Aria Dean: The Artist Who Explores The Blackness Of The Internet

By Sara Bright

Aria Dean is a rising star in the contemporary art scene. The American artist, writer, and curator is known for her multimedia works that examine the intersections of race, technology, and identity. Her first solo exhibition in the U.K., titled “Aria Dean: Notes on Blaccelerationism”, opens at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London on February 8, 2024.

The exhibition features a series of new and recent works by Dean, including sculptures, videos, and installations. The works explore the concept of “Blaccelerationism”, a term coined by the artist to describe the acceleration of blackness in the digital age. Dean questions how the internet and social media have shaped the representation and perception of blackness, as well as the possibilities and limitations of online activism and solidarity.

One of the highlights of the exhibition is “Blackhole”, a large-scale installation that occupies the entire lower gallery. The installation consists of a circular platform surrounded by black curtains, creating a dark and immersive space. On the platform, there are several objects that resemble computer hardware, such as keyboards, monitors, and cables. The objects are covered with black resin, giving them a glossy and futuristic appearance. The installation also features a sound piece that mixes ambient noises, electronic music, and spoken word.

Dean explains that “Blackhole” is inspired by the idea of the internet as a black hole, a place where information and identities are constantly absorbed and transformed. She also draws on the theories of Afrofuturism, a cultural movement that imagines the future of the African diaspora through science fiction and technology. Dean challenges the viewers to rethink their relationship with the internet and its impact on their sense of self and community.

Another notable work in the exhibition is “Untitled (Algorithms)”, a series of sculptures that resemble abstract paintings. The sculptures are made of aluminium panels that are cut, bent, and painted in various colours. The shapes and patterns of the sculptures are generated by algorithms that Dean created using data from her online activity, such as browsing history, search queries, and social media posts. The sculptures reflect the artist’s attempt to visualise and materialise her digital footprint, as well as the influence of algorithms on her online behaviour and identity.

Dean’s exhibition at the ICA is part of a larger project that she has been developing since 2019, when she received the BMW Open Work commission. The commission is an annual initiative that supports emerging artists to create innovative and interdisciplinary works that combine art, technology, and design. Dean’s project, titled “RIP”, is a multi-platform work that includes a website, a podcast, a publication, and a series of events. The project explores the themes of death, memory, and mourning in the digital age, especially in relation to the black community.

Dean’s exhibition at the ICA is a rare opportunity to see the work of one of the most original and insightful artists of our time. Her exhibition offers a critical and creative perspective on the role of the internet and technology in shaping the contemporary culture and society. You will be fascinated, challenged, and inspired by her vision and message.