Artist Ryder Ripps Makes the Internet His Classroom

For ALONE TOGETHER, the controversial artist combines an immersive digital exhibit with invaluable technology classes for high schoolers.

Courtesy of Red Bull.

The internet can be a vast, faceless, lonely place, but are we lonelier because of it? This is one of the many questions 28-year-old artist Ryder Ripps has raised with his newest exhibit ALONE TOGETHER, a three-pronged investigation of modern tech culture presented in collaboration with digital collective Powrplnt and City As School, an alternative New York City high school dedicated to experiential learning. The exhibit and project will run through April at Red Bull Studios in NYC. ALONE TOGETHER’s showpiece is an installation meant to mimic the web, and our brain when confronted with an endless barrage of images. A viewing box has been set up on the second floor, and when you look through the “peep holes” several digital images flash by at hyper-speed. On the ground level of the Studios, a series of glass cubicles house six “performers”, pre-chosen from Craigslist, who produce these images in real time, beaming them into the viewing area via cable; meant to cause a very real, physical and emotional disconnect between producer and viewer, the installation is supposed to stand in as "a microcosm of the internet". This is the aspect of the show that has received the most press, yet it’s not the beating heart of the project. That honor goes to the work City As School and Powrplnt have been doing to provide students on-site with tech internships, as well as free courses in the use of digital art-making tools including 3D printing, code, and Ableton Live. The temporary classroom at Red Bull, or the Technigarden as it is lovingly called, is a hybrid digital and organic space that features work from students and the public, and real plants mixed with digital art. It’s hoped that through this project students will feel empowered by technology rather than intimidated.

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