Art After Social Media in Cambodia

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Image posted to Facebook by Pen Robit.

An artist finishes a piece, snaps a selfie in front of the work, and uploads the picture to Facebook. Although there is no curator or gallery mediating the art, many of the artist's friends are quickly liking and commenting on the work. It's a typical postinternet art practice that I've seen countless times, only now I'm in Cambodia, a country where a mere 26.7% of the population claims they've used the internet. The work is a self-portrait oil painting, and the artist borrowed his friend's smartphone for the picture.

Postinternet art is an umbrella term for a range of artistic responses to the widespread adoption of the web—specifically social media and networked smartphones—in and around the contemporary art world. It explores and exploits how these technologies have affected the ways art and culture is shared and made. Online conversations and web surfing become the raw materials, Photoshop and screen grabs the tools, and YouTube and Instagram the platforms.

In his seminal blog "Post Internet," Gene McHugh described the condition of postinternet as "when the Internet is less a novelty and more a banality." The lack of any sense of banality around internet access here in Cambodia, where I've spent the past several weeks researching and interviewing contemporary artists, has forced me to question two major underlying assumptions about postinternet art: A. Everyone is online, all the time. and B. Everyone has access to the computational power of something like a MacBook Pro, which are both statistically egregious assumptions. Roughly 58% of the world is offline, and many of those online are only accessing the web through basic feature phones. 

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Required Reading: Net Art gets bodied

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 Ann Hirsch, Playground, 2013 Performance at the New Museum

Johanna Fateman's "Women on the Verge," running in the current issue of Artforum, takes an in-depth and sensitive look at the recent online exhibition "Body Anxiety" and the work of several notable artists currently working online. The article serves as an excellent snapshot of the "current predicament" of contemporary feminism, and the seemingly conflicted positions the artists adopt:

As skeptical inheritors of the third-wave pro-sex torch, they share no unified agenda, only a cultural predicament. If to put an image of one's body on the Internet is to frame it with the apparatus of porn, to lose control of its circulation, and to expose oneself to the cultural anxiety, sexist scrutiny, and confounding hostility that attend the gesture, then what’s the way forward? There’s no single path, of course. But in many of the standout works that have emerged from this scene, young women—in registers of resignation or defiance, didactically or through performing the intertwinements of "sexuality, innocence, darkness, complacency"—seem to pull off the paradoxical feat of taking back their images at the very moment of surrender.

To celebrate this well-deserved consideration, we've collected a few resources from the Rhizome archives for further research into the topics and artists that were covered in this article, and one or two that weren't:

Josephine Bosma's review "'Body Anxiety:' Sabatoging Big Daddy Mainframe, via Online Exhibition," which discusses the show in the context of prehistories of feminism in net art.

This resource list by the Old Boys Network, which includes manifestos and writings from '90s cyberfeminist leaders like VNS Matrix and Shu Lea Cheang. This 1998 interview between Cheang and Alex Galloway is well worth revisiting. A more recent 2012 interview with Cheang and Yin Ho can be found here, in which she discusses at length her 1998 project Brandon. Parts of the project have now been restored on the Guggenheim website.

Ann Hirsch, whose 2013 Rhizome commission Playground was presented last weekend at JOAN in Los Angeles, was quoted extensively in Fateman's essay. For more on Hirsch, see her 2012 Artist Profile, Moira Weigel on Playground, and Morgan Quaintance's review of the London performance.

An Artist Profile of Jennifer Chan highlights the artist-curator's attention to cyberfeminism in relation to her own practice.

Last fall, Hannah Black and Amalia Ulman participated in our series of discussions Art in Circulation, during which Ulman launched the First Look exhibition of Excellences & Perfections. There have also been Artist Profiles of the former and the latter.

Bunny Rogers talked in depth about online identities in her Artist Profile, and participated in an evening called Internet as Poetry last summer. She'll be working on a Rhizome commission later this year.

Finally, check out Rachel Rabbit White's recap of the 2013 women-only event Zoë Salditch curated at Transfer Gallery in Brooklyn, Oh gURL: It’s so good to finally meet u IRL.

Enjoy, and we hope to see more writing about net art and online exhibitions from Artforum in the future.

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Artist Profile: Jennifer Chan

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The latest in a series of interviews with artists who have developed a significant body of work engaged (in its process, or in the issues it raises) with technology. See the full list of Artist Profiles here.

Jennifer Chan. Tralier for the exhibition "Young Money" (Future Gallery, 2012).

I remember when I first saw the videos you were making in 2012 while you were at Syracuse, and I recall feeling as though you were imitating a "bro net art aesthetic" as a way to critique it. For example, the trailer for your exhibition "Young Money" (above) includes a shot of you holding cash, a rotating pizza, and a floating rendering of a bong. But now, ironically, that has actually become your signature style and when I see others making videos in that vein, I think they are copying you. How do you feel your video style came to be, and now that you've been immersed in it for some years, why do you use the formal elements that you do?

