Younger than Rihanna

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In 2009 the New Museum played host to its inaugural triennial, the now famous “Younger Than Jesus” Generational. Taking its name from its restrictive age limit, the exhibition proposed a survey of artists aged 33 and younger, which is to say, born after 1976 (Jesus was born before). Art has long fetishized youth, and neither the show’s curatorial premise nor title are particularly shocking; scrolling through the reviews online we find business as usual round ups of a “business as usual” show. Yet this if anything seems the exhibition’s strength, coming across as an app-store of reactions to what was then emerging as a new, networked normal. It’s enticing today to flick through the detailed catalogue, checking which artists you’re now Facebook friends with, and which artists you still secretly idolize.

Such is an interesting moment to bear in mind when thinking about this year’s DLD art panel in Munich, assembled by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Simon Castets, whose curatorial remit of “89+” seems almost tongue in cheek by comparison. If Douglas Coupland bizarrely suggested “The Diamond Generation” as an appropriate tagline for this group of fluidly networked and distributed digital natives, “Younger Than Rihanna” might have been more fitting, seeing as Forbes’ fourth most powerful celebrity of 2012 would have been too old by a matter of months.

The theme for this year’s conference was “Patterns That Connect”, but the words on everyone’s mouth were big data. Big data is the accumulation of massive data sets, and allows for the tracking of behavior in previously undreamt of ways - just think of the sorts of comparisons Facebook Graphs allow us to conduct on the people that surround us. Albert-László Barabási summarized it accordingly in a keynote on the final day: “Our behavior can be now tracked in a very objective manner, and we can start asking quantitatively: how do we really behave?” It is tempting, if at the moment still humorous, to view the 89+ project in this context, as a powerful mapping tool able to screen capture artists straight out of art school and plot their shifting network ties through their career. Indeed, the first network maps of those involved in the project have already been produced. As Barabási later concluded: “Where you are defines what you do.” Yet right now, and at the immediate birth of the project, it is probably enough to make some initial observations—or at least provide some cannon fodder for future critique.

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