Other points that are generally missing from most breathless internet utopian essays are the fact that:

1. The infrastructure that enables the "internet", and most of its applications, are owned and operated by private corporations

...and, more recently...

2. That the end of "net neutrality" has potentially disastrous implications for all of the emancipatory notions of the net.

If there was anything revelatory about Stereyl's essay it would have perhaps been a nod to the end of "net neutrality" as perfectly indicative of the internet being dead, but this wasn't mentioned in the essay nor even foreseen as a potential consequence of private corporations moving to capitalize on what seems to be posited here as an autonomous social force disconnected from any class interests. I am wary of Medium as much as the next person (the Tech-Bro soap box par excellence), but this is a nice little run down of what the end of "net neutrality" might hold.

Another thing Stereyl perhaps meant, but didn't make it explicit, when she said “build new Internets” along side the dead one was the plan that is being proposed in this Medium article, namely municipal broadband. But one wonders how we treat the “Internet” differently when it comes to us from local government. What would happen to the utopian visions?

 


 

 

Hito Steyerl asks what happened to the internet after it stopped being a possibility. She's also interested in what happens when the internet "starts to move offline." But the problem immediately arises that the "Internet" can't move offline. The internet is not a thing unto or outside of itself. Worse still, the internet is not a thing at all. It is all of our computers connected using TCP/IP.

To be fair, Steyerl is perhaps more specifically interested in the behaviors conditioned by digital networks as they begin to fall into what are perceived as "non-digital" arenas. Yet, almost throughout this is a breathless paean to internet utopianism, the unsupported claims of an internet centrist who posits the "Internet" as a discrete entity with cultural logic unto itself, as opposed to a distributed series of actors on a network. Its final claims for open access border on the absurd in an effort to advance an accelerated circulationism.

 

"But here is the ultimate consequence of the internet moving offline. If images can be shared and circulated, why can’t everything else be too? If data moves across screens, so can its material incarnations move across shop windows and other enclosures. If copyright can be dodged and called into question, why can’t private property? If one can share a restaurant dish JPEG on Facebook, why not the real meal? Why not apply fair use to space, parks, and swimming pools? Why only claim open access to JSTOR and not MIT—or any school, hospital, or university for that matter? Why shouldn’t data clouds discharge as storming supermarkets? Why not open-source water, energy, and Dom Pérignon champagne?

If circulationism is to mean anything, it has to move into the world of offline distribution, of 3D dissemination of resources, of music, land, and inspiration. Why not slowly withdraw from an undead internet to build a few others next to it?"

 

I’m no longer sure of who is actually wise, intelligent, or talented and who is simply well situated in a network of proliferated content. 

Horning is critical of viral content’s ability to change "the stakes of reading." “Having feelings is pointless if your performance of them is not as viral as the occasion that prompted them.” These viral items are really “trojan horses carrying a more significant piece of data: the proof of our social existence.” The Viral Self is a self that allows social media to unsettle our sense of an appropriate amount of attention. Therefore, engineering virality has moral implications. The pursuit of virality becomes hegemonic. 

 

 

Keith Varadi's ART SUGAR NET MAGIC  discusses the practice of so called Nu Guard artists. His jumping off point is the previously discussed 2011: art and transmission by Michael Sanchez. Distinct from the new media "New Guard" such as Auerbach, Guyton, and Arcangel, "Nu guard"..."concurrently embrac[es] and exploit[s] the consumerist culture of capitalist America with far less confusion or reticence than ever before." Varadi quotes Sanchez on desubjectivization: “without such delays, or lags, there can be no subject.” Sanchez points to Giorgio Agamben: “contemporary capitalism does not produce subjects so much as non-subjects, through what [Agamben] calls the ‘desubjectifying’ effects of apparatuses.” With no subject, there is little ground for an avant-garde. Hence Varadi's discussion of the "Nu Guard's" irreverence for the "different stains" of Morris Louis or Kenneth Noland. Perhaps "Nu Guard" overlaps with what one might call "Post-Internet" in that these artists earnestly leverage networks—etsy, tumblr, facebook—in places where the "rearguard" conceptualists merely gestured toward the dematerialization of the art object. "Nu Guard" knows that the digital image and its network is the material support, and the artist's ego is a brand.

 

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AuthorMike Pepi

2/n...

