A Conversation With Kelani Nichole of Brooklyn's TRANSFER Gallery (Part 2)

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We are big fans of Brooklyn based TRANSFER. Gallery founder/director Kelani Nichole, started the exhibition space nearly four years ago in order to support and and cultivate artists with computer-based practices. Get to know Kelani: kelani-nichole-headshot

What are the biggest challenges you face dealing in a digital medium both as a gallerist and as a curator?

Technical details aside, I’d say the biggest challenge currently facing the market for media-based artworks is around preservation and documentation of the artists’ intent.  Much of the work I deal with is software-dependent, ephemeral, or online public artwork, so preserving the larger context and supporting platforms becomes the major consideration when appreciating these works.  Just as any traditional format of artwork, new forms of media require restoration and care, and have the added complexity of authentication.

What are the biggest challenges in collecting digital art?

Preservation and authentication are the two biggest challenges to growing a secondary market for these artworks.  Additionally, the body of criticism is still developing – the artworld is warming up to how to talk about these works, and successful institutional displays are somewhat few and far between.

I’m very keen to explore new methods of authentication. The current standard for authentication is a signed certificate, often accompanied by a digital still, editioned media storage device/object or other accompanying physical ephemera.  In the near future I believe digital transfer of ownership will become more prevalent, as new standards emerge. 

How do you think a platform like Niio will affect the medium of digital art?

I think Niio has solved some of the challenges related to displaying these works. I’m particularly interested in the workflows and collaboration points of the software between collectors, curators, galleries / institutions, agents and artists and believe a method of seamless exchange is an important step to making the work more accessible.  

You’ve said that this year all the shows you’re staging at TRANSFER feature only women artists.  Why is a series like that important to you?

I dedicated 2016 to showing new works from the studios of women, all of them experimental in their format and looking to test new ideas from the studio at TRANSFER.  Gender balance was a hot topic in the artworld last year, a group of women working with new forms of performance and media were featured in ‘Women on the Verge’ in artforum.  

This article crystallized a movement I had started to engage with during ‘gURLs’ a night of performance at TRANSFER  in 2013, and have been tracking ever since.  I found this article inspiring, and saw a timely opportunity to deepen my own understanding of the ways in which women are pushing into new forms of performance, installation and time-based media unlocking new opportunities for technology that are emotional and deeply human. Carla Gannis launched my 2016 program, introducing a new body of 4K video works of self portraiture, a continuation of a year-long performative drawing project.  Claudia Hart’s large-scale media installation was extended through the summer at TRANSFER.  Next I’ll launch Angela Washko’s first video game artwork in September, followed by a new body of work from Morehshin Allahyari in the fall.

Read Part 1 of our interview With Kelani.

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A Conversation With Kelani Nichole of Brooklyn's TRANSFER Gallery (Part 1)

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Kelani Nichole, Founder/Director of Brooklyn based TRANSFER Gallery, started the exhibition space nearly four years ago in order to support and cultivate artists with computer-based practices through solo exhibitions, events and international art fairs. She's passionate about nurturing and growing the digital art market via exposure and education and has taken the time to share some of her insights, challenges and hopes for this fascinating medium.  Get to know Kelani. 

Kelani Nichole

What led to your interest in digital art, specifically computer-based work?

I studied Art History at university and in 2010  joined a curatorial collective in Philadelphia.  As I planned my first exhibition it seemed natural to engage with studios practicing online.  I gravitated toward the avant garde online movement loosely referred to as ‘net art’ and I was hooked.

Over the years, my curatorial specialty has developed along with these studios and I am happy to have a hand in evolving the means of support for artists working with distributed online art practices.

What inspired you to open a physical gallery space dedicated exclusively to digital art?

Opening the gallery was an experiment – I wanted to continue working with the studios I supported in my early curatorial projects.  An article from Claire Bishop in Artforum late in 2012 titled ‘The Digital Divide’ was influential in my resolve to further develop these works through exhibition format in the gallery.

The idea was to focus on solo exhibitions featuring new, challenging work coming from the studio that didn’t have another venue to be realized. The roster of artists was strong right out of the gate and the market came knocking on our door.  

What do you believe are the biggest misconceptions about digital art and what would you like people to understand?

The biggest misconception with ‘digital art’ is that it’s any different than other means of contemporary artmaking. I’m keen to stop using the word ‘digital’ to talk about these practices.  One of the biggest challenges to the appreciation of these emerging formats is our lack of vocabulary to discuss these practices and their implications on the institutions of the artworld.  The practices I support are contemporary art practices that have a fundamentally computer-based process – the works that come from the studios are an even split of moving images/software pieces and physical objects.  

The genres of practice are moving image, photography, sculpture, performance, time-based media, glitch, procedural animation, algorithmic art, installation with a heavy conceptual slant present in my program. I’m specifically interested in Internet aesthetic, distributed art objects, the public space of the Internet, and emerging display technologies such as VR/AR and high-definition 4K formats.  I am working to build a new market for animated GIF artworks, distributed public artworks and application based artworks.

How or where do you see the medium of digital art in 5 years?  Do you see a time when digital art is considered mainstream?

Yes. I believe it is nearly there.  However, there is a grey area in the visual landscape we live in, a world flooded with creators and curators. I believe the art world is still struggling to address these practices and figure out meaningful ways to adapt and contextualize the explosion of creative authorship in our contemporary moment within the canon of art history.

What do you think about all the hype surrounding VR?  Do you think it’s a tool that artists will widely embrace?

Yes. Absolutely.  If you haven’t used HTC Vive go do it immediately.  Go, and you won’t even ask that question anymore. Our world is rapidly virtualizing and I hope artists will deeply engage with VR to help ensure this technology develops with criticality and humanness.  I actively support VR/AR practices and believe this is the future for much of our human experience.

Carla Gannis

Tell us a little bit about your current collaboration  with the Minnesota Street Project, TRANSFER DOWNLOAD. 

I visited the Bay Area this spring just as Minnesota Street was launching, and found my way there on the recommendation of Magda Sawon of Postmasters Gallery.   I could tell this was an opportunity to engage with a fresh new energy around contemporary art. I was lucky to meet the folks involved and found the rotating media room to be a (somewhat smaller) replica of my own space in NYC. MSP has been hugely supportive and I’m excited to spend the summer hosting salons and tours at the space.  I’m fortunate to have fabulous collaborators on the west coast, which is home to an incredible creative coding community.  

NYC TRANSFER Gallery + Niio @ Minnesota Street Project (SF)

NYC TRANSFER Gallery + Niio @ Minnesota Street Project (SF)

We are big fans of Brooklyn based TRANSFER. Gallery founder/director Kelani Nichole, started the exhibition space nearly four years ago in order to support and and cultivate artists with computer-based practices through solo exhibitions, events and international art fairs.

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