Archive for December, 2009

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

In the essay “Other Criteria,” the art critic and historian Leo Steinberg talks about the way that Rauschenberg “let the world in again.” He continues, “Not the world of the Renaissance man who looked for his weather clues out of the window; but the world of men who turn knobs to hear a taped message, ‘precipitation probability ten percent tonight,’ electronically transmitted from some windowless booth. Rauschenberg’s picture plane is for the consciousness immersed in the brain of the city.”

According to Steinberg, the “profoundest symbolic gesture” of letting “the world in again,” occurred when Rauschenberg took his bed (a surface for laying things upon) – and turned it vertical, thus, bringing his flatbed “picture plane” into what he describes as “the vertical posture of ‘art.’”

Post Internet art brings the network into the vertical posture of art.

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

Space Junk by Marisa Olson is a black, monochrome square painting like Malevich or Ad Reinhardt or Wade Guyton, but when you look closer, you can see that it’s not black – but a pattern of flickering stars whose aesthetic is appropriated from a web-native starfield wallpaper .gif (a now defunct trope of Web 1.0). The surface itself is wallpaper that Olson wallpapered onto a stretcher to make the monochrome painting.

So, there is a reference to an obsolete avant-garde painting style, as well as a reference to an obsolete Internet aesthetic.

When they combine, they each highlight each other’s obsolescence. Or, perhaps they highlight the fact of obsolescence.

Part of what Post Internet art had to do was get into contemporary art, which – on paper – seems do-able, but in practice is incredibly difficult. Contemporary art people look at contemporary art. They have a sense for work that is adding something they appreciate to their world and they have an even stronger sense for work that is not doing anything but wasting their time.

This painting is “art” because it tells me something about art, about obsolescence in art. It is art (without quotes) because it tells me something deeper, too. Memento Mori.

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

David Horvitz interviews Marisa Olson for a show I curated at CCS Bard.

This is just one piece…

DH: […] Do you believe it is possible to be responsible while still invested in upgrade culture?

MO: I think that’s the question I’m trying to answer for myself. I don’t know. My thought right now is that the upgrade cycle is one we all get locked into. No one’s making me buy a new ipod, but then again, the US government’s legally forcing producers and consumers of TV to upgrade, and they are competing with other countries to do so in a way that I think very interestingly mirrors the space race. I mean, the even bigger question is why we always feel so compelled to invent, buy, reinvent, and toss old models out. Why are so many of our fantasies and fears about the future invested in technology? If I can’t save the world from ewaste and solve the problem of upgrade garbage, I at least hope to initiate these conversations in my work.

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

Behind technological change, there is anxiety.

When one thing doesn’t work, the system is designed to come up with a new one that is supposed to work, but inevitably won’t work. 12We don’t typically mind if the technology doesn’t work because it is all done in the name of Progress.

We are going somewhere.

The whole time, though, we think we’re heading towards utopia and, in fact, we’re headed towards The End. The addiction to technology and change blinds us to the effects of these changes on the Earth. Pollution derived from technological progress is gradually turning the planet into a trash dump. What our blind faith in these cycles of change and forced obsolescence may mean is an avoidance of the anxiety that there is no answer or that if there is, it’s really, really difficult and requires a sacrifice. Every step of the way there are deeper anxieties about, say, death or dealing with other human beings in a serious way that are avoided.

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

Five ways that one can talk about “Post Internet”:

1. New Media art made after the launch of the World Wide Web and, thus, the introduction of mainstream culture to the Internet.

2. Marisa Olson’s definition: Art made after one’s use of the Internet. “The yield” of her surfing and computer use, as she describes it.

3. Art responding to a general cultural condition that may also be described as “Post Internet” – when the Internet is less a novelty and more a banality.

4. What Guthrie Lonergan described as “Internet Aware” – or when the photo of the art object is more widely dispersed than the object itself.

5. Art from the Internet world that mutates to the conventions of the art world. As the work mutates itself to become more like art world art, the work mutates art world art to become more like the Internet.

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

Dissolve the category of “new media” into art in general by creating work that has one foot in the history of art and the other foot in the experience of network culture.

Post Internet art is not about the Internet. It is not about art.

It is about both.

The Internet changed everything – that includes art.

Post Internet artists are, like Johns and Rauschenberg, ontological questioners.

They are philosophical.

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

Here is a passage from a March, 2006 interview between the artist Cory Arcangel and the Brussels-based curator Karen Verschooren:

Cory: […] you can’t just put a computer with a browser that’s pointing to a website. You have to somehow acknowledge that it is in a gallery, for better or worse. Video, I think, started to do that […] Paper Rad for example presented a huge sculpture, based on animated gifs. It wasn’t necessarily Internet art anymore, but it was art that could only exist because the Internet exists. That is definitely some kind of solution […] That is what is going to happen I think. It is not going to be pure strict Internet art, it’s going to be art that exists because of the Internet or is influenced by the Internet or there was research on the Internet.

Karen: That’s almost everything in art. Almost all contemporary art is influenced by the fact that we live in a networked society.

