Step into the Metaverse in Underground Atlanta's digital art gallery
The recently renovated Underground Atlanta is now home to the world’s largest digital art gallery, “DIGATL,” a playful spelling pronounced “digital.” The exhibition opened in April and is on view through June 30. Inside, visitors are dazzled by digital imagery with large-scale projections, interactive installations, animation and virtual reality immersion. Curator Kris Pilcher joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom with two artists featured in the exhibition, Neel Shivdasani and Katie McManus, aka “Lil’ Sushi.”
Pilcher began the conversation with a brief primer on how NFTs function in the art world. “NFTs are non-fungible tokens. So essentially … if you think about a painting and how when the painting is finished, the artist will sign their signature in the corner, using an NFT is sort of the same as digitally signing your work. And you do this on the blockchain, which creates an infallible record that can be traced in the future and is on public view,” explained Pilcher. “This allows artists who are working in digital mediums … a way to prove ownership of their work, prove that it is an original, and then also monetize that work in the future.” At “DIGATL,” NFT artwork enters physical space, showing how art created on computers can be displayed, experienced and purchased in more traditional gallery settings.
“Inside of the exhibition, we have large-scale projections. We have these interactive installations that are influenced by the viewers’ movements and presence in the space. We have virtual reality,” Pilcher continued, “And then we have an entire section that is devoted to NFT artworks. These pieces can be purchased off the wall.” A key feature setting NFTs apart from traditional physical art is the format’s requirement of cryptocurrency for trading in the art market. Crypto holders interested in purchasing art at “DIGATL” can scan a QR code next to the piece with their phone and buy art pieces with their crypto wallet. “One hundred percent of the proceeds go back to the artist who created the work. ‘DIGATL’ doesn’t take any sort of percentage or commission from that,” Pilcher added.
Shivdasani is a featured artist who works in the medium of “generative art.” He defined this term as artwork where “the artist creates a system in which some other force — nature, gravity, light, heat — plays a role in the outcome. Generative digital art is generally when artists use code and write a concept, but random processes determine the specifics of each output. So you could run the code a thousand times and see different outputs.” The three pieces he’s displaying at “DIGATL” were made this way, resulting in vividly colorful, gestural shapes skirting a fine line between pattern and randomness. “What I like to play around with is this idea that if you have a predictable system, and you disrupt it in just a minor way, you’ll actually get a somewhat organized emergent behavior; that’s not what you might expect,” said Shivdasani.
McManus presents her digital artwork in the show — kaleidoscopic bursts of color and form, with components suggesting jewel, metal and architectural features. She explained, “I like aspects of the uncanny valley — so, things that look like you’ve been there before, but something about them is a little bit off. I also derive a lot of inspiration from architecture and vegetation in general, and anime is very important to me … Honestly, a lot of it comes from dreams that I’ve had.”
In addition to the striking static images on display, visitors can don VR headsets to enter immersive virtual worlds. “There is one from an artist named Violet Forest, and it’s called ‘Sparkle Hands.’ It gives you sparkly hands that create these really amazing trails and allow you to interact with the real world, and make it a more beautiful place through the power of this virtual headset,” Pilcher said. Other VR experiences include a choreographed dance piece in which headset users, cloaked in unique avatars, can participate with partners and a 360-degree psychedelic wonderland visitors can explore.
“DIGATL” remains on display at Underground Atlanta through June 30. Tickets and more information are available at www.atlnft.art.