Image generated by Online Art Critic (Terry Towery, 1997)
Online exhibitions are nothing new—here's Oliver Laric's incomplete timeline of the form from 2013 (he created this when ARTPLUS called theirs "the first exclusively online biennial exhibition of contemporary art" lol.) And yet reviews of these undertakings remain few and far between, not least at the highest echelons, in the pages of industry publications like Artforum and newspapers like the New York Times.
Notice that I'm speaking about (art) reviews particularly: focused critical writing that takes a qualitative position on an exhibition. Features—writing that points at something happening, or critically reports broader topics and trends—are more common. Here's a feature about an online exhibition in the Times from 2002. Here's a feature noting another online exhibition in Artforum from 2015.
The original Mike Builds a Shelter (1983) for "GOVERNMENT APPROVED HOME FALLOUT SHELTER AND SNACK BAR" at Castelli Graphics
"Hardware-based restoration—that's nasty business."
Unsurprisingly, this is not an uncommon remark from my colleague Dragan Espenschied, who has staked a path for Rhizome in emulation-based restoration instead. And yet there the two of us were on Tuesday, June 9, at Light Industry, excited to see some impressively nasty hardware courtesy artist/curator/programmer/musician Paul Slocum.
At the front of the packed screening room sat two hardware-based versions of Mike Builds a Shelter, a 1983 videogame by artist Mike Smith, computer graphics designer Dov Jacobson, and programmer Reza Keshavarz. One was a touched-up original Commodore 64 (C64) plugged into a small CRT TV and connected to a coin door and a joystick. The other was Slocum's most current homebrew re-make—a small box which contained a C64 on a chip, modified for stability and other improvements such as the ability to output to a flat-screen like the one attached, with a modern power brick that can take international voltages, connected to a coin door and a joystick. Both versions fed into cherry red KRK speakers, and both required a quarter to run, which Light Industry generously provided. (The coin slot was unboxed, so the single coin just fell out, ready to be reused! #freeculture)
"I think of the home office as the studio," Travess Smalley contends, an interest which is reflected in his use of the flatbed scanner as image-making tool and sculptural object. This embrace of the basics of domestic computing culture speaks to the interests of the "surf club" generation of artists, who in the mid- to late-aughts used group blogs (Smalley was a member of one called Loshadka) to make conversational, collaborative net art out of memes, links, and the semiotics of the web.
And yet Smalley's process of layering clay on the scanner bed, scanning the composition, and digitally altering the result to create a photographic print (as in the piece at auction), results in works relating as much to digital culture as to pop art (think, Jasper Johns), contemporary process abstraction (Gerhard Richter), and early photographic experimentation (Henry Fox Talbot's impressions).
Lynn Hershman Leeson, Roberta's Construction Chart #2, 1975
The sophistication and prescience of Lynn Hershman Leeson's decades-long engagement with identity under networked conditions, bioengineering, surveillance, and on becomes more evident with each year (and its attendant tech, genetic splices, and corporate and governmental intrusions). Gratifyingly, then, 2015 promises the continued run of the artist's retrospective at ZKM | Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie Karlsruhe, with its forthcoming comprehensive monograph, and, opening tonight, a solo presentation at Bridget Donahue's new gallery:
The latest in a series of interviews with artists whose work makes use of or responds to network culture and digital technologies.
Zachary Kaplan: A few months back, I was on my way to your studio just as you posted a picture of Anna Wintour walking down the street (maybe at Prince and Thompson?). At first I thought, "Why is Anna Wintour skulking around SoHo alone, and how great is this photo?". But then I worried, "Jeanette's not going to be at her studio; she's out in the world capturing this picture that seems so 'on brand.'" When I arrived at your studio in Nolita, though, you were there working on some stuff for New Hive. That all of this seemed to be happening at once—the instagram of Anna Wintour, the in-progress montages, the general thrum of your studio—felt very specific.
Cole's original FB post: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=10153087620542199&id=200401352198
Tumblr version of NY Mag story that Cole had linked to (at the time, the NY Mag website had been taken offline by a distributed denial-of-service attack): http://nymag.tumblr.com/post/125179609945/im-no-longer-afraid-35-women-tell-their
TNI repost: http://thenewinquiry.com/blogs/dtake/improving-on-silence/
From Cole's intro: "I should say that this note was first written for my Facebook page, on July 27 2015, and I think it will retain some of the tone of that context: discursive, reactive, and addressed directly to my followers. But my editor at the New Inquiry thought I should share it here, with a broader audience, and I agree."
Perhaps the piece will circulate more widely on TNI; it will circulate differently, for sure. I'm still not sure what "independent" means, but on one count—the writing standing alone rather than within the feed with prominent attachment—its "independence" on TNI is perhaps detrimental in that it competes with the NY Mag story. (Cole acknowledges this in his intro.) The comments on the original post (ranging from simple thank yous, to lengthy responses, to, as across the web, gross parsing) are immediate and interesting, and they won't run on TNI.
In any event, it's a piece of what I think is meaningful, critical writing instigated by Facebook, with a tone and position resulting from the social media giant's culture, and the publics it can gather.
United States of America
Writing in 1970, Gene Youngblood advocated that artists take up the technologies of the moment—special effects, computer art, video art, multi-media environments, and holography—to expand the consciousness of their publics. The theorist claimed that artistic experience can change us into more aware and self-conscious human beings, and inform new ways of being in the world. Our question today is: How can contemporary aesthetics and artistic experience—enabled by the technologies of the moment—expand our consciousness and help us to change the fundamental concepts that organize our reality, like creativity, technology, sustainability, and collectivity?
Following the exhibition Voyage to the Virtual, this evening engages artists, curators, and critics in a conversation that takes up Youngblood's quest for the utilization of new technologies in aesthetic experience, and considers the relationship between expressions in contemporary artistic practice, expanded perception, and consciousness.
Presenters include artist Jette Gejl Kristensen, artist Pia Myrvold, artist, critic, and curator Nicholas O’Brien, curator Tanya Toft, and artist Chris Woebken. The evening's moderator is Zachary Kaplan, Rhizome's Assistant Director.
The prize is a three year initiative. Perhaps by late 2016 all will be pleased.