Lynn Hershman Leeson, Shigeko Kubota, Gwen Smith, Sara VanDerBeek, Stan VanDerBeek, Lau Wai, Yelena Yemchuk
Inspired to address the increasing isolation and disembodiment of contemporary life (accelerated and exacerbated by the global pandemic), and to support and engage with their artistic communities, Sara VanDerBeek and Chelsea Spengemann co-founded soft network, an experimental cooperative. For their first project, soft network presents a collaborative conversation and exhibition soft network, jointly hosted by Altman Siegel in an Online Viewing Room and by Rachel Comey on her website and in her New York showroom.
For the exhibition, soft network, VanDerBeek and Spengemann invited the participation of a group of artists and artist foundations in their existing network: Shigeko Kubota Video Art Foundation, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Gwen Smith, Sara VanDerBeek, Stan VanDerBeek Archive, Lau Wai, and Yelena Yemchuk. Contributions include streaming digital videos, prints made from paintings made from photographic portraits found online, paintings on photographs, 3D printed figures, early computer- generated imagery and collage.
At the center of this presentation, Sara VanDerBeek introduces a new series entitled, "Ancient Woman 2022," in which she incorporates gestural layers of paint and eye shadow onto the surface of her photographs for the first time. She began photographing Roman statuary in 2012 with a residency in Rome at Fondazione Memmo, and continues to work with ancient female figures as an evolving and expanding archive. Returning to images of a sculpture of Aphrodite from the National Archeological Museum in Naples as well as other images of the female form from various international collections, VanDerBeek captures, colorizes and renders these ancient women into new composites of image and action. This act of reclamation and of reverence is meant as both a disruption and a reframing to encourage new perspectives on the past and the present.
In addition to their artworks, participants were invited to contribute text and images exploring themes of networked bodies, image networks, and re-surfacing histories. Assembled by soft network and included throughout the soft network Online Viewing Room, this combinatory conversation reflects an interest in experimenting with existing presentation platforms to encourage connectivity.
Rachel Comey, an established designer and friend of soft network who has successfully pushed against conventions in the fashion business, will host parallel platforms for soft network’s projects on her website and in her NYC store. By engaging multiple platforms, soft network aims to respond flexibly to economic challenges in the arts, creating opportunities for connectivity beyond conventional art spaces, while expanding audiences for all participants. Including multiple platforms, open forum discussion, a responsive range of items for sale and a dynamic, intergenerational group of makers are all gestures that soft network plans to continue with in future projects.