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Curating context online: Annali Cabano-Dempsey discusses UJ’s Moving Cube

CF: The launch of this event, digitally, can be considered a lead-up to the physical exhibition next year. How do digital and physical exhibitions work to complement one another, and is this an exhibition model you’ll continue to pursue going forward?
ACD: The ongoing collaboration between MTN SA Foundation and the UJ Art Gallery will indeed bring Boshoff’s 40 artworks from the Blind Alphabet, letter B to the physical UJ Art Gallery space during October/November 2021. What we have learned so far is that traditional real time and space exhibitions and those in the virtual domain are complementary rather than separate entities. 
     Visual art is by nature tactile, to be experienced by a multitude of senses and emotions in its pure form.  With pandemic restrictions in place for the foreseeable future, we are in the fortunate position to explore various opportunities with artists – some exhibitions will be purely virtual, with a hybrid of both virtual and gallery exhibitions now possible.
     Contextual online content is becoming more important – providing background to enhance the experience and understanding of the work.

UJ Moving Cube online gallery Willem Boshoff
ARTIST Willem Boshoff

CF: The Covid-19 pandemic has seen a great deal of arts institutions switching over to a digital exhibition model. What are some of the benefits and challenges of exhibiting physical artworks to an online audience?
ACD: The obvious benefits are twofold: access to a far wider, global audience and the presentation of an online exhibition where restrictions prohibit an actual white cube experience. 
     Galleries were complacent in developing an online presence and were forced to utilise rapidly changing new technologies within a very short timeframe. The challenge is now to embrace new skills; to be creative in developing a new language to present visual art and to strive for a unique identity.   

CF: Similarly, this has been a challenging year for artists in that they aren’t able to showcase their work to audiences in the traditional gallery settings. How can digital platforms like Moving Cube work fill the gap and bring the work of artists to a wider audience?
ACD: The UJ Art Gallery will still fulfill its mandate as exhibition space, albeit with restrictions on audience participation.  Moving Cube offers artists an online presence with the capability to reach global audiences and participation in a new reality.

CF: In terms of curation, what are some of the main shifts in the selecting and exhibiting of artworks on a digital platform as opposed to a physical exhibition?
ACD: The scope of possibilities has widened substantially due to the ability to work on digital platforms as well as in real time and space. Curators will have to look closely at content of exhibitions and identify opportunities to showcase artworks to its best potential. An annual programme will no longer be sequential but would rather have overlapping elements, offering more viewing material than before and a hybrid of real and virtual.

CF: Looking ahead, what are your expectations for Moving Cube and what can audiences expect from the project in future?  
ACD: We can yearn for a world of yesteryear or we can embark on a brave journey into new and often unchartered territories where a much wider scope of artists’ offerings and audience involvement awaits us. New technologies are developing as we speak, collaboration on international level becomes easier and the virtual world offers numerous opportunities for research, teaching and learning outcomes.
     I choose to level the playing field between the white cube and the Moving Cube to the best of my ability, assisting artists and audiences on this exciting journey into the future.

Go back to page 1 of our Q&A with Annali Cabano-Dempsey

Navigate through our Moving Cube articles:

Willem Boshoff exhibition – The Blind Alphabet
Moving Cube – a newly developed UJ Art Gallery website
Mentorship, education and the Emerging Artist Development Programme – how to enter
Exploring The Blind Alphabet with MTN Foundation’s Niel Nortje
Curating context online: Annali Cabano-Dempsey discusses UJ’s Moving Cube

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