Archive for January, 2010

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Writing about Kevin Bewersdorf’s work prior to 2009 is difficult.

Bewersdorf erased his website,, as well as all of the texts, photos, songs and documentation of sculptures that were housed on the site.

While there are scattered traces of his thought floating in various blogs, the ability to view the scope and meaning of it is greatly diminished.

If this work is to survive, then, one must attempt to translate it – piece together his project in one’s own words, from one’s own memories of it.

It’s a difficult thing and it forces one to consider work in more depth than one typically would.

When art is on the Internet, there is a tendency to always put off viewing it or understanding it in-depth because it is always at-hand. The viewer knows that, without any real effort, she can view it tomorrow when there is more time.

If the work is taken off of the Iunternet, though, then the viewer must really consider it and try to understand it in a more serious way. It creates an urgency.

However, one question is: Why go to all this trouble? What would be worth this effort?

One answer is: Go to all the trouble when the work is, like a ghost in an attic, haunting.

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Kevin Bewersdorf has said that art now is based, not on art objects or individual projects, but rather on “persona empires,” which are the brands that artists develop over time.

He writes:

Whether a net artist brands themself with a sparse list of links on a humble white field or with loud layers of noise and color or with contrived logos in a bland grid, they are constructing their own web persona for all to see. They are branding their self corporation. I think this self branding can be done with functionless art intentions rather than functioning business intentions. All the marketing materials are just shouted into the roaring whirlpool of the web where they swirl around in the great database with everyone else’s personal information empires. I think these persona empires are the great artworks of our time, and they inspire me to keep building my own brand.


Bewersdorf is an important post Internet artist because he realized very clearly that the quality of art on the Internet is not measured in individual posts but in the artist’s performance through time, through their brand management. On Facebook, a user is judged, not by one status update, but rather by their style and pace of updating. The same is true for post Internet artists.

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

In his statement for “Die Nuller Jahre” (which translates from German as “the zero years” aka 2000-2009 aka “the noughties”), a show of new works at Capitain Petzel in Berlin, the artist Seth Price says that he is attempting to “name” something.

He opens the statement writing:

Recently I’ve been reflecting on the last ten years. It’s arbitrary, and a little absurd, like a drunk noticing the time and abruptly sobering up for an appointment: time to figure out what happened. With the turning of the decade it’s hard to avoid: these disparate years swim together, waiting to be addressed as one, whatever we end up calling it. In any case, we want to generate a series of images to replace vague and unsettled feelings, and to arrive at names. Sometimes the process of understanding artworks feels the same way.

And he concludes with an intriguingly clear statement:

I wanted to yield to that impulse to be read, to generate a series of images that might replace vague and unsettled feelings, to arrive at names.

What he arrives at, though, is a series of vacuum-formed lengths of knotted rope, an image that destabilizes the meaning of any name.

The use of the knot, which both ties things together and tangles them up, is perhaps indebted to Eva Hesse’s hanging, knotted ropes dipped in latex.

However, whereas part of the art of Hesse’s knotted ropes is their material-ness and the fact that they will disintegrate and collapse due to gravity, Price’s knots are hollow, empty – shells of real material.

This seems to capture the zeitgeist of the decade.

Hollow knots.

The simulation of tying something together. Creating more knots.

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

In 2009, Seth Price showed previously unaccounted for work that he originally produced in 2004.

He says: “Sometimes it’s good to go forward and then double back, and circle around again. To those who turned their feet around so that their tracks would confuse their pursuers: why not walk backward?”

This particular slip into Price’s personal history, though, is not totally arbitrary as the work, itself, is a set of 2004 calendars.

There are few things as worthless as an out of date calendar.

This irony is amplified as the calendar’s content is composed of pre-AbEx American painting and graphic design tropes dating from the early 1990s that read as “futuristic.”

Painters like Thomas Hart Benton, who was one of the most famous painters of his own time, are now only modestly well known.

The “hot” cursive fonts and gradiated neon backdrops read the same way: they are – for better or for worse – part of the dustbin of history, not unlike an out-of-date wall calendar.

By combining all of these obsolete elements, Price creates a portrait of obsolescence itself. The fact of obsolescence.

Memento Mori.

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

On the one hand, the artist Josh Smith makes one-liners – ironic conceptual art regarding the pretensions of artistes to express themselves. He does so by making his signature and the banality of his own name into the graphic focus of paintings that otherwise read as AbEx style abstractions.

On top of this, irony is generated by his massive output. Smith paints dozens of these abstractions at a time and one can read this, too, as a joke on the naiveté of expressing oneself after postmodernism.

On the other hand, though, it is through Smith’s decidedly unironic dedication to his practice that he is able to introduce an element of sincerity and perhaps the sublime into his work.

