A digital-only art group goes meatspace at Assemble | Community Profile | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

A digital-only art group goes meatspace at Assemble

"We prefer art that can only be done digitally."

Art group Manifesto-ish has had four exhibits in as many years, but it has never had a gallery.

The collective, formed by four former graduate students at Philadelphia's University of the Arts, runs an art space that exists only online. Arranged like Google Maps' Street View, the gallery features 2-D art hanging on virtual 3-D "walls." Visitors even see fellow patrons appear as ghost-like figures. Shows have presented famous paintings altered through Instagram filters, and artwork appropriated from the backgrounds of video games. "There is a lot of tongue-in-cheek," says co-founder Veronica Cianfrano. "We prefer art that can only be done digitally."

Now, the group (with three members still based in Philadelphia) has moved its vision into the real world. But the works in Digital Divide, at Assemble Gallery, still concern data.

Manifesto-ish co-founder Matt Zigler's "Natura Technica" is a series of inkjet portraits of endangered species spliced into digital collages of charts and graphs about their numbers, habitat, physiology, etc. "These are animals that would not exist anymore except for this scientific effort to save them," says Zigler. "The animal and the information go hand in hand."

Art group Manifesto-ish Digital Divide at Assemble Gallery
And weep: from Veronica Cianfrano's "For Crying Out Loud"

For "Profile Pictures," Lauren McCarty recreated some 50 of her friends' Facebook profile pictures using the primitive cyanotype photography process, creating a wall of blue-ish outlines. Her "Life Line" is a long series of life events, written like status updates on clear panes of plastic, laboriously transplanting a social-media staple into physical space.   

To create "For Crying Out Loud," Cianfrano culled YouTube videos of people crying. She sketched 20 of them, and the portraits are exhibited in a grid while projections of the videos themselves play over top, serially. The teary vloggers range from a frustrated agoraphobe to a teenager whose friends ditched him at a carnival.

Jessie Ann Clark's "Message in a Bottle" is a collection of household bottles (drink, perfume, spice, etc.) containing notes she wrote, ranging from poetry to grocery lists and her thoughts on a 2012 shooting at a Seattle coffee shop where she once worked. Visitors may open the bottles and read the notes.

Clark says that if the works have a theme, it's "the difficulty of communication. Whether you are crying on YouTube or writing a message in a bottle, you're trying to reach out without having the necessary skills."

Hands off Rafah protest in East Liberty
21 images

Hands off Rafah protest in East Liberty

By Mars Johnson