In 2013, the New Museum presented new work by Dina Kelberman as part of its First Look online exhibition series. Kelberman’s Smoke & Fire
(2013) reflects a reinvigorated impulse towards collecting on the part of contemporary artists. Smoke & Fire
, and previous works by Kelberman, manifest the feeling of drifting or surfing online by compiling images along lines that reflect the way we wander through information online, which can either follow or work against the way images are indexed by search engines.
Much has been written about the withering aspects of the web’s surfeit of information. But for Kelberman, like so many other artists, this visual excess and the process of surfing through it is an inspiration. Kelberman’s original website features an ever-growing grid of gifs (at the time of launch, there are seven hundred total)—each one an image of smoke or fire excerpted from an iconic cartoon (the list now includes The Smurfs
, The Simpsons
, Tom & Jerry
, Darkwing Duck
, Rocky & Bullwinkle
, and many more). The project is hatched out of the artist’s obsessive online surfing—for this project, she located and sampled hundreds of cartoons out of the thousands that she chose—as well as out of a desire to order and rearrange the seemingly endless amount of information available to her. The gif images are linked not strictly by subject matter but also through more free-form visual associations, like form, color, and shape.
The resulting work is a psychic tour of disasters as they are pictured to children (and/or other cartoon enthusiasts). Here, the successive images of smoke and fire pose no threat.
Established in 2012 and co-organized by the New Museum and Rhizome, First Look is a digital art commissioning and exhibition program representing the breadth of art online—from interactive documentary, to custom-built participatory applications, to moving image-based works, and art for mobile VR. Encompassing a substantial array of work that continues to expand, First Look explores the formal, social, and aesthetic possibilities of emerging technologies on the web.
In 2018, the site was archived by the New Museum Archives using Rhizome’s Webrecorder tool. The archived copy may be viewed via Webrecorder.io, here: https://webrecorder.io/NewMuseumArchive/first-look-dina-kelberman-smoke–fire/