Ph.D. Dissertation (2017)

Contemporary Urban Media Art – Images of Urgency
A Curatorial Inquiry

The dissertation examines from a combined academic and curatorial perspective how urban media art – media aesthetic art forms situated in the urban context – may be considered contemporary in the understanding of art that departs from, responds to and co-exists with ‘time’ and temporal experience. Under the themes ‘intensity’, ‘intelligence’ and ‘immersion’ the dissertation examines some of the ways in which our experience is affected by ubiquitous technological mediation, especially in hi-tech urban contexts, and simultaneously how artistic interventions work towards a critical understanding and exploitation of this new condition in our technological reality. I suggest that urban media art – as sensible constructions of temporal images of urgency situated in the urban environment – potentially interfere with the temporal experiences we are offered in our communicative context. Based on this, we can consider urban media art as contemporary especially because of its temporal qualities, as a form of radical temporal art.

Copenhagen University
Institute of Arts and Cultural Studies
Advisor: Professor Martin Zerlang

Assessment Comittee:

Professor Frederik Tygstrup, chair (University of Copenhagen)
Associate Professor Nanna Verhoeff (Utrecht University)
Associate Professor Ava Fatah gen. Schieck (University College




Digital Dynamics in Nordic Contemporary Art (Intellect, forthcoming 2018)

The zeitgeist of the digital is profoundly affecting means and methods of production, presentation, distribution, circulation and experience of art, as an image of thought continuously coming-into-being and influencing how artists think about their practice, capacity and visibility. This anthology is the first examination of how the digital is reshaping contemporary art and aesthetics in the Nordic art scene. It sheds light on newly occurring tendencies, stirred by the digital, which are rewriting aesthetic practices and orientations.

Digital art engages with a myriad of aesthetic affiliations, including cinema, video art, performance art, animation and computing, architecture and engineering. However, it departs from all other art forms on one measure in particular: by the potential of its material to write itself directly into our actual reality; into the digital systems that increasingly make up our environments, architecture, political discourses and societal, social and subjective infrastructures. Also, digital art mirrors and interrogates societal media aesthetics in the institutional framework. Digital art is political in itself, made of the same material that develops and increasingly constitutes society. Digital art does in active function. It deconstructs or contributes to the systems that organize everyday life – continuing the political potential of the avant-garde in a new critical aesthetics. By provoking reactions and activating emotions, it reveals the deficiencies of our world and shows us glimpses of alternative or modified ways things could work. With the impact of digital dynamics on contemporary art, a need has arisen for intensified consideration of art as active, durational, applicable material in direct dialogue with the digital material that increasingly constitutes every aspect of our societal reality. As the digital is sweeping further into the contemporary art scene, it calls for renewing the ways in which we consider the role of art in society, closer to everyday life.

In the context of Nordic contemporary art, the influence of the digital is contributing to lifting the Nordic canon previously known by metaphors of landscape, nature, existentialism, minimalism, melancholia, and intimacy out of an oft-repeated aesthetic narrative, into a realm that is much more complex, hybrid and politically engaged. The notion of the Nordic as a cultural concept has been established and de-stabilized in continuous conflict since the 1980s in particular. The need for readdressing the term of the “Nordic” as plural, political, and under increasing international influence is intertwined with a need for interrogating and re-constructing existential modes of being in the Nordic region. Eventually, the meaning of the Nordic depends on what is attached to it at a given point in time. During the past few decades, the existential dimension of the Nordic concept has been challenged by among other things a declining belief in the welfare state project, uprising of right wing nationalist parties, terror attacks across the Nordic region, and the loss of a sense of national(ist) innocence – not least with the decade of the cartoon crisis this year that still instills political division and frequent threats of international crisis. Contemporary artists deal with these symptoms of cultural, social and political crisis in the Nordic region, expanding the Nordic canon with themes such as control society, migration, bio diversity, energy consumption, labour, xenophobia, posthumanism, and merging of organic matter and technology, in direct aesthetic engagements with the digitally informed systems, perceptions, mechanics and infrastructures that uphold them. The need for examining what digital dynamics does to contemporary art thus involves a need for reflection on a simultaneous reality towards which artists respond. The digital dynamics in Nordic contemporary art will be examined in close relation with the greater political implications of digital aesthetics in a cultural and societal Nordic context.

The book directly departs from insight into the dynamics, orientations and ideas relating to the digital that are influencing the practices of contemporary artists today. It will be the first publication that departs from an extensive survey of actual digital influences on current artistic practices, deriving from a collection of testimonials from more than 200 artists out of which a selection will be included in the book. This methodology of knowledge production reflects the dynamic, transformative nature of the subject matter of the digital. It seeks to ensure that the anthology will reflect the actual reality and orientations of current artistic practice as influenced by the digital. In this manner, the anthology seeks to point forward to how aesthetics are evolving with the current digital dynamics, rather than looking backwards in order to close a status quo.



Research Assistants / 2015 – :

Levi Easterbrooks, BA student, McGill University

Laura Goldschmith, MA-thesis student, Copenhagen University

Camilla Jaller, MA student, Copenhagen University