Cory: That’s fine you know. It is going to be seamlessly integrated into everything else. Which is what it should be. But pure Internet art, I think, should stay on the Internet.



Karen: So, if i understand you correctly, you are saying that it is the responsibility of the artist to transform his internet art piece in that way that it fits into the gallery space. It is not the gallery that has to change its economic model of exhibiting because of their mission statement or whatever.

Cory: Yes.


Verschooren sums up this strategy as roughly “the art needs to change to fit the gallery, instead of the gallery needs to change to fit the art.” Arcangel answers affirmatively, but I wonder if it is this simple. One thing I think is that Post Internet art does not just bend itself to work as “art,” it also changes one’s conception of “art.” Working in the confines of the white cube are not necessarily always limiting to artists. By playing with that history of what has been marked as “art” and successfully entering into that dialogue, these artists are changing what one thinks of as “art” in the same way that Daniel Buren, Michael Asher or earlier artists like Jasper Johns or (of course) Duchamp worked within the gallery to change what could be shown in the gallery and thus be reflected upon as “art”.

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

Here is one more excerpt from a Marisa Olson interview. This is one from July, 2008 with a Philadelphia blogger named Annette Monnier.

Olson is an interesting thinker as she brings acute knowledge from many fields including the cultural history of technology and art history, in order to show that, as fields, their boundaries are growing blurrier and blurrier everyday.

My favorite passage is when she brings in Thomas Kuhn’s concept of paradigm in relation to technological paradigm shifts:

Marisa: Speaking of degrees, I don’t really have a degree in computer science but in the course of working on my PHD one of my official field titles was “The Cultural History of Technology” so I have spent a lot of time studying the history of batteries, televisions, telephones, and video games…

Annette: Is that like studying “the history and philosophy of science” or something?

Marisa: Yeah. Exactly, it’s very closely related.

Annette: I always liked those kind of courses. That sounds pretty cool.

Marisa: Yeah, me too. Thomas Kuhn is one of my favorite writers,“The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”.

Annette: Oh, yeah. I remember reading that in a class called something like “history and science of philosophy 101” or something.

Marisa: I re-read it every single year. Twenty-four is my favorite page.

Annette: I have no idea what that refers to but i’ll look it up.

Marisa: It’s just this line about how science is trying to force nature into a conformed thought. It’s all about how science as a field is trying to confirm existing ways of thinking, existing paradigms, and you have to wait until enough things don’t fit into the box until you change the box. I dunno. I like stuff like that.

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

In a 2006 Time Out magazine group interview conducted by Lauren Cornell, another crucial figure in the development of Post Internet art, Marisa Olson speaks about her work not being “on the Internet,” but, rather, “after the Internet… the yield of my compulsive surfing and downloading.” Here are some key exchanges between Cornell and Olson from the interview:

LC: When artists started working online, the internet wasn’t nearly as assimilated into everyday life as it is now. Popular culture is clearly influenced by e-mail, blogs, ebay and social software like myspace. Do you use these platforms in your work?

MO: In between my jobs, art and personal life, I’m online nearly 24/7. I think my recent work and that of many of my peers puts this consumption on display. I frequently work in blog format. In American Idol Audition Training Blog, I documented my attempt to become a contestant on the TV show. I was simultaneously indulging in and critiquing media culture.

LC: Does internet art need to take place online?

MO: No. What I make is less art “on” the Internet than it is art “after” the Internet. It’s the yield of my compulsive surfing and downloading. I create performances, songs, photos, texts, or installations directly derived from materials on the Internet or my activity there.


Olson delineates Internet art from Post Internet art. Internet art is on the Internet; post Internet art is after the Internet.

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

In a March 2008 interview with Régine Debatty on the We Make Money Not Art blog, Marisa Olson suggests that, on the one hand, Internet art is going mainstream, but, on the other hand, contemporary art is going Internet.

RD: You are also a curator, both independently and as part of your activities at Rhizome. Your curating often deals with new media art pieces. What are the challenges of curating and exhibiting works of new media art today?

MO: I think that there is presently a very exciting turn happening in new media, with respect to both the art world and the context of “traditional media.” It used to be very important to carve out a separate space in which to show, discuss, and teach new media. Nowadays these spaces are sometimes seen as ghettos, but at the time, they were safe havens championing under-recognized forms. Things are more co-mingled now. Not everyone will agree with me about this, but I think it’s great that some people no longer even know new media when they see it. I know curators who turn their nose up at that phrase, but they love Cory Arcangel or Paul Pfeiffer. There doesn’t seem to be a need to distinguish, any more, whether technology was used in making the work – afterall, everything is a technology, and everyone uses technology to do everything. What is even more interesting is the way in which people are starting to make what I’ve called “Post-Internet” art in my own work (such as my Monitor Tracings), or what Guthrie Lonergan recently called “Internet Aware Art.” I think it’s important to address the impacts of the internet on culture at large, and this can be done well on networks but can and should also exist offline. Of course, it’s an exciting challenge to explain to someone how this is still internet art… If that really matters…