I want to defensively say "I wasn't copying art bros; they're copying me!" but I really don't think there is any originality after the internet and in some sense we subconsciously or directly retain emotional and aesthetic affects of everything we see. I wasn't thinking it was particularly "bro-ey" style that informed works like Young Money...Before I discovered "postinternet" art I was watching a lot of amateur YouTube videomakers like Wendy Vainity, Epic Mealtime, and random videos of boys performing pranks and dares, so there were some definite influences from vloggers and pro-am producers. I noticed that people actually enjoyed performing "bro" ironically, and I wanted to channel that parodic pleasure. It can't and won't be about youth and fantasy forever though. I'm currently working on a 15-minute video about equality that bastardizes film and documentary tropes...

Bad videomaking seemed sincere, effortless and convenient for the net. My older videos were inspired by fan culture on YouTube and could be lumped in with screen-recorded videos, unboxings, and reviews made by young videogamers. A direct aesthetic influence was my friend Daniel Waldman who made videos for fun with Windows Movie Maker and posted every one of them on YouTube without caring whether people thought it was art or not. 

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Nail Art: From lipstick traces to digital polish

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From Charlie Engman's Tumblr.

For several weeks in August, news of an anti-date rape nail polish circulated on blogs and social media, igniting new debates with each posting. Created by four male university students, the nail polish was designed to be worn by would-be rape-victims; when dipped into a drink, it would indicate if it had been laced with one of three common date rape drugs by changing colors accordingly. Articles about this new prototype were irresistible to social media users—the way it tackled a trending, yet serious issue: the allure of staving off predators with fashion and the gimmick of seeing the colors change before your eyes.

Critics pointed out that the product reinforces the notion that it is the woman's responsibility to protect herself from sexual assault, serving as a reminder of the social acceptance of male aggression. A solutionist stopgap, it seems most likely to spur date rapists to change their lacing methods, while giving users a false sense of security.

One question that did not emerge during this discussion was the material form of this innovation, and its relationship to the body. As Lizzie Homersham and I wrote in a recent article for Rhizome, hands "problematize the boundary between organic human and inorganic tool." In the case of the date rape nail polish, the polished nail is deployed as a sensory device, a technological prosthesis that is also a part of our bodies.

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Index of Rhizome Today for August

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Rhizome Today is an experiment in ephemeral blogging: posts written and published each morning, and unpublished within a day. The latest post can always be found at http://www.rhizome.org/today.

After some discussion about the best way to wrap up each month's posts, we've decided to publish a list of topics and people covered on Today during the preceding month. Here is the index for Rhizome Today in August, 2014. 

Topics

  • Amazon (8-Aug, 11-Aug, 26-Aug)
  • ARE.NA (20-Aug)

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Performance GIFs 7: Jennifer Chan

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Cam Twist 
ManyCam and webcam video
Jennifer Chan

Artist's statement:

"Whenever you put your body online, in some way you are in conversation with porn," writes Ann Hirsch.

"If you do not want your image to travel somewhere far away, do not release it to the cloud," warns Jacob Ciocci.

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Five Videos: Jennifer Chan's I Like To Watch

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Five Videos is an online series "hosted" by Rhizome, in collaboration with FACT, responding to the Liverpool Biennial's theme, The Unexpected Guest. Each week throughout the Liverpool Biennial, a new artist will curate five videos about hospitality. This week, Jennifer Chan considers web videos before and after the age of Youtube:

The notion of hospitality prompts me to think of radical openness— an approach that accounts for anomaly, dissent, and oddity. Openness is widely associated with participatory nature of the Web 2.0, but by nature of the longtail, not all information on the web is useful. As the use of “YouTube video” has become interchangeable with “online video”, I’m going to explore what amateur video looked like before and after YouTube’s advent in 2005.

“All Hail The Necrowizard!”

In the early 2000s, simple Flash animations like Stick Death and Return of the Necrowizard were a source of cathartic entertainment for bored youngsters on the internet. These animations could be found at game portals and entertainment websites like Newgrounds and AddictingGames.com. Originally hosted on Stickdeath.com — which is no longer active — Stick Death included short animated webisodes that depicted stickmen performing antisocial gestures to themselves and each other.

StickDeath, Auto Thefts, (2002)

Return of the Necrowizard (2006) is a fan video for an acoustic Black metal band called Impaled Northern Moonforest. Promoted through their hokey website and online video, the DIY music project consisted of Josh Martin and and Seth Putnam (now deceased), who are former members of a grindcore band Anal Cunt. In this video, poorly drawn witches, frowny moons, and upturned crosses satire the androcentric sadness of Black metal.


Author Unknown, Return of the Necrowizard, 2006.


V is for Vernacular

Within an art context, “vernacular” is employed to describe something as “referential” to a ...

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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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