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Video of Post Net Aesthetics is Now Online

By Rhizome

Post-Net Aesthetics, a panel organized by Karen Archey and Rhizome that took place at the ICA in London last week, picks up the discussion from Rhizome's Net Aesthetics panels of 2006 and 2008, both of which sought to examine the state of contemporary art engaged with the internet. This edition was organized as a discussion of the term "postinternet," and it reflected a shared sense that the term's usefulness has perhaps run its course. By way of putting it to bed, panel participant Josephine Berry Slater suggested that the "post" was problematic, in its suggestion of sequentiality. She referred to Peter Osborne's critique of Lyotard's Postmodern Condition, in which he suggested "transmodern" as an alternative term to the equally problematic "postmodern." Likewise, Slater suggested that "transinternet" might be a useful term for artists. Ben Vickers suggested that beyond postinternet, artists have a whole range of critical stances with regard to technology available to them. These include stacktivism and the new aesthetic, as well as the radical refusal to use technology or even to make art. (We'd suggest printing this out, before signing off for good.) The full video of the panel is well worth a watch.

For those reading in search of a definition, we offer this: the term "postinternet" has come to describe a wide range of artistic practices that engage with the internet as a ubiquitous presence in society and culture, rather than solely as an artistic medium. The panel's chair, Karen Archey, made reference to a definition offered by Frieze London's director Matthew Slotover as part of a discussion of current trends among the commercial art fair's galleries:

There are many works that relate to new forms of communication or have images appropriated from the Internet, for instance. It's not necessarily Internet art per se—it's more dimensional media, looking at using the tools of the Internet era to make sculptures and video, for instance. But generally speaking this is very much the current trend. 

Postinternet stances assume that the creation, distribution, and reception of the work of art have all been reconfigured by network technologies. Perhaps unfortunately, postinternet art has come to be associated with certain techniques and styles more than any particular critical position. These include the blending of digital collage with digital painting in 2D prints, videos, or sculptural objects, and the appropriation or adoption of glossy commercial aesthetics, images, and products. 

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Chris Collins Oct. 21 2013 16:19Reply

Ben killed it. Great Great Great.

Michael Connor Oct. 21 2013 16:21Reply

Check out his notes: http://pastebin.com/bm1EKB9H

Caitlin Jones Oct. 23 2013 13:09Reply

"In order to imagine that, know, that before the creation of vvork in 2006 there wasn’t really any contemporary art on the internet. "

I'm sorry. Can someone explain this statement to me? Michael?

Michael Connor Oct. 23 2013 13:23Reply

The statement is obviously exaggerated, but I would offer a slightly different argument: VVORK was incredibly influential in demonstrating that online viewing of non-born digital artwork could be experientially rich while reaching a wide audience.

To put you back in the headspace, here's a comment by Sally McKay on digitalmediatree from 2007:

"VVork is popular because they show lots and lots of pictures of art from around the world without a bunch of commentary. I love that! It's kind of weird how rare it is."

It was rare, and that was weird. And it ain't rare anymore.

As a side note, check out how few references to the internet are in this Whitechapel book titled "A Manual for the 21st Century Art Institution," published in…2010.


Caitlin Jones Oct. 23 2013 14:07Reply

I have no issue with Vvork at all!

I'm just surprised to see Rhizome facilitating a discussion that suggests that artists and curators were not thinking about the relationships between online themes and aesthetics and offline presentation before 2008!

It doesn't seem like a provocation or exaggeration, it seems like a serious misrepresentation of the history.

Michael Connor Oct. 23 2013 15:47Reply

For the most part, I thought Ben made some excellent points, although this was not one of them.

In the video, you can see that he used air quotes when referring to "contemporary art," so it comes across a bit differently than it does in the text. I take contemporary art-in-air quotes to refer to a generally non-tech savvy, moneyed group that self-identify as the mainstream of "contemporary art," as in, for example, Bishop's "Digital Divide," where she defines the mainstream as the larger art fairs and the national Biennale pavilions. So, I would characterize Ben's statement as an exaggeration, not a misrepresentation of the work that has been done on this topic for a long time, mostly outside of this self-identified group.

But to address your larger point, that was definitely not the broader idea behind this panel, nor can Rhizome be expected to stand behind every assertion made by the panelists.

Although, it would be an interesting thought experiment to try to believe in every conflicting assertion made at our events.

Caitlin Jones Oct. 23 2013 18:31Reply

Well, I REALLY don't want to be pushed into (or push myself into) the role of art historical finger wagger or an advocate of "thought experiments."

I wholeheartedly agree that Ben made some excellent points (and it's nice to have the link to his notes—thanks for that). In particular:
"//It tried to reinvent the wheel because it lacked the tacit knowledge of previous generations who had shared similar concerns and worked through many of the pitfalls."

