The following excerpt comes from the final chapter of my book Media, New Media, Postmedia, recently published in Italian by Postmediabooks, who kindly gave Rhizome permission to republish it in English. The book is an attempt to analyze the current positioning of so-called “New Media Art” in the wider field of contemporary arts, and to explore the historical, sociological and conceptual reasons for its marginal position and under-recognition in recent art history.
This PDF is to serve as an extended statement of artistic purpose and critique of our contemporary relation to objects and images in Post-Internet culture. More than anything, it poses a survey of contemplations and open questions on contemporary art and culture after the Internet.
“Post-Internet Art” is a term coined by artist Marisa Olson and developed further by writer Gene McHugh in the critical blog “Post Internet” during its activity between December 2009 and September 2010. Under McHugh's definition it concerns “art responding to [a condition] described as 'Post Internet'-when the Internet is less a novelty and more a banality. Perhaps ... closer to what Guthrie Lonergan described as 'Internet Aware'-or when the photo of the art object is more widely dispersed [&] viewed than the object itself.” There are also several references to the idea of “post-net culture” in the writings of Lev Manovich as early as 2001.
Specifically within the context of this PDF, Post-Internet is defined as a result of the contemporary moment: inherently informed by ubiquitous authorship, the development of attention as currency, the collapse of physical space in networked culture, and the infinite reproducibility and mutability of digital materials.
Post-Internet also serves as an important semantic distinction from the two historical artistic modes with which it is most often associated: New Media Art and Conceptualism.
New Media is here denounced as a mode too narrowly focused on the specific workings of novel technologies, rather than a sincere exploration of cultural shifts in which that technology plays only a small role. It can therefore be seen as relying too heavily on the specific materiality of its media. Conceptualism (in theory if not practice) presumes a lack of attention to the physical substrate in favor of the methods of disseminating the artwork as idea, image ...
In the following page I attempt to discover how people around the world are using the largest social media website, Facebook, as subject in song. In this collection I pull videos from YouTube users of many cultures and nationalities who are preforming songs which deal with Facebook - in doing this, I find points of continuity which will be addressed bellow.
Inevitably, the fast pace of consumerism is accompanied by the tantalizing promise of slow time—Allen Ginsberg once complained of a heart attack en route to his weekly meditation.
Just as the arts were reinvented in the age of the camera, so too must they be in the age of accelerated time. If the internet and the touch screen represent the apparatuses of our age, then the material and the prolonged have become a niche for the discursive and formal role of the arts. Much like a spa, the arts play host to a malnourished subject eager to experience something nostalgically other. Slow time and tangible bodies become so rare experientially that their aesthetic value finds a home in the cul-de-sac of scarcity that is art.
Since the advent of mechanical production, the arts have been the space in which the hard-to-find seeks refuge. And while the art market has been much discussed, we now find another form of scarcity in forms of experience. At times in tension, at times in collusion with capitalist scarcity, the scarcity of experience encourages forms of art that are not as easily distributed as—and thus more distinguishable from—the mass produced goods of the broader market. Massive installations, sculptures, performance, civic institutions (the museum), time-based relational aesthetics all find value in their experiential distinction from larger markets. Museums offer special opportunities to experience the body in space. In this spasmodic era, we find the arts recalibrated as a temporal, spatial, and bodily escape.
This kind of shifted aesthetic disposition resists not only the pace of the information economy, but, perhaps more importantly, our very ability to consume our experience. If we are frantic, it is only because we need to ...
"Art and social media" -- this topic is all anyone wants to talk about these days. The discussion extends from the staid -- the National Endowment for the Arts released a report titled "Audience 2.0: How Technology Influences Arts Participation" -- to more spicy ruminations on what "social media art" offers as a new category, as in the artist An Xiao’s recent three-part series for Hyperallergic.
On the one hand, this faddish obsession with "social media" is understandable. The Facebook Corp. has begun to wrap its fingers around every other aspect of life, so it is clearly logical to ask what effects social media might have on art-making. But at the same time, I find the chatter somehow sad, as if visual art’s power to inspire passion among a larger audience is so attenuated that it has to throw itself on whatever trendy thing is out there, to win some reflected glory for itself.
So, the question for me is this: Is there any more interesting way to think about the topic than the loose and impressionistic manner that it is currently framed? Maybe it’s worth noting that, of all the buzzwords of the present-day lexicon, "social media" is perhaps the only one that is more vaguely defined than "art." Let’s begin, then, by clarifying terms to see if we can get to a more interesting place.
At its most basic form, I believe social media is a dialogue. Onamountaintop.com allows users to say whatever it is they want to say with no accounts, no friends and no poking. Once the user’s entry fades to white, their words are gone forever. Just as one’s voice echoes into the valley from a mountain top. Pure poetry.
If we consider Internet art to be a distinct category of art making that uses the Internet as its primary medium or platform, we necessarily distinguish it from other forms in which the Internet does not play a primary role. The objects of Internet art are necessarily immaterial, and it is this immaterial quality that makes them so notoriously difficult to exhibit and archive. For some artists this has led to a kind of hybridization of Internet aesthetics and real world objects, such that they might be purchased or viewed in a real-world setting such as a museum or gallery space. For others it becomes a matter of the careful curation of digital images and documentation in an effort to brand oneself and build cultural capital where there is little possibility for financial compensation. After all, how do you monetize an object whose natural setting is a networked space that encourages many-to-many distribution practices? How do you sell a website, a .jpeg? These are responses to a crisis in image making and distribution in which older curatorial models that rely on the limitations of physical space and the exchange of physical objects are increasingly undermined by distanced, virtual, and distributed viewership online.
For art collective JOGGING - artists Brad Troemel and Lauren Christiansen - this crisis is not limited to Internet art, but has instead become the normative condition under which art is produced and viewed today.
Now that everyone is out of business cards and has had enough time to check in to their locative media apps, I think we can begin to make sense of the social and technological deluge that was the South by Southwest Interactive festival. After being deep in a web development hole for the past few months, what I took away from the conference was a rejuvenation of critical, big-picture questioning, a reminder of just how drastically technology is contouring contemporary society and culture and that, ultimately, it is still in our hands to determine the overall shape of things to come. Although a late arrival and scheduling conflicts prevented me from hearing everyone I'd have liked to have heard (Douglas Rushkoff, Gary Vaynerchuk, among many others), I was able to take in most of the keynote speakers and the panels whose subject had some impact or connection to the arts (which were few). Here is a synopsis of the projects, presentations, and people that resonated with me the most.
A site-specific artwork that auto-generates films based upon narrative data collected from Facebook profiles. Using a combination of status updates, YouTube uploads and video portraits, the work looks at people in Barrow-in-Furness from a range of different perspectives, each one a form of surveillance.
The project uses status updates and demographic profiles, from Facebook users who live in Barrow, to automatically generate video narratives. Data from Facebook is combined with related footage from YouTube and selections from a database of video portraits to create one new video each day. The result is a dynamic snapshot of how we fit into the network of stories that we participate in every day. The videos evolve to keep pace with how we change, both individually and collectively.
t+7 is a Twitter adaptation of the classic n+7 text procedure concocted by the Oulipo (Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle) group. Each substantive noun in a text is systematically substituted for the noun found 7 places after it in a dictionary, creating peculiar mutations of the original prose.