THE GROUND COLLECTIVE handed out a pop quiz at Milk Gallery last night, along with plenty of booze and a performance by The Black Soft to quell any test anxiety. The question behind the exhibit was simple enough: What happens when a magazine is recreated in a physical space?

“Everything has a meaning,” curator Saulo Madrid instructed the buzzing crowd, as they swiped and poked through stories and photos pulled from The GROUND Magazine and transported onto a playground of tablets and other devices provided by sponsor Samsung. “And if you have the time, you should really read the exhibit text,” Madrid added in a warning that more than a few people probably regretted missing. As far as artistic experiments go, this one was a doozy.

In one piece, mirrors suspended in the air reflected an endless loop of photos by Magnum photographers interspersed with changing colors. At the gallery’s entrance, a grid of tablets used motion-detection to switch from a photo of a man’s face to the viewer’s face, heavily tinted in sync with other lights dancing across the room.

“The idea that I had at the beginning was to bring the physical magazine to the physical space,” The GROUND Editor-in-Chief Ryan Yoon explained to Milk Made. “So you’re experiencing the magazine by looking, reading and motion-interaction — and understanding the message delivery process.”

In comparison to the high-tech gadgets, a series of posters introducing The GROUND’s contributors — photographer Robert Polidori and artist John Baldessari among them — looked downright drab. But in another sense, the texts also seemed extravagant. 

A tablet can do many things including play videos and take pictures (and also browse online bookstores, as one young woman managed to do with an exhibit device clearly assigned a different task). But a piece of paper can only show one thing, thereby lending weight to its message through its permanence. Perhaps that’s why there is no such thing as a collectible website, and yet beautiful magazines such as The GROUND continue to hold proud perches on coffee tables and bookshelves.

At least that’s one way to look at it. Thankfully, Yoon and Madrid insist that their installation is designed to be subjective. Or in other words, theirs is a test with no wrong answers.

Photo by: Masha Maltsava

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