In a recent speech titled “Remarks on Internet Freedom,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that the Internet was now an integral part of US foreign policy. “Some countries,” Clinton said, making a thinly veiled reference to China, “have erected electronic barriers that prevent their people from accessing portions of the world’s networks,” while the US stands for “a single Internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas.” Although the technology of networked computers has its origins in military research, all this cold war-style rhetoric over Internet access would have come as a big surprise to anyone using the World Wide Web in the early 1990s. That Internet was very different: a place for meek computer science professors, adventurous home coders, and moms and pops who just wanted to say “Welcome to My Homepage.” It was not a place in which two superpowers did battle. What to make of this transformation?
Is it still necessary to define art by intent and context? The gallery world would have us believe this to be the case, but the internet tells a more mutable story. Contrary to the long held belief that art needs intent and context, I suggest that if we look outside of galleries, we’ll find the actions, events and people that create contemporary art with or without the art world’s label.
Over the past 20 years, the theory Relational Aesthetics (referred to in this essay as RA) has interpreted social exchanges as an art form. Founding theoretician Nicholas Bourriaud describes this development as “a set of artistic practices that take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context”. In reality, art erroneously known to typify RA’s theorization hasn’t strayed far from the model of the 1960’s Happening, an event beholden to the conventions of the gallery and the direction of its individual creator. In her essay Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics, Claire Bishop describes Rikrit Tiravanija’s dinners as events circumscribed in advance, using their location as a crutch to differentiate the otherwise ordinary action of eating a meal as art. A better example of the theory of RA succinctly put into action can be seen in anonymous group activities on the internet, where people form relations and meaning without hierarchy.
Started in 2003, 4Chan.org is one such site, and host to 50 image posting message boards, (though one board in particular, simply titled ‘/b/’, is responsible for originating many of the memes we use to burn our free time.) The site’s 700,000 daily users post and comment in complete anonymity; a bathroom-stall culture generating posts that alternate between comedic brilliance, virulent hate ...
Tanner America is critical satire in the form of a Tumblr blog. The site is updated several times a week with "snapshot" style images and brief accompanying captions. Each image depicts a moment from the daily lives of the Tanner family of Colorado Springs, CO: the kids' science projects, camping trips, remodeling the house, purchases from Home Depot, and their neighbor Linda. The images are purposefully mundane and would be of little interest to anyone outside the Tanner's immediate family and friends.
What makes the images satire is the fact that they are clearly, intentionally fabricated. Each image has been noticeably photoshopped in such a way that it becomes an implicit critique. In many ways they resemble JOGGING-style sculptures or performance, as the strange juxtaposition of objects announces itself as fabricated and implies some form of intentionality, some form of critique.
The clearest commentary would seem to be a general critique of white, middle class, heterosexual Middle America. The Tanner's lives are dull, they have too many kids, they are uncritical and indulge in consumerist behavior, they watch Fox News, their Facebook page lists their political views as "Tea Party", etc. In a way Tanner America is poking fun at the suburbs, at the concept of "normal, everyday Americans," and in doing so reinforcing the kind of snide elitism that the Tanners would no doubt accuse "us" of, if they were real.
At the same time there is another critique, not of the values and lives of people like the Tanners, but the way they use the Internet and what it means to them. Taking a look at the default Tumblr theme the Tanners "chose" to use it seems grossly mismatched with the style and tone of the images and captions they post. It looks like a ...
"Time doesn't exist when you're... just chilling!" Topping an administrative page on the site of curatorial collective Jstchillin, this slogan rephrases a familiar bit of folk phenomenology: Time flies when you're having fun! But in denying time's existence, rather making its perceived acceleration a metaphor for losing yourself in the moment, the slogan suggests a swap of the trinity of past-present-future for something else -- a sense of time that (until the end of this essay, at least) I will call "chill time." Jstchillin is concerned with the internet, and my description of chill time will be, too. It entails an awareness of parallel threads of messages, ordered by clock-time sequence and subjective assignments of importance (cf. Facebook's feed settings: "Top News" and "Most Recent"), and the knowledge that these messages will wait until you find them (in your e-mail, in your RSS aggregator, etc.) but might be irrelevant when you do if you wait too long. Chill time is simultaneity of the recent past and lagging present, the sum of attempts to track some threads into the past and push others toward the future. Awareness of physical surroundings tends to be fuzzy as you sift through old layers of digital sediment and deposit new ones. Jstchillin founders Caitlyn Denny and Parker Ito describe it like this: "[T]o chill is to live in a constant state of multiplicities, a flow of existence between web and physicality."
Jstchillin encompasses a number of initiatives, including the gallery show "Avatar 4D," but its flagship project is "Serial Chillers in Paradise," an online exhibition that has featured a different artist every other week since October 2009. Chill time, I think, is the central theme of "Serial Chillers," one that many commissioned artists have approached through conventional associations with chilling. Video games were the subject of an illustrated short story/film treatment by Jon Rafman, and Jonathan Vingiano's browser add-on Space Chillers was a game. Ida Lehtonen's contribution folded soothing ocean sounds into a video of exercises that computer laborers can do to stay limber during breaks, while Eilis Mcdonald's sent you scrolling through bits of pat, New-Agey advice and then to a page with equivalent visuals; both artists drew on packaged relaxation. Zach Schipko and Tucker Bennett's feature-length movie Why Are You Weird?, parceled into YouTube uploads, is a story of art-school students who spend almost all of their onscreen time at parties or hanging out in their dorm rooms, rehashing crits.
Roth launched Animated Gif Mashup 2.0 last week at SPEED SHOW vol.1: TELE-INTERNET curated by Aram Bartholl.
Nicholas O'Brien has produced another killer interview for Bad At Sports. (We posted his previous one, A Conversation with Jon Rafman a few weeks back.) This time, he speaks with artist Eric Fleischauer about his work and his current exhibition "Post-Cursor" at Chicago's threewalls. Fleischauer is keenly interested in the process of obsolescence in recording technology, and its importance for storage and archives. It seems fitting then, that the entire interview is recorded on videotape.
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.
Nowhere is a three-dimensional milling machine that carves a landscape relief on a 70x70x10cm large block of hard foam. The machine receives a stream of live search requests from the german search engines metager and metager2 (www.metager.de) via the internet. The users search movements erode rivers and canyons on the surface. Search requests that shoot through the internet just for a fraction of a second and generate an answer on the searchers screen, cause the machine to write a constant growing sculpture into the space. The continuous stream of changing search requests defines form and rhythm of this process.