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Lockdown Experiences, Case Study, Lumen Art Projects

My Lockdown Story – Bright Lights in Norway
By Carla Rapoport, Executive Director & Founder, Lumen Art Projects

Refik Anadol - Melting Memories

Refik Anadol – Melting Memories

As the world started to shut down and every exhibition, festival and commission we’d been working on was postponed, shuttered or cancelled, there was one bright light shining. It was the green ‘active now’ dot on our Skype link with Torill Haugen, digital curator of Sørlandets Kunstmuseum, Kristiansand, Norway. My colleague Jack Addis kept his Skype on too and throughout the days and weeks of uncertainty in March, Torill and Jack kept a conversation going.

Maybe the exhibition we were planning in late May, featuring two of our US-based artists, Sougwen Chung and Refik Anadol, could go ahead without any travel involved? Norway’s experience with COVID-19 was going reasonably well. A big Skype call in mid-April confirmed that a re-opening of Norway – and its museums – was likely by the end of the month – hooray! But would – or indeed, could – the artists adapt to the changing parameters? Happily, Lumen Art Projects specialises in art created with technology and neither work chosen for this exhibition was going to be physically sent to Norway. But both artists were scheduled to be at the opening and Sougwen Chung, was planning to perform with her robots live on the first night.

Happily, Sougwen had already been developing a telepresence version of her performance that could interact with a live audience as a way to cut down on her air miles before even COVID existed. Now, she had the perfect opportunity to develop this aspect of her practice. And Jack became adept at the remote management of the design and an installation of which involved a 5m x 5m LED screen for artist Refik Anadol’s work, Melting Memories.

The opening was scheduled for 18 June and as I chewed my nails at my home in Wales, Jack was on Zoom from his home in Trowbridge, UK, chatting live with Refik to the VIP attendees in Norway. The emails started to flow soon after – Torill was thrilled as was the audience. I poured myself a drink! Since then Sougwen has given two of her 5 scheduled telepresence performances, also live, beaming herself from her studio in NYC.

Having staged, installed and attended openings of our shows around the globe, it feels very odd not to have been able to attend this one. But Jack and I are thrilled that the show went on – and continues to attract visitors daily. Re.Memory remains on until early October and I really hope to visit it. But mainly, I’m just really proud of Sougwen, Jack and Torill for the flexibility, patience and ingenuity for bringing this off.

And looking ahead here in the UK, we’re excited to be talking with a range of new partners who want to know more about art that can arrive in their exhibition space without the need for couriers or on-site installation. Digital art, it seems, has come of age.

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