Lahore Digital Arts Festival

In conversation with Olha Pylypenko

Olha Pylypenko has a varied background in cultural studies and art programming and worked as a visual researcher and designer in the commercial film production field. Now, however, she is focusing mostly on curation and cultural management within contemporary and new media art. She notes “I got really interested in the universe of post-internet conditions I find us immersed in.” 

Olha was pushed towards the world of digital exhibitions by necessity. The COVID pandemic forced an exhibit she was curating with a class fellows in her master’s program to move into the digital space. This turned out into a discovery of many online galleries and a strong online community. She says, “We were thinking about creating a simple website whose main task was to showcase the artworks. We were taking an easy way, looking at online exhibits in the same way as a physical space. But actually, exhibiting the art online has unlimited options that challenges you as a curator in terms of creativity and approach. And it has a lot to do with our psychology of material perception. It requires another kind of storytelling. You have to remember that you are a creator of the whole new virtual environment in the first place.”

It is those unlimited options that Olha talks about. “Work on developing your abstract thinking, combining ideas and narratives. Explore mediums. Random example, create a new planet shaped like an animal which you enter through its paw and then you explore stories in its brain. I take a lot of inspiration from pop culture or speculative design.” 

Posthuman Island

As Olha was researching net art, she came across an e-curatorial platform Cultural Policy which focuses on fostering digital artists. Currently, she works there as a research associate, helping with the production of and exhibiting art projects, communications, and media. “We work towards creating ideas that engage non-white, immigrant, emerging artists and push critical thinking. It’s a great deal for me that we also work with Ukrainian new media artists.”

Their recent project Posthuman Island focuses on speculative futures and posthumanism research. Currently, they are developing an interactive 3D island that proposes a tour around the futuristic universe of transformed humans in 2060. “I think that this project pushes us to think and rethink our imaginations of the future and our adaptation towards emerging technologies through our psychology, biology and embodiment. It boldly draws our attention to how capitalistic corporations stand by this reality.”

The hybridization of space

Overall, what Olha finds the most interesting about the field of media arts is its interconnectivity and interdisciplinarity. “I’m fascinated by how artists combine this hybridization of space, mindsets and information flow. If we talk about virtual and physical, the work of art no longer exists either digitally or in a gallery, and it’s produced with the means of thinking virtually, perceived and interpreted through it.” This hybridization, Olha notes, is not just about the boundary between physical and virtual. It is also about the channels of information and how we receive and respond to it. 

We asked Olha about how this hybridization will develop in the future. She remarks, “When we think about the future we fall into the trap of thinking it will either be a utopia or a dystopia. For me, I’m not there for any differentiation, I accept the complexity of both of them. It will be more natural for us to feel this fusion.” 

The opposition of post reality – is it really necessary?

The conversation concludes as always with a note about the theme of the festival, post reality. Reality and post reality do not appear to be in opposition to Olha. But at the same time, she does feel that this opposition still exists in the way of our thinking. She references the German philosopher Hans Gumbrecht, whose theory of presence explains our passionate need for physical and real. Thanks to the culture of presence, phenomena and events become more valuable, intensely experienced and affect not only the senses but also our bodies. Presence is the unseen value that has been felt especially during the pandemic condition. “Can online replicate this authenticity of our communication and interaction with the world? Perhaps, it is not about replication, and more about extending one another, and revealing its questions and issues that come along with such a transition.”

She sees the post reality situation as problematic, but not bad. She muses that the world becomes more complicated in one way and more simple in another. The conversation ends with a reflection: “I like thinking about the future and speculations because it makes us rethink what we are doing now and how we are using things. I think we need to ask people more about their vision of the future because that’s how the mind starts working.” 

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