arebyte, the London-based contemporary platform dedicated to New Media and Performance Art launched The Digital Weird last June, a group exhibition exploring the realm of “weirding” in digital art trends. The exhibition has been co-curated by Rebecca Edwards (arebyte) and Jan Robert Leegte and parodies the format of an online scavenger hunt.
The concept of the weird is something that has been lengthy examined in contemporary culture, Marks Fisher does a great recount in his book The weird and the eerie (Repeater, 2016). It has also been investigated in the digital realm where humans are finding a new environment where things exist in other terms. Think about the uncanny valley, the diversion of narratives and time-space bending.
In this exhibition, visitors are asked to find hyperlinks within each work to progress through a sequence of carefully placed videos, stills, texts and games. These works are disseminated across a number of platforms, websites, and other methods of communication; supplanted into subcultured social scenes, added into niche video platforms, appearing as links into the esotericism of Reddit debates, and bogus landmarks within the Google map matrix.
Nothing is what it seems, and nothing is given the context of the artist name or exhibition title. Using nonsense usernames and phoney accounts, the embedded works exist in a chain of discovery but can equally be stumbled upon by unsuspecting viewers at random.
Whether a passive intruder or an active participant in the hunt, viewers are encouraged to waste time on the internet – to inhabit the privileged position of the digital Flâneur – and to succumb to their inherent curiosity of going down an internet rabbit hole. Always a follower of visitors before them, newer explorers will be looking for the warmth of a seat that has just been departed.
The exhibition is an exploration into the underbelly: subcultures, underground practitioners, theories, genres and artists, all grazing the surface of what the weird could encompass. The works are used as tools to rethink our positioning towards terminology often given to that which some would rather ignore: creepy, unnatural, freaky, unfamiliar, weird. Unpacking the negative connotations of these words (rejection, embarrassment, and different) may enable us to better understand the non-binaries and the varied realms and meanings of the weird that have existed for centuries.
Often traced back to the literary genres of horror and sci-fi, the idea of the Weird has frequently existed as an antithesis to that which is accepted or welcomed. However, movements surrounding acceptance and newfound desirability to be oneself (no matter how unlike the standardised form) allow the Weird, and all it encompasses, to exist as a positive disruptor against the homogeneity of all kinds. The Weird is no longer something that exists outside but is something that has been inside all along.
Featured artists include Digital Excreta, Adham Faramawy, Casey Kauffmann, Wednesday Kim, Geoffrey Lillemon, Rachel Maclean, Cassie McQuater, Jacques Perconte, Sabrina Ratté, Nicolai Schmelling, The Vasulkas and Kid Xanthrax.
The online exhibition will run until 6 September 2021.