“Free” explores how the internet has fundamentally changed our landscape of information and our notion of public space. Our shared space has expanded beyond streets and schools to more distributed forms of collectivity. What constitutes this expanded public is not only greater social connectedness but a highly visual, hybrid commons of information. As the artist Seth Price wrote in his essay “Dispersion,” which serves as a touchstone for this exhibition and is featured here within a large-scale sculptural Essay with Knots: “Collective experience is now based on simultaneous private experiences, distributed across the field of media culture, knit together by ongoing debate, publicity, promotion, and discussion. Publicness today has as much to do with sites of production and reproduction as it does with any supposed physical commons, so a popular album could be regarded as a more successful instance of public art than a monument tucked away in an urban plaza.” “Free” takes its name from free culture, a social movement that acknowledges the revolution the internet has caused in industries like music and print publishing, and argues that it be dealt with as an opportunity for greater sharing and distribution of knowledge, rather than a threat. “Free” is based in this commitment to openness — but not directly about the movement itself. Rather, it explores how artists are engaging with the complex freedoms of a newly expanded public space; how they are examining the possibilities and dilemmas enabled by broader availability and circulation of digital material, rooting out information that is missing or hidden in an ostensibly more transparent society, and locating new contexts for art to take place. Instead of exploring the internet’s formal properties — code and connectivity among them — “Free” explores its broader influence as a territory populated and fought over by individuals, government, and corporations, as a tool and as a cultural catalyst. The artists included here span various disciplines: photography, sculpture, video, and installation, among others. They emerge from different modes of artistic practice, and are connected through an expansive conversation around the show’s themes. The exhibition catalogue will take the form of an active website — newmuseum.org/free — including descriptions of each artwork in the exhibition, biographical details on the artists, as well as essays and a blog.
“Free” is curated by Lauren Cornell, Executive Director of Rhizome and Adjunct Curator of the New Museum