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.
Watermarking or tagging images that appear online is a common security measure meant to prevent the circulation of a particular image without attribution. The ease with which images may be copied, dragged, screengrabbed, or otherwise extracted from their original context and distributed through platforms such as Tumblr means that those interested in selling images or otherwise controlling their distribution often rely on digital watermarking as a blunt proprietary tool.
Digital watermarking can be accomplished in a variety of ways, but is most commonly a name or phrase placed over the image itself, thereby disrupting its visual continuity and making it undesirable to copy. The most recognizable watermarks are those of stock photo agencies such as Getty Images, and many artists, such as Guthrie Lonergan, Kevin Bewersdorf, and Aleksandra Domanovic, have used Getty photos as a means of reflecting on issues of copyright as they apply to affect and art making.
That said, the practice is hardly limited to artists and large corporations, and has become particularly prevalent on eBay for users selling "authentic" or "vintage" photos and prints. The simultaneous need to display the image for the buyer but prevent the buyer from simply copying the file itself makes watermarking a widely agreed upon convention. How this marking is accomplished varies widely, and in some ways produces a kind of self-reflexive visual poetry, one primarily concerned with questions of authenticity and attribution.
I am very concerned with problematizing the class and gender dynamics of this history in particular, especially since I am using the term "queer" here in a slippery way, applying it to a group of men who may better fit its historically pejorative definition more than its contemporary transgressive one. I'd love to chat more online and in person. I'll contact you through twitter and perhaps we can get a coffee.
Honestly I just found it more interesting to talk about what the show might mean instead of whether or not it was good. People are going to see the show regardless, and I'd rather they read a piece that puts the show in a context they hadn't thought of then go in with the idea that the show is good or bad because they read it on a website. Is it the responsibility of a site like Rhizome to publish reviews that take a clear stance on the quality or validity of shows such as this? Maybe. But honestly I find that kind of work dull, particularly when it devolves into snark and shade that does more to boost the ego of the reviewer than it does to inform its readers. In fact I would argue that it is precisely those kinds of reviews that are uncritical, or at least, critically shallow.
Part of the reason I reviewed the show as I did is that I was not particularly interested in the pieces as artworks - and how they might fit into a longer art historical tradition - but more what they might be saying about art, technology, and culture. Whether or not the pieces are good is entirely beside the point for me. And, not to contradict Brian, but what the artist's intentions were when creating that piece, or whether or not he did it for the reasons I gave in my review, is also not personally of interest. And while I said in the first paragraph of my review that even though the show was "about" failure the show itself was not a failure, that does not mean that many of the pieces were not critical or intellectual failures, particularly in their failure to provoke any consideration from the viewer beyond "I see what you did there."
But when I went to the show having to actually consider the pieces beyond their immediate punchline and forced myself away from the kind of knee-jerk eat-our-own criticism that is so easy with so much of this kind of work - and so prevalent in this community - I found something that I thought was worth writing about, and that (hopefully) wasn't the same kind of critique that everyone has given Cory for years. For me the review wasn't about if the show was good or bad, it was about what it meant both for the new media art community and within the broader context of art, technology, and culture.
So while this may be a question of defaults it doesn't seem to be reflecting on technologically specific defaults, just culturally specific defaults and readily available forms.