Smith has figured out a way to continue the tradition of painting by activating not so much the canvas – which, it should be said, he does admirably – but rather, by activating time.

He knows that there is an impossibility to saying something in one painting. This is not to say that the paintings are not good – they are; amazingly so considering the level of output.

However, the art here is that he keeps making these paintings again-and-again-and-again-and-again so that a whole different type of thing begins to emerge – what Stanley Cavell might call festivity rather than festival, or religion rather than revelation.

The art here is in the process, in the dedication to daily practice and evolution.

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

Zodiac was one of the best early 21st century art films. Obsessively appropriating the genre and stylistic tropes of the police procedural, Zodiac feels like it will come to a conclusion – the killer gets caught or we come away with a statement about San Francisco in the late 60s, or… something – something to hold onto… to take away with us as a reminder that things do come together. But Zodiac is perverse. It refuses. The plot gets overwhelmed with all of the data. Plot lines are lost. Things routinely hit dead ends. Information begins to refer to other pieces of information. Endless layers of memories of other memories of half-remembered bits of memory going nowhere forever.

Eventually the sense that a knife went through flesh is rendered obsolete because we’re all too busy keeping up with the most recent information.

Monday, January 18th, 2010

In the introduction to his 2008 performance and lecture Continuous Partial Awareness, the artist Cory Arcangel claims that he lost his memory.

Well – actually, it wasn’t that he “lost” his memory – the memories, he explains, were still there in his mind – somewhere.

Rather, he lost the ability to retrieve these memories. The best approximation for this was, according to Arcangel, “like being really lazy” – one knows that the memories are there somewhere, but the effort to search them down becomes such an incredibly laborious task, that one might as well have actually lost them.

Now, memory loss such as Arcangel experienced comes with consequences.

One’s reliance on technology to manage one’s everyday experience increases.

Arcangel’s case was no exception. The creative process, for instance, undergoes a mutation: if one is struck by an idea for a project, one must record the idea through the use of some form of technology or risk losing it altogether.

Now, this technology could be anything – from pen and paper to an e-mail composed to one’s self – it doesn’t matter; just so long as the ideas are recorded somehow and slipped into a database.

What Arcangel realized, though, was that this externalization went beyond mere utility – it took on a life of its own. The juxtapositions of the ideas in his database created a sort of surrealism that became at least as intriguing as the individual ideas, themselves.

The more he fed the database in the hopes of remembering something, the more the database developed its own unique hunger – an evolving aesthetic form demanding a certain amount of tender loving care which would, in turn, dictate the type of ideas that Arcangel was compelled to remember in the first place.

After a while it becomes unclear whether or not he is recording his memories or creating a world.

Perhaps it’s both.

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

This blog is dedicated to artists who use new media technologies but are not new media artists.

They are contemporary artists accounting for the effects of the Internet on the human brain and culture at large.

They are addicted to the same thing that brought Albrecht Dürer, Pablo Picasso, Eva Hesse, Hélio Oiticica, and Ai Weiwei inside.

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

If you were not acquainted with Cory Arcangel as an artist and you came across his YouTube video of U2′s “Without or Without You” mashed-up with footage of the Berlin Wall coming down, it would read as a “normal” YouTube video. It seems like something that is native to YouTube and not to art.

We could say that it is a work, but not a work “of art.”

Furthermore, it is a really good example of a YouTube video. There is something stirring about it – emotional even. And it seems as though Arcangel went to a lot of work to make it as good as it is.

However, Arcangel is an artist and anything creative he does will inevitably function as an artwork in an art context.

So, what happens when this video is thought of as a work “of art”?

It works as a readymade, illuminating the genre of YouTube video that it mimics – the mash-up.

In the end, though, the beauty of it is not that it works as a YouTube video or as a work of art. Rather, by doing nothing other than shifting context, it illuminates the bridge between the two.

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

Distributed media has brought the world to me and brought me into a world.

On the one hand, the world is at hand: I am able to view the films of Abbas Kiarostami, the artwork of Cyprien Gaillard, the writing of Walter Benjamin; the world and its history are present to me in a way that is unprecedented in the history of human culture.

On the other hand, I have never been more deeply sequestered in the confines of one particular worldview and so utterly unable to empathize – to really know – another person’s pain. I am in la la land.

But was I ever out of it?

Everything is always already filtered through endless degrees of interpretation and simulation.

Indeed, the only truly essential thing is that there is no other truly essential thing.

This is what the Internet tells me.

Google search rankings, for example, are obviously not the truly essential meaning of a term; rather what Google shows me is that there never was a truly essential meaning of a term – through its endless lists, it illustrates that that’s always the case.

But is it the case?