BY Ben Eastham in Culture Digest | 23 MAR 16

We Are Here

The rise of online exhibition spaces and the documenting of social unrest

BY Ben Eastham in Culture Digest | 23 MAR 16

Ronnie Close, More Out of Curiosity (2014), film still. Courtesy the artist

Recent conversations with fellow frieze contributor Orit Gat have returned to the relative paucity of online exhibition spaces. Why, when we spend so much time online looking at art, are there so few sites devoted to presenting it in a way that doesn’t simply mimic or reproduce its arrangement in bricks-and-mortar spaces? There are numerous systemic obstacles (not the least of them financial), but it remains surprising, when you reflect on it, that it is so often necessary to traipse to a white walled gallery in order to watch a six-minute video on a flat screen monitor.

The International New Media Gallery is among the exceptions to this rule. Founded in 2012, it is an online platform that screens artists’ photographs, films and videos with the aim of ‘diversifying how visitors experience culture’. The current exhibition, titled ‘We Are Here’, showcases two documentary films by Ronnie Close, both of which explore social unrest through the prism of football culture. Set in Egypt, More Out of Curiosity (2014) follows the Ultras of Cairo’s Al Ahly SC as they protest the death of 74 fans during a riot at a rival ground in Port Said in 2012, in which it is alleged that the police were complicit. The film touches on issues of masculinity, identity, media control, organized protest and the suppression of dissident voices: Al Ahly’s fans were vocal supporters of the 2011 revolution and a visible presence on the streets following the military’s assumption of power. Serious Games (also 2014) exposes the ugly disparity between the airbrushed corporate spectacular of the most recent World Cup, hosted by Brazil, and the police brutality, endemic corruption and media collusion upon which that image was founded. It’s fitting that these films should be made available to wider audiences through this initiative. 

Ben Eastham is editor-in-chief of art-agenda and author of The Imaginary Museum (TLS Books, 2020).