Over half a century ago, the Kunsthalle Bern held an exhibition that revolutionized the art world by challenging the conventional notions of art and its presentation. At the same time it redefined the role of a curator and transformed their relationship with artists.
Today, we face new challenges that continue to evolve this dialogue. The 'From Thought to Form' exhibition by Flannel Collective resurrects this conversation about art and its curation, posing pertinent questions within the context of the web3 era.
The groundbreaking exhibition When Attitudes Become Form (1969) featured works from notable artists of the post-war period, such as Carl Andre, Joseph Beuys, Eva Hesse, Yves Klein, Sol LeWitt, Richard Serra, Robert Morris, Bruce Nauman, Robert Smithson, and Lawrence Weiner, among 68 other artists who presented 127 pieces.
The exhibition displayed not only physical objects but also experiences and actions, challenging the traditional separation between artist and audience. When Attitudes Become Form was focused on the process of creation rather than the final product. Keith Sonnier's contribution of the phrase ‘Live in your Head’ perfectly encapsulated the spirit of the exhibition. By transforming the Kunsthalle in Bern into a large-scale artists' studio, the show allowed for process-based art to be displayed, as well as promoting discussion.
Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form was not only a seminal event but also a conceptual model, now occupying a special place in the curatorial development. Harald Szeemann presented himself as an independent exhibition-maker while working alongside the artists as a co-creator in the artistic process, making the exhibition a work of art in itself. As a result, Attitudes has come to represent the romantic conception of the curator as an inspired partner of the artist.
Attitudes was a highly controversial exhibition that challenged the conservative public. It was incredibly experimental during its time and met with almost universal rejection. Disdain was expressed through bad reviews, mockery, written vituperation, and even dumping manure at the entrance. Protests were also held, with military uniforms being burned in protest. As a result of the backlash, curator Harald Szeemann resigned as director of the Kunsthalle Bern and went on to pursue a life of independent curatorial activity.
“I wanted to bridge the gap between traditional historical exhibitions and the often-insular world of web3 art.” - FlannelCapital
Over 50 years later, this exhibition still echoes in the works of many contemporary artists today. Inspired by this exhibition and Szeemann's innovative curatorial approach, Flannel Collective curated From Thought to Form, which has three main goals in mind. “Firstly, I wanted to bridge the gap between traditional historical exhibitions and the often-insular world of web3 art,” says Flannel, the digital art collector known as FlannelCapital and the co-founder of the Flannel Collective. “We wanted to achieve this by creating a space for commentary and conversation between the two worlds,” he explains.
Besides that, with From Thought to Form the collective wants to address the liberal use of the term ‘curator’ within the web3 art community. “This term is quite often attributed to individuals who do not particularly fit the traditional role of a curator, and are better described as tastemakers or social media influencers,” Flannel reflects. And to top it off From Thought to Form was also designed “to be a space for experimentation and growth for web3 artists who may feel pressured to stick to a recognizable style to sell their work.” Flannel notes that “just like the When Attitudes Become Form exhibition in 1969, From Thought to Form creates a safe space for artists to take risks and try something new.”
The 39 participating artists in this exhibition are all pushing boundaries and experimenting with new concepts and techniques, challenging the status quo. One standout artist is Crow, a digital abstractionist who utilizes a scanner in his artistic process. For Searching’, Crow took his scanner and incorporated it into a temporary wall, complete with a light switch and placard, which resulted in a GIF that poses thought-provoking questions about the act of seeking answers. Additionally, Noumenal's epistolary studies series is a striking example of digitally manipulated ChatGPT text. The artist generated a letter to the late Harald Szeemann that explains the concept of art-on-the-blockchain, let a HP 7475a pen plotter at work with it and then added digital paint.
Mical Noelson also employs modern technology in a fresh and inventive way. For Käse, Fett und Milch (Cheese, Fat and Milk), the artist utilized generated text as a key element, sourcing it from a mix of Wikipedia, chatGPT, and DEEPLtranslator. The piece is based on a fictional story that Joseph Beuys would recount about his WWII plane crash, which became a central part of his artistic practice and self-generated myth. Noelson's work engages with Beuys' blackboard series and explores the notion of the individual artist, moving from a self-propelled fiction to a physical reality, and now on to the digital realm.
On the other hand, SpaceCase's influence | 2023-indefinite takes digital painting to the next level. This piece comprises 11,400 handmade marks, each representing one of his followers on Twitter. SpaceCase plans to add to this work and manually update the metadata twice a year until his death or the demise of the app. Yet another noteworthy piece in the exhibition is Alejandro Javaloyas' A 36" x 36" REMOVAL TO THE LATHING OR SUPPORT WALL OF PLASTER OR WALLBOARD FROM A WALL, 2023. This work is directly related to Lawrence Weiner's piece presented at the Attitudes show, and Alejandro is particularly interested in the instructions implied by the title of the 1969 work, resulting in a digital wall: a 36'' x 36'' transparent hole in the middle of this PNG file.
However, AJ Amos, Amaan Jahangir, Ali Gapo, Alex Mack, Altgnon, Amir Hamz, Backwards Geometry, Beissu, Cajabeats, Cian Coleman, Cristina Rosa, Danil Pan, Dijiact, Holly Herbert, Ilan Derech, Indra Gondi, Ishika Guha, Jake Andrew, Lisanne Haack, Luciana Guerra, Michelle Viljoen, Michell Thompson, Mother Louisiane, Naturlichturism, Peter Evans, Philipp Rosenhain, Primitive_RE, Reine Polaris, Rex_inProgress, Rian Michelle, Rick Bakas, Sara Di Lella, SymbolicArtist and Valeriana la infusión should all be highly commended for their remarkable contribution to the exhibition.
The Flannel Collective's exhibition sparks a thought-provoking dialogue and continues an important conversation that was initiated by Szeemann and the artists of the 1969 Attitudes show. From Thought to Form raises several questions that are relevant to the current era of web3 art. It delves into the definition and value of digital art, the significance of experimentation and risk-taking in this art ecosystem, and the intersection and collaboration between traditional and on-chain art. Additionally, it explores the roles of creators and curators in the digital realm of web3, and the definition of their relationship in the contemporary art landscape. Therefore the exhibition is stimulating a much-needed discourse that challenges and expands our understanding of art in the digital age.