Text by Monica Uszerowicz
Founded by artists David Alexander Flinn and Adam Ianniello, The Infinity Pool is a self-described digital exhibition space: a kind of tightly-curated cyber-platform for select artists to showcase exclusive work. The online residency debuted with pieces by musician and model Jamie Bochert, and has gone on to feature Mario Bava, Alan Paukman, Tamara Santibañez —and, currently, Steven Meisel, whose opus has already inspired at least one generation’s worth of photographers, enough to make his particular aesthetic eponymous.
Flinn and Ianniello encourage each artist to create work specific to the month-long digital residency, often giving them the freedom to expand beyond their own particular confines: different mediums, unfamiliar territories. After thirty days, the exhibition—inevitably rich, given the tastes of its curators—is deleted entirely, gone into the ether. Despite the timeliness of a digital residency, the concept of the unarchivable seems almost impossible: you can find anything on the Internet.
This, precisely, is the point: as the displayed works are unique in reference to the totality of their makers’ oeuvre, they become doubly rare when they exist only for a short while, imbued with a new purposefulness and quality. The Infinity Pool’s equal emphasis on both integrity and creative exploration renders the Internet the best place for it: highly transformative and consistently ebbing and flowing, the exhibitions are limitless in nature and presentation. We spoke with Flinn and Ianniello about the initial concept and its subsequent growth.
When did you and Adam Ianniello come up with the concept for The Infinity Pool? Tell me about its origins—who was the first showcased artist and how did you pitch it?
David Alexander Flinn: I started curating shows about four years ago. What really bugged me is that however complacent a gallery or space was, there was always some “feedback” from someone in the setup phases, often simply telling me, logistically, something couldn’t be done. In this period of time, I started working with creatives in the fashion industry and editorial realms, and realized their world was jam-packed with limitations. With this in mind, I started talking about this concept with possible candidates and they all seemed on board and excited about a sanctuary of freedom. I spoke to Adam about a general concept and we started to bounce ideas back and forth on how we could build this infrastructure.
The first artist was Jamie Bochert. She is a close friend of mine and we’d wanted to collaborate on a project for a long time, so she wrote us a song and we produced a video for her. Our goal with The Infinity Pool was not only to give the space, but to function as legs for artists who didn’t know how to make certain things come about because of technical limitations.
Adam Ianniello: It was a way for us to work together on creative endeavors without being confined to a traditional exhibition schedule. We saw our friends being featured on websites, “creative platforms”—but those were always surveys of their output. There was no motivation, and rarely did the platform challenge the artist’s output and our notions of the artist. We wanted to create a platform that would address these issues, to showcase projects that the artists wouldn’t normally propose to a gallery, to showcase artists that wouldn’t normally exhibit in a gallery. These could be projects outside of the artist’s comfort zone—not what they were known for, [or] projects that could be understood by a wider, more diverse audience.
We pitched it as a digital exhibition space, which the artist would take over for a given timeframe. We visualized the website as a white cube, a neutral space, where anything is possible, given digital constraints.
Why are the records deleted after each residency? Wouldn’t you want to archive the work?
David: I was sick and tired of ending up in these online k-holes where I’d be looking at irrelevant garbage from 2007. I realized the Internet was becoming an information dump and by giving something a lifespan, people would value its experience and fragility.
Adam: The destruction of an artwork can be just as important as its creation. Think about how at any given time, monks in Tibet are meticulously building sand mandalas, grain by grain, piece by piece, only to blow them away and start over again. There’s a new level of meaning and urgency when an artist produces a project knowing that it will be deleted. It offers the artist more possibility and offers the audience a consequence if they do not witness the work before its deletion.
Though the reasons for making a digital residency are already somewhat obvious—accessibility, for one thing—why did you choose a digital forum?
David: A digital language is universal and The Infinity Pool is larger than life. A physical manifestation of such would’ve just made us part of another machine. We’re totally rogue. We produce everything ourselves; no investors, no advertisers, and no sales. We’re here simply for the work and the opportunity to work with people we respect and value. The digital language allowed for us to stay behind the scenes.
A Huffington Post article, after mentioning The Infinity Pool, briefly discusses how online galleries are an interesting response to massive galleries. How do you feel about this? Do you agree?
David: First things first: we are not a gallery. No profits are involved and we don’t represent any artist. We have absolutely no financial gain or interest from any of our projects. We are an experiential space and residency for the artist. Being a gallery is like being a sports agent. What we are interested is the process and the outcome. I grew up in a time when I looked up to artists who were of content, who understood that their role as an artist was bigger than just an ego and sales, [that they could be] a pioneer for new ideas and someone who could challenge fucked institutions and social norms. Being an artist was an intellectual responsibility. The mega-galleries just want people who make posters in editions of one and three.
How do you balance the artist’s vision for the presentation with the creative direction of how it’s showcased? There’s always a discussion between the curator and the artist, and I’m wondering how it plays out online.
David: It’s really an organic connection every time and it totally fluctuates. Some, like Alan Paukman, coded the whole website themselves, and others rather ask us for our feedback. What we really enjoy doing is asking artists to work in a language that is foreign to them. If we have a musician we ask them to make a video; [if we have] a writer, we ask them to draw. There’s a certain innocence and nostalgia to The Infinity Pool. It’s like making work when you’re a kid. You’re just making it because you want to.
Do you already have a few of the upcoming artists selected and prepared, or do you work on the upcoming residency each month?
Adam: We like to work in the moment, in an intuitive nature. Even though we may have some artists we have chosen in the future, each month is a new drawing board. We tend not to over-prepare for each project. Some projects were concocted with the artist just a week or so before we exhibited them. It’s more exciting this way; stress brings focus.
The current artist is Steven Meisel. What inspired this pick, and how did you get involved with him?
David: Steven has been living the Infinity Pool for years. In many ways, he’s helped keep the ideology of producing challenging work alive for our generation. He’s someone who didn’t fall into the social bullshit our society holds high and dear. He is an artist and a visionary, and has never given one fuck about what people thought, because he realized something. He was always five to ten years ahead of what his viewers could understand at that moment in time.
We are still incredibly humbled and in awe that he decided to participate in this project with us. I met Steven last November on set. We soon learned of our obsession with the macabre and cinema and rescuing animals. From there began our dialogue.