One cannot keep Benjamin out of this. Groys reminds us that when we move the digital image from its original status of non-image to its status as visualized image, we engage in a "massive loss of aura" in the Benjaminian sense. This is because Benjamin maintained that nothing has more aura than the invisible. Groys explains that "in the world of digital images, we are only dealing with originals." Each visualization of the image file has its own story, perils, and site-specific contexts and abnormalities. This then leads to the near requirement that the curator bring it back into musealized space. When we exhibit these, we reverse the copying: it transforms a copy back into a performed original. And it is here, where, Groys says, we can contemplate both the superstructure that is at work on the image, but also its material base—the hardware/ software used to perform the image data.

 

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AuthorMike Pepi

2/n...

One of the most urgent topics Groys handles in Art Power (2008) is the aesthetics of digitalization. While once an escape from the museum, the digital image is now part of the museum system - a new confinement. Yet digital images are a new kind of "strong" image because they can be shown without institutional context, according to their own nature. The original data of the image are invisible. Therefore each time we see the image it is being "performed." Further "the digital image is a copy--but the event of its visualization is an original event, because" Groys states, "the digital copy is a copy that has no visible original." Here again, the curator rises to a point of great historical importance, for "the curator does not simply show an image that was originally there but not seen..." but in fact, going further, the curator "turns the invisible into the visible." Groys states that the digital image turns the curator "not into the exhibitor but the performer of the image."

 

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AuthorMike Pepi

1/n...

Groys makes several excellent points in Art Power (2008). The first is that, contrary to the avant-garde’s proud history of museum bashing, the museum is a critical part of our conception of reality, and not, as we often think, the opposite of “real life.” The desire for artists to break out of its confines is actually a move that enters them into the global mass image market. This destroys the art subject and weakens the artist's historical position. Second, the museological tactics of art history do to the modern art object (i.e. the readymade, installation, art documentation) what Kierkegaard describes as the “difference beyond difference,” which is like the “non-difference” achieved between Christ and his appearance as a man.  More on this soon. 

 

 

Posted
AuthorMike Pepi

1/n...

There is bad writing. Many press releases are written poorly. But I think Rule and Levine contribute to the conflation of IAE with bad writing. Worse is to cite IAE as part of your general opposition to theory. Even worse is that they "other" IAE as unfamiliar and deviant from the British National Corpus. I have always been wary of the article’s supporters who quickly draw the connection to the larger role of theory. The practical issue with IAE, and the reason for its ridiculousness, is that it is often performed by untrained writers trying to compensate for an exhibition that often is not all that original or good. Just think of all of our lovely far-flung biennials! Have you ever wanted to "reassess" things in a corrupt, oil-rich emirate? 

For every bastardized concoction of words ending in "-tion" we encounter in a press release, there is an artwork out there somewhere(else) that at some point may have actually merited such a claim. Press releases are reluctant, forced art writing (in the slightest way they broadly qualify as art writing). They are tantamount to being assigned to write a review of new work each month that must not only be positive but also must make the work seem unique. Often press releases need to use these acrobatics to fit into the limited space. No wonder they can sound so strange. But IAE article doesn't really address the issue of word counts or length--common constraints of the press release author. 

 

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AuthorMike Pepi

3/n...

Chat Room's generally post-internet worldview awoke again when members tested O'Neill's definition of the now popularized verb "to curate," as now practiced by nearly anyone with a social media account. O'Neill's defense was to site this battle upon the "praxis" of the curator who, he said, must work with art or artists. This tautology struck the class as sort of hidebound to the decadent postcolonial biennial circuit of the 1990s and 2000s, or the late Manifestas, Documentas, and Performas. Boris Groys touches on this in his new book Going Public, "Today, there is no longer any 'ontological' difference between making art and displaying art. In the context of contemporary art, to make art is to show things as art. So the question arises: is it possible, and, if so, how is it possible to differentiate between the role of the artist and that of the curator when there is no difference between art's production and exhibition." O'Neill's book helpfully included Andrea Fraser's definition of the institution of art as a condition of its existence as such: "art is art when it exists for discourses and practices that recognize it as art..."

 

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AuthorMike Pepi

2/n...

