Harm van den Dorpel

New York

at American Medium



With “Just-in-Time,” Dutch artist Harm van den Dorpel produced a thematically cohesive show, focusing on the digital world’s visual vocabulary and how the space between the images it produces can be warped. Art like this, however, could benefit from more pointed attempts to nurture an understanding of that space, as many have done by working outside or against the white cube. 

Van den Dorpel has been exhibited and written about as a “post-Internet” artist, and while I don’t know if he (or I) would accept that categorization, my experience of the show was seriously enriched by browsing the works on American Medium’s website at home. The plastic cocoons of the “Chrysalis” series (2015), for instance, looked dull hanging side by side in the exhibition space, yet somehow felt more vivid arranged vertically on the sparse Web page of exhibition images. “Macro Intimacy” (2015)—muted close-up shots printed on heat-shrink foil, showing a cluttered room corner—likewise made a deeper connection when I looked at the works at home, well after 2 a.m., drenched in melancholic music and the light of my laptop. 

At the gallery, my initial interest in the “Scrum Kanban” series (2015), comprised of whiteboards with magnets that read as desktop icons, turned to disappointment when I realized that despite the presence of dry-erase scrawlings on the boards there were no markers for me to add my own. The choice of whiteboards felt like a frustratingly tempting gesture toward interactivity. 

The exhibition did, however, present a form of interactivity with DeliNear.info, a social network that van den Dorpel began developing last year. Rather than center on personal profiles through which users enter into open or discreet communications with friends, family and strangers, the website offers linked image, text and video environments built collaboratively by account holders. The website suffers, however, from the lack of direct interactions (or at least notifications of them) among the users who populate the space with shared files. What matters most in any social-media site are the human relationships at its core: it’s not the infrastructure of the scuttled ship but the community of plankton, coral and fish it supports that gives life to the reef. That being said, DeliNear.info is “Very Beta Still” (to invoke the name of another series in the show) and still being developed by the artist. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the most potentially fruitful and collaborative work shown here surpasses the finitude of the gallery space.