Klaus Gallery Builds a "New Wall" for Online Art

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Michelle Ceja's Wet Code opened earlier this month in Klaus von Nichtssagend's Lower East Side venue, an installation marking the launch of the gallery's new online exhibition space. Initially shown as a browser-based collage of gifs, Quicktime video, MP3s, and HTML, Wet Code also existed as a one-night installation of projections bearing a similar aesthetic. Klausgallery.net will see rotating two-week online exhibitions curated by artist Duncan Malashock, with periodic in-real-life installations by artists in Klaus Gallery proper. "We wanted to accommodate artists whose practices wouldn't ordinarily fit into a physical exhibition space," says Sam Wilson, co-owner of Klaus von Nichtssagend, "Now it's kind of like we have another wall in our space specifically made for this kind of work." Adds fellow co-owner Rob Hult, "It was also a way to satiate a growing curiosity about artists working with the medium. I saw Duncan speak on the history of internet-related art practices at Nurture Art and felt compelled to ask him to work with us on an online project."

Many conversations later brought Klausgallery.net, which developed from a more modest singular art project to a full-blown online exhibition space.

As it stands, the artist line-up may seem like a who's-who in a current internet social sphere to some, building on the web-specific dynamic of building one's practice in tandem with and through a community of peers. Though many included in Malashock's participant list are connected socially via the internet, specifically via Facebook or through the surf club Computers Club, it also ranges widely in geographic location and practice, from established Dutch artists Constant Dullaart and Harm van den Dorpel to more emerging Stateside artists Bea Fremderman, Sara Ludy, and Billy Rennekamp. Presciently, Malashock has chosen many artists whose work successfully navigates ...

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Artist Profile: Duncan Malashock

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Birthstone Puzzle, 2011 Performance documentation, digital video, 11 mins 47 sec.

I noticed one of your pieces is called Glass Bead Game. A reference to the Herman Hesse novel, perhaps?

How did you know?  I’m totally fascinated by that book and its implications, especially when it comes to culture and the Internet.  In case you haven’t read it, here’s the basic idea:  

It’s a science fiction story, in the distant future on Earth, in a European province named Castalia.  Castalia is the archetypical ivory tower, an academic sanctuary where students practice a form of abstract cultural study called the Glass Bead Game.  The game operates on the principle that every field of knowledge can be broken down into its component parts, and so the “beads” which make up the game are each symbolic of a “unit” of cultural knowledge or accomplishment from the arts, humanities, sciences, history, etc.  The idea is that these beads can be linked and juxtaposed together, the goal being for players to share their revelations of cultural insight through making connections between elements of all the arts and sciences.

“...a passage from the Bible, a phrase from one of the Church Fathers, or from the Latin text of the Mass could be expressed and taken into the Game just as easily and aptly as an axiom of geometry or a melody of Mozart.”

It seems like a utopian idea, the accomplishment of uniting the disciplines, but the story deals with the complications of studying culture while being removed from the necessities and urgency which made that culture possible in the first place; and in a way, it’s about that detachment and privilege symbolizing the end of culture.

I’m sure lots of readers and writers have seen the connection since the Internet was created.  Remixing, memes, “supercuts”, reblogging, and the hyperlink all bear a resemblance to this idealized mode of analyzing and resynthesizing cultural material at a distance.  Even the act of using the Internet, of having a peek at the total field of global culture via the network of information, can pretty easily give you the impression of an ex-cultural experience.  So to me The Glass Bead Game is a really thorough critique of that way of interacting with the world.

Anyway, I think about it a ton, although you’d never know it from that tiny video I made except for the name; it happened to fit in with the series of performance documentations I did, and I couldn’t resist playing around with the idea.  So thanks for asking.

Recently you gave a talk about your early experiences with computers and the tools that you used growing up. Would you still be exploring ideas about technology in your art without this background?

A lot of my work deals with interfaces, either making them, using them, or automating their use.  Those mediated experiences, you could say, are a tech-oriented phenomenon, but really the way I figure it, you could just as well say that any experience can be mediated through anything else that’s a “medium”.  Personally, I tend to explore ideas that come about through my personal relationship to technology as a medium.  And I think that’s pretty normal for an artist, no matter what materials are involved, because I see the creative process as basically being made of two interacting mechanisms.  The first is your own ability to manipulate what you’re working on, and the second is your ability to be emotionally and intellectually affected by the results.  It's a feedback loop, where the results of one process affect the tactics of the other; you see what “works” and what doesn’t “work”, whatever that happens to mean at the time, and you go back and change it until it does.  

From what I can tell, that’s how to play the game, and that’s the way it’s always been done.  I think it applies no matter what your medium is, even if your practice is very conceptualist or driven by critical theory; you’re still manipulating something and being attuned to the result.  Whether it’s paint, or sculpture, or JavaScript, or basket-weaving, or conceptualist declarations, or Facebook performances.  

So even though technology got my attention at a young age, and I’m of course interested in all the ways technology has transformed our society, I think some of the most valuable ideas artists explore are going to be informed by their relationship to the medium they use; I try to stick to that.

 

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Pooool.info with essays from Duncan Malashock, Jennifer Chan, Ann Hirsch, and Others

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Pool is a "platform dedicated to expanding and improving the discourse surrounding Post-Internet art, culture and society." It launched this week with contributions from Absis Minas, Andreas Ervik, Ann Hirsch, Duncan Malashock, Gene McHugh, Ginger Scott, Jennifer Chan, Louis Doulas, and Nicholas O’Brien.

Essays:

Community and Practice Online by Duncan Malashock

Why Are There No Great Women Net Artists? by Jennifer Chan

Women, Sexuality and the Internet by Ann Hirsch

Meagher’s Space by Gene McHugh

A Case Study on the Influence of Gestural Computing by Nicholas O’Brien

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