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen, an institute for international cultural relations), by sending exhibitions of art from Germany around the world. ARE YOU FOR REAL aims to create an international cultural exchange as well as a contemporary co-creative practice of exhibition-making. The challenge is to deconstruct the inflexibility of the classic touring format and explore other models that respond to the questions we are posing through international collaboration and new artistic production.

Go to Project ARE YOU FOR REAL

Artists

© Nolan Oswald Dennis

Nolan Oswald Dennis

is an interdisciplinary artist from Johannesburg. His practice explores a Black consciousness of space, meaning the material and metaphysical conditions of decolonisation. He questions the politics of space and time through a system-specific approach. He is concerned with the hidden structures that predetermine the limits of our social and political imaginations. Through diagrams, drawings, and models, Dennis probes this hidden landscape of systematic and structural conditions, attempting to stitch technological, spiritual, economic, and psychological systems together – to read the technological alongside the spiritual, to combine political fictions with science fiction.

Link to the website

© Can Karaalioglu

Can Karaalioglu

is a Berlin-based automation engineer currently working in VR research. His artwork focuses on discriminatory and oppressive technologies through the lens of intersectionality, as well as on how technology impacts identities and digital culture in general.

© Nushin Yazdani

Nushin Isabelle Yazdani

is an interaction and transformation designer, artist, and AI researcher based in Berlin. Her work examines the interconnectedness of digital technologies and social justice, of artificial intelligence and discrimination, from an intersectional feminist perspective. She seeks to explore design processes that dismantle oppressive structures. At Berlin's Education Innovation Lab, Yazdani works on transforming the education system and creating innovative learning methods. She lectures at various universities, and is a member of the Design Justice Network and dgtl fmnsm. She also curates and organizes community events at the intersection of technology, art, and design.

Link to the website

The project features further contributions by

  • Ibrahim Cissé & Asmaa Jama,
  • João Renato Orecchia Zúñiga,
  • Nelly Y. Pinkrah,
  • Ainslee Alem Robson & Kidus Aailesilassie and
  • Michelle M. Wright.

Webdesign and Coding

© Yehwan Song

Yehwan Song

is a Korean-born graphic designer, web designer, and web developer running her own independent creative studio, YSong. She is interested in upending the general understanding of web design and playing with visual elements and interactions emerging from content structure. She designs and develops experimental websites and interactive graphics generated from sets of rules instead of static templates and conventions.

Curation

© Julia Grosse, Foto: Benjamin Renter

Julia Grosse

is co-founder and chief editor of the art magazines Contemporary And (C&) and Contemporary And América Latina (C&AL). With Yvette Mutumba, she was presented the prestigious 'European Cultural Manager of the Year' award in 2020 for exemplary approaches in cultural mediation and sustainability. Grosse is a lecturer at the Institute for Art in Context at the University of the Arts in Berlin. She studied art history, German literature and media studies at the Ruhr University in Bochum and worked as a columnist and arts journalist in London for Die Tageszeitung (taz), Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (FAS), Architectural Digest, and the Süddeutsche Zeitung. In 2020 she curated the festival 'Friendly Confrontations: Festival für Globale Kunst und Institutionskritik' at the Münchner Kammerspiele.

© Yvette Mutumba, Foto: Benjamin Renter

Yvette Mutumba

is co-founder and editor-in-chief of the art magazines Contemporary And (C&) and Contemporary And América Latina (C&AL). With Julia Grosse, she was presented the prestigious 'European Cultural Manager of the Year' award in 2020 for exemplary approaches in cultural mediation and sustainability. She also lectures at the Institute of Art in Context, University of Arts in Berlin and is Curator-at-Large at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. 2018 she was part of the Curatorial Team of the 10th Berlin Biennial for Contemporary Art and Visiting Professor for 'Global Discourses' at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne. 2012 to 2016 she worked as a curator at the Weltkulturen Museum in Frankfurt a. M. Mutumba studied Art History at Freie Universität Berlin and holds a PhD from Birkbeck, University of London.

© Mario Macilau

Paula Nascimento

is an architect and independent curator based in Luanda. She has curated several exhibitions in Angola, South Africa, Portugal, Italy, including participations at the Bam-ako Biennial, VI Lubumbashi Biennial, the African Mobilities Project and is the curator for Focus Africa at Arco Lisboa. She is the co-founder of Beyond Entropy Africa, a collective that developed projects in the fields of architecture-contemporary arts and geopolitics and was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennial in 2013 and an African Architecture Award in 2017. Nascimento collaborates with several educational projects and has contributed to several publications. She has an MA in Architecture from the London South Bank University.

Exhibitions worldwide

With over 20 touring exhibitions currently travelling across the globe and with its diverse event programmes on contemporary art, the ifa links the German art scene with internationally active cultural creators and forms cooperations and networks. The projects, many of which were developed in co-creation with local partners, cover the various disciplines of modern and contemporary fine arts – from current themes in architecture, photography and design to Bauhaus and monographic exhibitions such as Rosemarie Trockel or Wolfgang Tillmans. These projects generate local meeting platforms and allow international perspectives on topics of global relevance. The ifa also provides loan exhibits to interested museums.

Find out more

Download:

Overview exhibitions worldwide 2021 (PDF)

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