If you do not know of Julia Greenway and/or have never visited Interstitial in Georgetown, then you have missed out on seeing over three years worth of internationally renowned digital artists—and that’s on you. This is Greenway’s last month curating in Seattle; the gallery she opened in January 2015, Interstitial, will permanently close on July 1. And soon after that, she leaves a city she thinks is way behind the times and failed to appreciate the kind of work promoted by her gallery. Seattle might be a tech mecca, but it's not one amenable to tech art.
Interstitial's last show is Deep Down Tidal by Johannesburg-based artist Tabita Rezaire. Rezaire’s work, in line with much of the tech art Greenway has been curating, touches on digital communication and technological body politics by reimagining the network of the internet as relational to how we interact with the web through our bodies—specifically in conjunction with the oppression of people of color. This type of work, and digital media itself, transcends borders and language barriers by utilizing sensory symbols and digi-manifestations to communicate deeply personal identity concepts. The work itself and the artists who cultivate it are uniquely able to reach an extensive audience through the utilization of the internet and such sites as NewHive and Tumblr.
Advocates for this kind of work, which is certainly the future of artistic expression, are far and few between in Seattle. Greenway, in a recent conversation, pointed out that while she is the only gallery in Seattle focused on this specific medium, there are many spaces like Interstitial abroad—and so abroad she goes.
Greenway is moving to London in September to pursue her MFA at Goldsmiths at the University of London; the program spans two years. Before I even had the chance to ask the question, she stated definitively: “I have no intention of coming back to Seattle.” Honestly, I don’t blame her. There is a lot of young creative talent in our city and we are having a hard time keeping them here. Seattle, as Greenway puts it, is a great place to incubate and experiment, but leaves our most forward-thinking creators, curators, and writers wanting. ”My practice is not associated with place, I will be whereever I need to be to do my work. If it’s here, great. Omaha? Rad. Berlin? Even better … [but] I feel like Seattle isn’t and hasn’t been ready for me and my work”
In agreement with Greenway, I find it very concerning that there are not more young curators and art spaces dedicated to this type of work. With the loss of technology and digi-art galleries such as Interstitial, Seattle runs the risk of becoming obsolete on the national scale; not to mention internationally. Yes, the art fair is gaining attention, and that is no small accomplishment, but who is left now to push contemporary art forward and solidify Seattle’s place in the future? Having been a strong advocate for tech-based art, whether it be software, hardware, code, interactive webpages or sensory video installations, I can relate to Greenway’s unapologetically moving on to where she can then move forward—as she should!
The digital art Greenway curated over the last few years focused on global issues like resource ownership, scarcity, institutionalized racism, and virtual violence. Two factors allow digital art to transcend the plastic arts when it comes to these globalized concepts: one, it is truly accessible, and two, it is resistant to capitalistic commodification. Artists such as Elizabeth Mputu, Wong Ping, Lu Yang, Sondra Perry, and Sam Vernon are all in Greenway’s archives, and all of them are currently receiving national and international attention. After Wong Ping’s winter show, Who’s The Daddy, the Hong Kong-based artist was invited to show at the New Museum’s Triennial, and has been widely received as a leading Chinese contemporary animator. Julia Greenway’s departure and Interstitial’s closing is a huge loss for Seattle and unfortunately, a loss that might easily go unnoticed.