October 3, 2022

Surveyors of Magic: A Chat With Curator Tabitha Swanson 

Words by
Kate Neave
Featured Artists
In this article

The digital realm offers us the perfect space in which to explore our limitless imagination. A place to expand our perspective, free from physical constraints and accepted convention. ‘Surveyors of Magic’, our new exhibition opening in Berlin, taps into this potential, connecting work inspired by memories, dreams and experiences refracted through the digital lens. 

The show is curated by artist Tabitha Swanson, a true visionary of digital. Working across mediums as diverse as VR, fashion, filters and fine art, her surreal, fantasy aesthetic feeds into her selections. Bringing together artists that explore the natural and geological worlds, unexpected glitch and non-human intelligence. Fuelled by irreverence, playfulness and humour, ‘Surveyors of Magic’ offers a space to explore and rebuild. We chat with Tabitha about what she has in store and learn more about a show that has the power to open minds. 

Could you tell us a little bit about what to expect from ‘Surveyors of Magic’?

To select the artworks I sifted through a few hundred pieces by people from within the Refraction community. Something that I loved seeing within all of those pieces was a sense of magic or playfulness and a little bit of humor. Magic is a super important part of my own practice and also how I choose to live my life. I’d describe it as trying to see the magic of everyday moments. When I'm able to have the perspective to appreciate the randomness and the unpredictability of life it brings a lot of joy. Whatever someone believes, whether it's in God, or astrology, or science there are always these things that we can never predict. With all of these pieces, playing with that little bit of unpredictability and magic and being able to see the humor was really important.

It's interesting, because there's not a lot of contemporary art that’s outright funny. I guess a lot of the time the art world takes itself quite seriously so it's really nice to forefront that.

Yeah, I think often with humor, you can't explain why it's funny. It very much transcends being able to write a thought piece on it and I find that quite magical. I've included one of Coco Magnusson’s works called ‘Buy Pant DISCOTHEQUE’. They go through so many mediums, but this is from an aesthetic that they use kind of like pixel art. They have this pair of pants rotating around. It's a riff they've been going off of for probably over a year now. It’s just been this whirlwind of mimetics for such a long time and it's gotten to the point where it's just really funny. I think humor is one of the greatest forms of art. Just to be able to make people laugh I think is a type of magic.

Are there other works in the show that you're particularly excited about?

One in particular that I really like is from Chepertom. They have two artworks in the show and they're both called the same thing ‘Crossing the street of Singapore’. I like them both pretty equally, but one of them really gets me. It’s essentially people crossing a street but they've data moshed it a little bit so the longer the video progresses, the more muddled and moshed it gets. People are still crossing the street but it just becomes kind of indiscernible with all the different pixels as people. It's this kind of inability to distinguish what things are anymore but still knowing that the entities are moving on the screen that I thought was quite interesting.

Still from Crossing the street of Singapore by Chepertom
Digital opens up the potential for pushing boundaries and redefining the way we do things and look at the world. Were you looking to include works which challenge the status quo?

Absolutely. I mean, I think that that's one of the most exciting things about digital art is the fact that we can do so many things that we can’t do in the physical world. Whether that's playing with physics in a different way or anything like that, I think the possibilities are really endless. It's nice to see that expressed by so many different artists in everyone's own unique and individual way. Within the curation, I tried to include many different expressions of it and many different file types. I’ve included artist Auriea Harvey’s work ‘Apollo running faster’, for example. It’s actually a poem that they uploaded as a JPEG. It very much references medieval scrolls and literature and so I thought it was nice taking that juxtaposition of old archaic stuff and historical references and kind of flipping it on its head by minting it as an NFT.

Apollo running faster by Auriea Harvey
Do you think that putting together the show and working with all these artworks is going to feed back into your own art practice at all?

I definitely think I'll take some learnings from it. I think also just watching Refraction grow has been really interesting and also really inspiring for me. Yeah, they really just practice what they preach and I feel a sense of trust when I'm working with them. I think just seeing how something can start quite grassroots and grow steadily but also organically at the same time has been thought provoking and definitely educational in a way.

“Surveyors of Magic’ opens at despace berlin from 13 - 20 October 2022. RSVP here.

Kate Neave
Kate Neave is a curator, art writer and creative producer with 10 years experience working with artists. She has a reputation for initiating groundbreaking projects and nurturing some of the most exciting upcoming talent alongside established names. Kate is based in Brighton and London, UK.

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