New Sharjah art show looks at the impact of digital technology in our lives

Sharjah Art Foundation’s upcoming major exhibition will tackle issues such as digital surveillance, data privacy and virtual reality

A still from Trevor Paglen's 'Circles' (2015), which will be shown at Sharjah Art Foundation's upcoming exhibition in March. Courtesy the artist and Sharjah Art Foundation
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How have the internet and the rise of digital technology affected us? This question can be answered in diverse, complicated ways, and an upcoming exhibition at the Sharjah Art Foundation will try to address it through art.

Titled Art in the Age of Anxiety, the show will bring together artists from across the world to present more than 60 works across various mediums, including sculpture, print, video, virtual reality and algorithmic programmes.

Featuring more than 30 artists, the exhibition will confront some of the most pressing issues of our time, including digital surveillance and privacy, data mining, the values of virtual existence and the effects of all-consuming technology on our consciousness.

Curated by Omar Kholeif, the foundation's director of collections, Art in the Age of Anxiety examines the "post-digital" condition, referring to the behaviours developed alongside or as a consequence of the rise of technology, from devices to networks. "This is an exhibition that grew out of my own anxiety about the future," Kholeif said.

He has been researching the subject for more than a decade, putting together shows that attempt to consider “how artists explore, deconstruct and materialise the polemical issues raised by our accelerating society”.

The list of participating artists features prominent practitioners, including Trevor Paglen, Jon Rafman, Cao Fei, Guan Xiao, Cory Arcangel, and Lawrence Abu Hamdan. Paglen's work Circles, from 2015, features a video installation that comments on the surveillance state. In a new version of a previous work, Siebren Versteeg's Daily Times (Performer) uses an algorithm that will pull headlines from The National to produce abstract paintings based on the content.

Another highlight is Cao Fei's RMB City, which uses the online world Second Life to create a city as a way to explore differences between real and virtual life. Lynn Hershman Leeson, known for work that tackles the relationship between humans and technology, will present her film Shadow Stalker, which looks at predictive policing, identity theft and data mining.

With the help of architect Todd Reisz, who formerly worked at the Office for Metropolitan Architecture and Yale University, Kholeif has developed an immersive exhibition design that is akin to a maze, which visitors will have to navigate as they go through the works.

Art in the Age of Anxiety will also host a mini symposium and will be held alongside Sharjah Art Foundation's March Meetings 2020.

The other artists in the exhibition are Jeremy Bailey, Wafaa Bilal, James Bridle, Antoine Catala, Douglas Coupland, Thomson & Craighead, Simon Denny, Aleksandra Domanovic, Constant Dullaart, Electronic Disturbance Theater, Oliver Laric, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Eva and Franco Mattes, Joshua Nathanson, Katja Novitskova, Tabor Robak, Pamela Rosenkranz, Aura Satz, Bogosi Sekhukhuni, Jenna Sutela, UVA, Andrew Norman Wilson, Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries.

Art in the Age of Anxiety will open from Saturday, March 21 to Sunday, June 21