Children of the Revolution

89plus, a new digital platform, gives creative license to a generation waiting to be discovered.


Fifty years ago, when a popular slogan predicted that the revolution would not be televised, no one could have known that, in fact, it would be tweeted. Social media rules just about every transaction in life today, and, as in virtually every other field, technology is propelling a generational shift in contemporary art. Now, two curators known for their keen antennae are developing a database to locate creative talents who came into the world in or post-1989—think of them as the children of the Internet.

“Nearly half the world’s population was born after 1989,” says Simon Castets, the 29-year-old cofounder of 89plus, a multipronged research initiative that he designed with Hans Ulrich Obrist, the codirector of the Serpentine Gallery in London, to pool and support the work of young artists, architects, filmmakers, writers, musicians, designers, and technologists who have yet to surface in more traditional venues. “It’s about assisting in building a community of creative minds,” says ­Obrist, who is 45 and, like Castets, not among those who learned to Google before they could walk.

Amalia Ulman’s Ethira (screenshot), 2013

The pair have been soliciting submissions to the 89plus website, and from the thousand applicants who have already responded—from India, Africa, Latin America, Europe, Australia, and America—they are selecting several to participate in conferences and residencies at such institutions as New York’s Park Avenue Armory. The budding talents will be able to develop their interests shielded from the pressures of the market, but that is not to say they will lack exposure. This month, during the Frieze Art Fair in London, they will appear in the annual Serpentine Marathon, a two-day event featuring lectures, panels, performances, digital content, and films. Obrist and Castets have also organized an exhibition on Instagram by artists who post new images daily. (Follow 89plus.)

Felix Melia’s Golden Spike, Magic Hour, 2013

Many of these 89plussers seem to double as social scientists armed with digital tools. Max Weisel, from Arizona, for example, collaborated with Björk on Biophilia, an album she recorded and performed partly with iPads, using apps he designed. Abdullah Al-Mutairi, who splits his time between ­Kuwait and the U.S., explores an online sexual underground in the Gulf states in videos and photo collages. For Call in the Night, San Franciscan Max Hawkins programmed a software dialer to make middle-of-the night calls to volunteers who are then partnered, at random, for conversations. The resulting podcasts document the sometimes absurd, often poignant relationships that can form in such fleeting moments. It’s not exactly the kind of work that flies into—or out of—galleries, but that’s beside the point. As Obrist explains, 89plus is, ultimately, a place where artists, curators, and viewers—the 89-minus among them—can truly connect.

Photos: courtesy of the artists