Flatness is a long-running project curated and moderated by Shama Khanna offering artists and audiences a space for creativity away from structurally unjust institutions and market-led forces of the web. Help keep Flatness independent by donating to its supporters’ pool.
Flatness presents new works and words by artists Lucy Clout, Adam Farah, Natasha Lall, Ulijona Odišarija, TextaQueen, Tom Richards, Nikhil Vettukattil, Joseph Walsh, Dan Walwin and Rehana Zaman and writers Taylor Le Melle, Nisha Ramayya and Hannah Satz.
This long-term research and commissioning platform for artists’ moving image and network culture decentres hegemonic narratives of the visual arts, from the margins of the online. Flatness presents a porous context for artworks to be shared as part of a genuinely networked culture, at a distance from structurally unjust institutions and market-led forces of the web.
Flatness values artistic experimentation and minor, durational experiences of art on the web. It is curated from the perspective of a queer Brown sick womxn with the aim of uplifting conversations and creative practices which defy intersectional oppression.
The aim of the website’s interactive elements – the calendar and comments feed – is to build an active community around these works, in support of their critical and social contextualisation. All contributions are moderated according to our safer space commitment included below.
In 2019 the project relaunched with a new interactive design and a series of new artist commissions. This edition of the site has been an ‘unflattening of the screen’ with key elements of the work – in terms of healing and building solidarity – happening outside the frame of the site prompting a rethink in the way in which the site operates. Read more about this process of transformation here. Flatness reflects critically on the current context where freedom of expression on the internet is devalued by social media algorithms which help push hate and misinformation up the agenda.
The first iteration of the Flatness was a screening programme ‘Flatness: Cinema after the Internet’ for Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen in Germany in 2013 (with commissions by Anthea Hamilton, Ed Atkins, Oliver Laric and Gil Leung among several others) and it has been live as a multi-format screening and web platform (flatness.eu and archive.flatness.eu) for artists’ moving image and network culture ever since. Through working with devalued forms of the copy and the web, Flatness has been described as a ‘digital site of resistance’ (Dr Sylvia Theuri) decentering hegemonic narratives of the arts from the margins of the online.
In 2019 Flatness relaunched with a new interactive design and a series of new artist commissions. This edition of the site has been an ‘unflattening of the screen’ with key elements of works by Rehana Zaman, Adam Farah and Lucy Clout happening outside the frame of the site prompting a further evolution; to recognise the importance of creating safer spaces for marginalised communities to meet, share and heal at a distance from imperatives to produce. 2021 marks a new phase in the project’s long-running history as it embarks on formalising the curatorial connections it has built up with artists and arts workers in the UK and abroad as part of a community-led mutual organisation.
For Flatness there is no way back to how things were before the pandemic. Horizons have opened up as we have witnessed how change – d i s m a n t l i n g – can be achieved through taking action (rather than defaulting to critique). Our voices are clear and powerful and being heard. We need to support each other to keep energies strong. QTIBPOC lead the way in this urgent work. Our transcendence of normalcy transforms expectations of transcendence through art. Donate to UK BLM here.
During the COVID 19 pandemic:
We hope readers are managing to keep well body and soul.
Notwithstanding the pain and hardship brought on by the catastrophe we are watching the internet come alive in this period as sharing becomes more focused on connecting. This drive could potentially recontextualise what it means to be isolated in the widest sense – whether through mental, physical and financial impairment and discrimination, to the isolation of work or the studio – beyond the immediate confines of lockdown. Following the strengthened impetus (towards mutual aid, and towards recovering the health of the planet) to break the loop of crisis capitalism and nurture the bonds between us, between April and August 2020 Flatness invited contributions for work which corresponded to:
– the ‘situation’;
– stillness and liveness (signals from rituals/ practice); or
– the ‘future’.
Read the latest ‘State of the Union‘ curatorial statement by Shama Khanna from Autumn 2020.
Excerpt from an interview with Henry Broome for Spike Art Magazine from Autumn 2019:
How did Flatness first come about and what made you relaunch the platform this year?
… The new 2019 programme developed out of the political ruptures of 2016, also #MeToo, #BlackLivesMatter and the Arab Spring, movements spurred on by the internet. It’s also a reflection of my lived experience of the art industry where people of colour are in token ways hypervisible but structurally disempowered.
The platform provides a critical framework to understand social media’s empowering potential against its ultimately extractive and manipulative business models, as shown by Zuckerberg’s infamous hearing in late 2018. I think Flatness offers a mouldable alternative: You don’t need to log in or pay to view works and the site is free and open to all. It’s still possible to build your own spaces rather than succumb to the format of big monopoly platforms. As the founder of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners Lee said, the future of the internet relies on individuals making and adding to their own sites, and keeping control of their data.
Creating safer spaces
The web is not a neutral space. From its beginnings as a US defence initiative to improve communication with soldiers in remote places through to the privileged, racial capitalistic understanding of freedom and ‘making the world a better place’ the cis-white male Californian ideologists who continue to structure and profit from it maintain. There has been an equally long history of artists and technologists critiquing this version of its development (and structurally unjust institutions and practices in general) which Flatness supplements.
Flatness is working on becoming a safer and accessible space free from racism, sexism, ableism, ageism, classism, casteism, homophobia, transphobia, fatphobia, or hatefulness. Let us know if there are ways we can do this better.
Subscribe to the Flatness newsletter for project updates.
Web design & programming by Gailė Pranckūnaitė & Andrius Zupkus.
All texts, works and images either belong to the artist, author or photographer named or are licensed under the terms of this CC 4.00 certificate.
Previously supported by public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England.