How do you effectively judge or comment upon a post-colonial biennial? At most you can stand back as a flat-footed spectator, nod, and engage the sprawling vision with an antiseptic relationship to its "organizational strategies." Is the international hyper-curator engaged in a zero sum game with the waning role of the critic? This is, mind you, the critic-as-critic, or critic/critic/critic; a peculiar species of high modernism. Before they were forced to react to the God head wisdom of the celebrity curator, who probably also started out as a theorist-critic, but succumbed to the careerist pressure to "do", be pro-active, not just "write", which is most often forced into a reactive relationship to the "curated" work.  This occurs even though the critic and the curator are in theory (but not in practice) doing the same work -- arranging, selecting, contextualizing, and presenting works of art and artists. We should decide what we lost when we entered the age of the "slash." Did we insulate curatorial practice by weakening one of the "estates" in the production and reception of art by forcing it to merge with the active role of the curator? Is it conservative to pine for the "pure", singular voice of the critic who merely reacts, write, and accompanies artistic production with purposive text? 

Posted
AuthorMike Pepi

1/n...

Is the textual production of the curator in the catalogue essay or wall text tantamount to the voice of history or criticism? I refer to "pre-curatorial" critical discourse, when the artist's work, theory, and history were the main subjects, not the vision or execution of the curator as "globally-connected auteur." O'Neill's book  nicely charts the historical contingents of this notion of the "demystified" curator, one that arose in the late 1960s and then blossomed in the biennial fever of the 1990s. He identifies the post-Szeemann phenomenon of "curated by" exhibition-making and highlights the reign of curator-centered discourse. Seemingly stuck in a "curatorial moment" that has now passed, O'Neill's balanced text still does a great service by doing as much to challenge this notion as he does to historically re-construct it.

 

 

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AuthorMike Pepi

 

A part of Gillick’s “accusation” is that the artist is the perfect “knowledge worker.” This has important implications for a question central to Marxist aesthetics. Some recent discussion about the artist’s class position (see Davis, 9.5 Theses) have focused on their entrepreneurial nature—that their personal fulfillment and their professional fulfillment have significant overlap. Gillick, too, contests partly that the “accusation” is that artists offer little to no alternatives to the neo-liberal model of entrepreneurship. Artists “communicate and behave in the same manner as those who spend their days trying to capitalize every moment and exchange of everyday life.” Resulting “moments of stress and collapse” in their practice are a natural outgrowth of the resistance to a possible “realm of permanently unrewarding work.” Gillick seems to advocate not for expression in art but instead for a contextual “breakdown of the barriers between work, life, and art.” He reminds us that the fact that "it is superficially hard to determine observable differences between the daily routines and operations of a new knowledge worker and an artist is precisely because art functions in a close parallel track to the structures that is critiquing.” 

3/n... 

The attempt to fit artistic production into neat categories of commodity relations, since at least the 1970s, has been a complete quagmire that ignores the immaterial, discursive, (perhaps neo-Trotskyite), practice so endemic to “contemporary art.” Gillick explains that “art is a series of scenarios/presentation that create new spaces for thought and critical speculation.” Further “art is” not a functioning relationship of producer and consumer structured by a pre-determined imperative to work, but an “ethical equation where assumptions about function and value in society can be operated upon.” For Gillick, they are at best “capitalizing” upon an immaterial labor or good, a situation afforded to them by the “constant restructuring” of the “models of the recent past.” “The notion that artists are a perfect analogue for the flexible entrepreneurial class is a generational concept that merely masks a lack of differentiation in observation of practice and the devastating fact that art is in a permanent battle with what came just before.” Some have even advanced the proposition that artists should be paid for their work/time when included in exhibitions. But how do we engage them in such a materialist position in light of this? How do we use precise terms to pin down commodity relations when at every turn the practice "defies the logic of capital"?  

2/n…

Gillick writes of the artist's capitalization of the mind – the “accusation” is that they are “in thrall to the processes of capitalization.” He then defines this by investigating scenarios of control the artist apes from capital. These structures include leisure, deadlines, ethics, research and documentary practice, the limitation of the commodity, and the promise of a better life. Capitalization is sometimes predatory. I lean towards its definition as “interest capitalization” because that is the most predatory of the various uses of the term in finance. The principal balance in this case is the loan that culture, Modernism disburses to the art, the license to work in the free zone of play and immaterial scenarios. The artist then moves through a practice in Gillick’s characteristically “discursive” manner, constantly looking to take the advances made and “capitalize” them back upon of the balance of his territory of “continually mutating” exchange. 

 

Posted
AuthorMike Pepi

1/n...

