«Sink», a virtual residency space for digital artists


Alice Ongaro and Mati Jhurry explore the possibilities of virtual space as an incubator of artistic projects and processes of a digital matrix.

Virtual space still has many rooms to explore. Beyond the exhausting social networks, the utilitarian mail servers or the increasingly standardized corporate webs, portfolios, newspapers or magazines, there is a lack of new virtual spaces, different from the ones we are used to.

Naturally, it is mainly artists and designers the ones who are willing to cross these margins and explore these off-piste virtual spaces, sometimes driven by the difficulty of sustaining their practice in physical spaces such as the studio or the gallery and the important material costs associated to them, and others driven by the need of their digital creations to inhabit a digital space freed from the formal restrictions of standard digital spaces.

Mindful of this lack of space for experimentation, creation and online freedom of exposure, the young duo of curator and artist Alice Ongaro (France, 1994) and Mati Jhurry (Italy, 1993) launched the platform «Sink» in June 2017 to explore the virtual space as an incubator of artistic projects and processes of a digital matrix.

The project is conceived as an online artistic residency: resident artists are invited to inhabit an assigned URL for a month. During this time, they are invited to make use of the website as they would with the physical space of a studio.

In its first volume, Sink had 12 artists who considered the webpage as a space for experimentation and encounter with a public, thinking through the peculiarities and possibilities of the online realm as a way to interact with the viewer. In addition, they were asked to redesign the Sink logo to their liking. The construction of the pages was either done by the artists themselves or by Sink in an attempt to translate their requests in the best possible way. Ongaro and Jhurry also invigorated the residence space with bi-monthly interviews to offer a better understanding of the concerns, ideas and processes developed by the participants.

An essential aspect of Sink is that artists are invited to exploit all aspects of the web page to best present and develop their research. This has often meant distorting the usual modes of browsing, something that usually goes unnoticed until it becomes evident, for example, in the direction in which you scroll through a webpage, unwanted pop-ups and text inserted inside the code which only becomes visible only if one goes looking for it. Through these mechanisms intrinsic to the digital, the page becomes a medium full of quirks and peculiarities which artists can work for or against in the presentation of images, texts, videos, audio files or any other digital format that they have chosen to develop during residency. In this way, processes such as compressing, uploading or downloading – integral parts of any digital experience – are ingrained in the residency process.

For its second volume, which began in September 2018, artists are invited to work from a selection of 3D models of art objects that are found in various national collections around the world, obtained through websites such as «Sketchfab» and «Scan the World». Resident artists are asked to build a web page where they can digest, destroy, improve or simply re-propose research on selected objects. The progress of the residency and the research are available at all times and, at the end of the residency, its final iteration can be visualized through the archive.

It is unquestionable that digital manufacturing has profoundly changed the world of contemporary art, design, architecture and fashion and that is why the members of Sink find it especially relevant to try to understand and question the framework in which this model is produced and presented through its residency program, which seeks to provide various voices and interpretations of the phenomenon.

Another novelty of this second volume, apart from the premise of starting and finishing the research with a downloadable 3D object, is the occasional publication of texts written by artists, curators, designers and writers, which offer the public a specific point of view on digital prototyping, explore digital archives or discuss aspects of the platform.


Image of the archive of resident artists. Courtesy of Sink


Sink’s website hosts an archive where you can visit the results of the residence of every artist that has participated in the programme. These results consist in the redesign of the platform logo, the URL that houses their research and a presentation text of the work that, in line with the stylistic pluralism of the digital world, does not respond to any established format.

«The Cool Couple» are the resident artists of the month of March and the work they are developing is called «L0rd$ofCh4o$» and it can be visited at http://lordsofchaos.sink.sexy

Considering the meaning of “sink” as a name and as a verb, it is not surprising that the platform works as a temporary container for the liquidity of digital matter. Ongaro and Jhurry open the tap to let digital creation fill their sink for a month, escaping regularly through a black hole. We owe them, however, that there is “running water”, that it is as fresh as their genuine proposal and that thanks to the peculiarities of the digital it is recorded in a sequence of 0s and 1s that can flow back at any given moment through an easy click.


Author: Sol Polo