DIMENSIONS - How to cloud a shining exhibition by controversial sponsoring
A foray into new 'DIMENSIONS' - visiting the new digital art exhibition in Leipzig
When the main sponsor of an exhibition on digital art is a controversial big data giant that sells surveillance software, you might prick your ears. Especially when that sponsor is called Palantir Technologies, who specialize in analyzing large amounts of data and are known to sell to intelligence and government agencies. We too became curious.
So, here we were, at the Pittlerwerke in Leipzig on April 19th, in front of the entrance to an exhibition called 'DIMENSIONS'. The whole thing is set up under the motto "Digital Art since 1859" and houses 60 works of art in an area of around 10.000 square meters. 'DIMENSIONS' managed to impress us quite early on: Have you ever walked inside one of Da Vincis paintings? Ever seen rain not fall, but apparently rise? Or have you ever stood inside a room, filled to the ceiling with thick fog and then been bombarded with colorful light patterns that made you feel like you were being reprogrammed?
At some point we entered a dimmed hall and stood before a large screen, on which digital worlds literally unfolded before our eyes. We lingered, perhaps because this made it all feel tangible somehow. Overall, a truly magnificent spectacle. We left 'DIMENSIONS', inspired and cheerful, yet pondering.
Despite how honestly wonderful the exhibition was in its design and awe-inspiring pieces of art, we just couldn't ignore that heavy, dark thundercloud hovering overhead, called Palantir.
Without a doubt; a good exhibition can work without highlighting its negative aspects. But when the choice of your sponsor is so deliberate and controversial, yet you decide to ignore the problems, you absolutely must face the accusations of missing transparency and sincerity.
In a press release, the Foundation for Art and Culture, organizer of the exhibition, communicated that they wanted to give cause for thought on the implications of digitalization. But to be frank, this should have involved dealing with the consequences of a global data mining industry, that’s seemingly getting out of hand.
'DIMENSIONS' is a prime example of how a fantastic display of ingenuity and creativity can still leave a sour taste in your mouth. Having Palantir as the main sponsor is a step in the wrong direction in our opinion. The obscure handling of the resulting implications is a potential sign of the art world being willing to lower its moral bar in favor of bigger sponsors and funding sources.