Abstract images (in painting and sculpture and in film and dance) have occupied a prominent position in the art of the last hundred years. The Digital Abstractions project examines contemporary digital art works and brings them in an online catalog in association with earlier works in the history of abstract modern art. The investigation focuses on moving images with a mathematical basis, that is, on works whose conception is underpinned by a mathematically generative program, from algorithms or, if formulated iconographically, on basic forms, on curves and patterns.

One cannot study forms of abstract visual art without wondering how they relate to the world. Are they representations of real things and if so, in what way? Or do they only lay claim to the status of form without any semiotic implications? Concepts of abstract art over the past 100 years have offered a wide range of answers to these questions. The referential aspect is a core concern of all abstract visual art and therefore crucial to our study as well.

Between pure abstraction and a depiction of the world, abstract art continues to evolve. The world to which it applies today is pervaded by the structures of computer systems and is thus already inherently abstract. The computer has become the ultimate tool of our age. Binary states, which were already used by Malevich in his works, have made many complex connections over the years and led to an abstract data space in which we now move on an everyday basis.

In the Digital Abstractions exhibition at the HeK (House of electronic Arts) we aim to retell the story of the development of abstract imagery in the digital era using examples from the works of contemporary artists. Regarding the exhibition as a whole, two topic areas can be distinguished to which many works may be assigned: the relationship between abstraction and the representation of space and the artistic approach to scientific abstraction. The exhibits include works based on algorithmic methods of image segmentation, immersive audiovisual installations and video journeys through abstract image spaces that are also inspired by computer games, 3D architectural models, or Google Street View. Together with the artists, the exhibition crosses the boundary between ‘serious’ art and entertainment and between popular culture and the educated aesthetic. Some exhibits are reminiscent, say, of sculptural or animated comics. They offer a cloned, looped, fractally transformed caricature of reality, shifting between affirmation and irony. Other works in the exhibition combine an artistic concept with the aesthetics of scientific images or develop a hybrid form between art and information design to illustrate a political narrative.


 The Blog
The blog provides a platform for theme-oriented exchange among project participants and other interested specialists. It is a forum for thinking about aspects of digital abstraction and drawing attention to relevant works and contexts.

 The online collection
The online catalogue serves as a space of collecting and reflecting, as a tool that orders visually based studies and interrelates historical and contemporary examples. It consists of a multimedia collection of abstract visual formats of modern visual history and of digital art with an emphasis on moving works.

 The Exhibition
Digital Abstractions took place 2016 from April 7 through May 22 at HeK (Haus of electronic Arts Basel) and was curated by Alexandra Adler and Reinhard Storz. It opened on Wednesday, April 6 at 7 pm. An Artist Talk with Rafael Rozendaal was held before the opening, at 6 pm, and the opening was followed by an audiovisual performance with Rainer Kohlberger at about 8 pm. The exhibition was complemented by Artist Talks and lectures.  List of the artists

For September 2016 an e-book is planed with contributions by authors and artists. The chosen e-book format for tablet computers and smart phones allows to embed animations. List of authors


Project head: Reinhard Storz
Conceptual assistant: Elisabeth Ritschard
Curators of the exhibition: Alexandra Adler and Reinhard Storz
Design E-book and Blog: Esther Hunziker

Digital Abstraction is a coproduction of Xcult.org, the Art Institute of the Academy of Art and Design in Basel FHNW and HeK (House of Electronic Arts Basel).


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Project support by  Christoph Merian Stiftung and Fachausschuss Audiovision und Multimedia BS/BL


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