Video: Blurring the  lines between the physical and digital at the Holland Project

By Michelle Baker

On Friday, the Holland Project hosted the opening reception of “Flash Frame” at HP Galleries. 

“Flash Frame” is the final exhibition of the Holland Project’s curator series, a program funded in part through a grant from Nevada Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities Curators. The series’ intention is to feature art, curated by local and national artists, to create a conversation that extends beyond the gallery walls.  

The curators of “Flash Frame” are local artists Sandy Peña and John L’Étoile. Peña is a digital artist and L’Étoile is a photographer and cinematographer. 

“‘Flash Frame’ is basically a celebration of all things digital media,” Peña said. 

When Holland organizers reached out to the two about curating the series, the initial goal was to create an immersive space.

“The direction we wanted to go … was building a more immersive space than just finding some art to put on the wall,” L’Étoile said. 

The exhibition features work from both curators, Aaron Patrick, also known as Chach, from New York City, as well as local artists Nathaniel Benjamin and Luke Rizzotto.  

As an undergraduate at the University of Nevada, Reno, Peña was asked what it means to occupy space and was curious about the validity of existing in a digital space. 

“It’s not necessarily trying to ask the question of, like, ‘Is digital art valid?’” Peña said. Instead, she said it’s more about creating a positive space in the digital world—one void of the negative aspects of capitalism. 

The exhibit includes projections of animations and 3D modeling, a live camcorder recording and other installations nostalgic of a millennial’s childhood. 

Creating a space reminiscent of the early 2000s was the goal—the exhibition was in part inspired by the Wild West era of the internet, a time when there were few restrictions on who or what could be accessed across the web. 

“But now it’s starting to be capitalized and colonized with restrictions and needing a VPN to access certain things,” L’Étoile said.

The exhibition explores the concept of self, both physical and digital, and how the lines blur between the two. 

L’Étoile said he was inspired by Jean Baudrillard, a French sociologist and cultural theorist.  

“There’s a concept of self that he talks about,” L’Étoile said. “He wrote this essay in the ’80s, it was about how people are going to have to build up this self for the digital space outside of their own self.” 

As more time is spent building up a presence in the digital space, L’Étoile said, “You start to lose the sense of yourself in reality because all of your actions taken are just to put up something in pixels.” 

The exhibit will be on display at HP Galleries at 140 Vesta Street in Reno through Dec. 1. 

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