Let It Spin

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Imagine an art collective whose practice--on the surface--revolves largely around inside jokes, self-congratulation, and the unabashed display of consumption. Throw in a fine balance between fearless experimentation with form and a general disregard for traditional aesthetics. Sounds like international biennale material, right? In fact, it's "Double Happiness," the net art collective who today celebrate their first anniversary of online rabble-rousing under the moniker of this popular Chinese calligraph. When the group was invited, via email, to ruminate on this auspicious occasion, "Dub Hap" co-founder Borna Sammak replied, "I've noticed that those outside the art community seem much quicker to 'get it' than art people." Then again, he also boasted, "I pride myself in having the worst website on the internet." Indeed, the group's site--also managed by artists Eric Laska, Evan Roth, Jeff Sisson, and Bennett Williamson--is chock-a-block with the fruits of inordinately long websurfing sessions: frayed gif mashups, hilarious if sometimes unnerving audio loops, shameless resizes calling for inconsistent page widths, ekphrastic word/image paradoxes, and very often beautiful collages of similar images (graffiti tags, gummi bears, umbrella hats... Google Image Searches are their friend) that not only signify through combination and quantity but overwhelm the viewer with a sheer cascade of visual awesomeness. In many ways, the blog recalls the motto of OG net artists Jimpunk and Abe Linkoln's classic site, Screenfull.net, "We crash your browser with content." Double Happiness has the fresh spirit of a sketchbook alit--a sort of exquisite corpse in which no age or end is predeterminate of today's chaotic link-dump. Ultimately, if Double Happiness revolves around an inside joke, then the joke is shared by all of us. As Williamson reasons, "I enjoy using the internet as a medium for dubhap because online we already view so many disparate ...

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Express Yourself

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If virtual commerce were ever in need of a critical makeover, we might look no further than Kevin Bewersdorf and Paul Slocum to offer some solutions. As key instigators of a new type of objecthood, Bewersdorf and Slocum's individual and collective practices treat the internet as a launching pad for self-expression, where a motley crowd of Google searches and "spirit surfing" can be reinvested with the "ephemeral-imperfect" qualities of everyday items, courtesy of Walgreens.com Photo Center and other online manufacturers. What ensues are amusing products - pillowcases emblazoned with search result images of "Titanic" and "Woodstock"; mouse pads covered with pictures of "Pain" - made all the more bewildering by their stringent adherence to the terms of gallery exhibition: pristine white pedestals et. al. Bewersdorf and Slocum's reapportionment thus extends beyond the realm of clever shopping and into that of conceptual art, offering methods of traversing the routes of internet-based consumption towards highlighting a dominant commercial paradigm, yet ultimately sequestering its products in the realm of aesthetic display, within which their uncanny qualities may be brought into sharp relief. "Spirit Surfers," opening this weekend at VertexList, promises to find the artists delving deeper into this inquiry, and also marks the debut of their brand new web-based surfing club of the same name. - Tyler Coburn

Image: "Maximum Sorrow Throw Blanket #2", Kevin Bewersdorf, 2008

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