Artist Profile: Michael Manning

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Animated GIF via dump.fm

LH: For as long as I've been familiar with your work—starting on dump.fm in 2010—you've been incredibly prolific. Back then, you were creating and sharing abstract animated GIFs. I remember you would post hundreds of variations on a single shape. I see that kind of preoccupation, or obsession, come up again and again in your work, with the Phone Arts series, the Microsoft Store Paintings, and most recently, the Sheryl Crow Pandora Paintings. These expansive projects create a sense of repetition, ultimately a smooth rhythm, which appears to be so continuous as to not have a beginning or an end. Can you describe the process for coming up with these projects? How do you distinguish the individual pieces?

MM: I don't like to take any single piece too seriously, I want to work on something without the pressure of it being perfect. I think people discount producing a lot of work because they connect it to feed culture like it's more important to produce massive amounts of content for tumblr or instagram or w/e but that's not really what I'm trying to do. I think it's more interesting to like shit out a bunch of work in a natural way whether it's through a rhythm that you just stumble upon or if you see a jpeg on dump and you're like "loloolllollll pssssssh what in the even fuck ommmmmg" so you have to like rework it 50 times because you're obsessed with it, and then step back after you make this massive body of work and say to yourself "what is all that about dude?", than if you try and distill an idea into one perfect piece you've over thought to death. When you try and make a piece fit a preconceived concept it feels like graphic design, you have the message and the content you're just trying to solve how to effectively communicate that through the work and I don't want to work like that.

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Painting by Numbers

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Bruce Sterling recently suggested that it no longer makes sense to talk about “the internet” as a whole. Instead, we ought to refer to the distinct corporate structures that define the topography of experience online: Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft. These companies provide users with similar services and, increasingly, they organize them in self-sufficient “silos” to encumber disloyal users with incompatibility issues. Sterling’s claim that there’s no more internet sounds premature and calculated to provoke buzz (cf. Wired’s September 2010 cover story, “The Web Is Dead”), but it’s useful nevertheless as a reminder of the limits on the user’s agency as these companies attempt to consolidate their control over information and bind the net to their devices.

With that in mind, Michael Manning’s Microsoft Store Paintings might be seen as a proposition about what happens to internet art when doesn’t make sense to talk about the internet. The digital abstractions are painted at locations of the retail chain named in the series’ title, sometimes at the first-ever Microsoft store in Mission Viejo, CA, which opened in 2009. Microsoft’s retail outlets are, of course, a riposte to the success of Apple’s stores, launched after two decades when the software giant happily dispersed its products through Best Buy and CompUSA. They herald the non-internet seen by Sterling.

An image of a Microsoft Store from Michael Manning's Instagram

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