I feel this statement clearly encapsulates a problem with much of the recent discourse around the idea of post-internet. There's an assumption that a critical articulation of the relationship between online and physical objects is a new phenomenon. The materiality (or demateriality) was an ongoing concern from the outset of artists working on the Internet. So I'm disappointed when I hear Karen Archley cite a 2009 exhibition curated by AIDS-3D as the first instance of this kind of material engagement—if we are suggesting that this is what the term post-internet has come to represent.

Finger wagging over.

Michael Connor Oct. 24 2013 12:17Reply

Point of clarification, she doesn't say it's the first material engagement of this kind for all artists everywhere, she says it's the first material engagement of this kind for many of the specific artists connected with what she describes as "the postinternet movement."

Chris Collins Oct. 21 2013 16:27Reply

thanks! I was looking for a transcript.

Matthew Williamson Oct. 23 2013 14:56Reply

the sound of a million tumblrs being deleted

patrick lichty Oct. 23 2013 23:06Reply

With deference to Michael and Caitlin,
What I see here as the issue that I am hashing out is what I call (satirically) a move into a "post-discursive" or "Post-Scholastic" period. When The New Aesthetic got taken to task for being "new" and in furtherfield this week James Bridle just admitted that "It wasn't about aesthetics", and I hear the tacitly wrong assertion that there wasn't any contemporary art online before 2006 (even it exaggerated), I'm left very frustrated. When we have good writers like Charlotte Frost and Marisa Olson delving into the deserving 90's, we also have a lot of 'striped' discussion going on where we could say, "Well, we know _that's_ not correct, but there are some good points here…" I find that frustrating, too.

We're in an era that's a little too propositional about things like movements and historiography. Yes, good things are being said, but I think a little more care needs to be taken to the acuteness of the statement being made and accountability for sketchy polemic. The problem is that some of these spurious assertions becomes canon, then it's virtually undoable.

This is not so much an indictment of the above, but of a general lack of discursive mindfulness in contemporary culture. Michael makes a good point - some good things ARE being said, and Caitlin's right, too - the 2006 comment needs to be held accountable.

Culture is too important to be fast and loose with the facts, or worse yet, to possibly be innocent of them.

Martin John Callanan Oct. 25 2013 04:22Reply

Agree. "Research" can consist of what comes in on your feeds right now.

ben43 Oct. 25 2013 06:31Reply

Just for the sake of clarity, as Michael says I was making air quotes and referring explicitly to 'contemporary art' - as in, work that already resides within the canon, that is bought, sold and traded. In a 7 minute presentation as part of a panel, there really isn't the time to unpack statements such as these, our definitions will inevitably differ.

I personally define 'contemporary art' as that which is recognised and canonised, this isn't an elitest notion, because to be clear, I consider the aspirations to such as more of a slur on the production of meaning, than positive identification. Your definition is likely to be different - but asking 'is it art' along these lines and particularly in respect to things like http://thing.net/ is a straw man argument that is unlikely to get us anywhere.

I think many reading Rhizome and those participating in this scene will be able to recollect a moment in time prior to 2006 when the net wasn't swamped by things like contemporary art daily and to have a page dedicated to your own work was more an oddity than it was a standard.

This point can be reiterated when you consider that it is only since 2010 that artists from blue chip galleries have begun to recognise the necessity of having a personal website. Many still don't.

If there are sites that I have grossly overlooked, that have for a significant period prior to 2006 aggregated the detritus of the Art World proper, I would be more than happy to rescind my point :-)… Accountable enough?

More generally I kind of disagree with this idea "Culture is too important to be fast and loose with the facts, or worse yet, to possibly be innocent of them." - I think the idea that we should rely on the historian and professionalised telling of how culture is constructed by expects is far more problematic than a messy, contradictory onslaught of thoughts, ideas and opinions. I may though be opening a can of worms… but see 'radical monopoly', particularly in respect to 'Education': http://www.preservenet.com/theory/Illich/IllichTools.html

Rob Myers Oct. 30 2013 15:35Reply


Michael Connor Oct. 24 2013 14:06Reply

"This era is too much defined by people trying to define this era!"

I like that.

About time to get that intergenerational interview series going… I'll email you!

Jaakko Pallasvuo Oct. 25 2013 10:08Reply

feel like the connection is a bit forced.. don't know if that many 'post internet' artists have any relation to earlier waves of internet art and that's also why the historicizing of these things becomes problematic/overlooked/etc

would also say that merely investigating the same questions isn't maybe strong enough of a link.. i mean mail art was already talking about all the things that 'post internet' is: circulation of the artwork, global networks vs local physical experience etc etc. maybe the difference doesn't lie in the topics/questions but more in an aesthetic/attitude/detail level. i've always though that bevel&emboss and drop shadow etc visual tropes and the distance from which people employ them were way more substantial and interesting parts of this whole post internet thing than the outlined 'conceptual' aspects of it (which feel self evident and boring tbh, and as outmoded as net.art is)