What’s the hottest arts space in Bushwick? For my money, it’s Transfer, a gallery that focuses on artists who live in the digital world and make work in the physical. Since founding it six months ago, owners Kelani Nichole and Jereme Mongeon have launched shows that have included hundreds of gifs, large-scale digital prints, poetry readings, and wall-sized paintings of computer desktops. They have a show opening October 12 with Rollin Leonard, a figurative artist known for the digital disassemblage of his own body. Also, from November 1-2, Transfer will act as The Wrong New Digital Art Biennale’s AFK-Embassy in NYC. Given all this activity, I thought it was an appropriate time to chat with cofounder Nichole.
Why did you two found Transfer?
It grew out of some work I had been doing with Little Berlin, the collective I was part of in Philadelphia, and specifically that last exhibition, >get>put (get-put.net). The folks I was working with really expressed gratitude for the opportunity to come together in physical space. It was clear that there was a real need for this kind of stuff.
When I moved to New York City, I was looking for opportunities to continue the independent curatorial work I had been doing. So I started looking on Craigslist for space. It was a confluence of factors: the desire to continue the curatorial work, finding the right space at the right moment. It was being totally renovated so there was three months to plan! Through our partnership—Jereme and I both work full time—we had the ability to make an investment.
A lot of the artists you’ve shown make work that has a tangible relationship with both the digital and the physical. Is that a focus for the gallery?
Yes. In general we’re hoping to expand the notion of what net art is; it’s not so limiting as “based on the Internet.” There’s a more expansive view that involves those physical manifestations. Now that we’re six-months-old, we’re consciously trying to focus the networked practice.
What’s a networked practice?
When Jereme and I started to talk about net art, he always used Travess Smalley as an example. “How is Travis a net artist? Show me the stuff that he’s done that’s net art.” And he has done some browser-based work, but his practice now has evolved into much more physical work. His work first of all depends on digital tools and processes, but the networked part of it is the way that he reacts to others on the network and engages in dialogue. It doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the output of the work, and I feel like that’s one of the limiting perceptions around net art.
Is there a cynical interpretation of that network—“like, okay, that’s who your friends are”—or is a network more about your influences?
I think there’s definitely a cynical reading of that, and it’s a criticism that flies around all the time. The more interesting side of [the network] is how artists react to each other’s work and the aesthetics that follow. The relationships are a very visible part of it, and they’re not something we shy away from. We think they're important.
I’ve noticed you do a lot for artist’s shows (catalogue, talks, openings and closings). It’s a more robust presentation of an artist’s work than I’m used to seeing.
Pretty much everyone we work with has a multifaceted practice. So, Lorna Mills curates a whole group of artists into her closing. A Bill Miller, who’s an academic, putting together a whole history of the genre he’s working within. We’re interested in people who want to do more than just a show.
Their practice is typically more distributed than just what’s on the walls. So, we get people to write about the work, some people are interested in doing online components and we try to do a reception or an event, aside from the opening that can re-engage people with the work. Carla Gannis and Justin Petropolous are doing weekly events with their show!
We want to do more pop-up events. We just did our first one with Zoe Salditch and it went really well. So I think that’s another way we’re going to open ourselves up to collaboration.