I’ll try to deal with Gillick’s concepts of capitalization of the mind, the “accusation”, the artist as immaterial laborer or knowledge worker, and his definition of responsible didactic criticism as they appear in his essay Doing Nothing. Gillick opens all of these with the following estimation of “current artists”, a term he uses to avoid the thorny associations with “contemporary art”: “The challenge made is that artists today… have fallen into a trap that is pre-determined by their existence within a regime that is centered on a rampant capitalization of the mind.”  One definition of capitalization in finance is the addition of the accrued interest of a loan back on to the principal balance. There are other definitions, but I find this one brings up notable parallels to the artist’s vested contingencies and the power that is ceded and gained through them.

There will be more entries, but let me begin by stating that Gillick leads me towards a definition of capitalism vis-à-vis aesthetics as a system that erects “barriers between work, life, and art.” 


 

1/n... 

The construction of authenticity is shifting, says Rob Horning. What we used to express through consumerism is now related to the disparate yet self-defining digital data set we produce. This is the Data Self. The extent to which the formulation of the Data Self is mediated by algorithms lead Horning to declare dissolution of an a priori personal identity. Horning spoke of social media as a form of Althusserian interpellation, using the famous example of the policeman who hails to you in the street: “Hey, You There,” thereby positioning the subject in relation to the interests of the ruling class.

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AuthorMike Pepi

“Listen: the Young-Girl is obviously not a gendered concept.” Ticcun insists. Instead they penned the metaphorically misogynist pamphlet to illustrate that since “the 1920s, capitalism realized that it” must “colonize everything that is beyond the strict sphere of production,” shifting focus to “marginalized elements of society—women and youth...” Alas, the Young-Girl. Mal Ahern and Moira Weigel’s sharp response (via the counter category of the Man-Child) is an indictment of the rhetoric from a Left that refuses to cope with the feminization of labor. Related to the male frustration with the pop-phenomenon of The End of Men, Mal and Moira concluded that the voice of the Man-Child is an equivocator who gets to chauvinistically choose when to be taken seriously. But listen, the Man-Child is obviously not a gendered concept.

 

 

Maybe we all missed Davis' point? Artists were thinking about their relationship in the capacity of players in a material scenario. The book elicits this reaction. He wants us (including artists) to explore the transgressions of the sphere. Davis asserts that the

industry is fucked up, but we need to think of ways to move beyond it. On the other hand, it’s a place that does have seeds of a political discussion, and you can’t begin to think of alternatives unless you can actually talk constructively about the actual milieu that [artists] find themselves engaged with.”

This leads us to a material theory of the artists as producer. I had trouble with this due to its de-historicized approach. Here Mike Kelley’s essay on his impression of Tetsumi Kudo and Joseph Beuys reveal an entirely different lens to the discussion of artists in society: 

"It seemed to me that [Tetsumi Kudo and Joseph Beuys] shared certain characteristics; their actions took place in gallery spaces or the street and not in theatres, nightclubs, or other traditional performance venues; sculptures and objects were manipulated live, bringing a theatrical slant to the practice of sculpture; and both artists were dandies of sorts, adopting a mode of dress that immediately set them in clear opposition to their audience. In the case of Beuys, this consisted of a costume skin to hunter’s garb accented with a fedora; for his part, Kudo often shaved his head and dressed in fluorescent green, sporting pop plastic sunglasses of the same color. What these costumes signified I did not know, but it seemed clear that their purpose was to position these artists overtly in the tradition of the performer. I appreciated this negation of the image of the artists as “everyman”, as exemplified in the often-published photos of Jackson Pollock painting in his studio dressed in work clothes. In opposition to this symbolic refusal of the special role of the artists in society (they are “workers” like any other), Kudo and Beuys, like clowns, visually set themselves at odds with normal behavior. Though I did not necessarily feel the need to position myself in one camp or the other relative to the politics of the artists’ fashion, I was curious about how, and why, exactly these two artists tackled the issue. For me, as an American who understood that artists, clearly, were not thought of as being productive members of society, this kind of self-presentation as culturally “other” made perfect sense. The artist was, inherently, closer to the fetishized position of the performer than to the daily laborer."
-Mike Kelley

 

Jurgenson touches on an elemental aspect of aesthetics when he inaugurates the concept of temporary photography. “Ephemerality sharpens viewer’s focus.” He quotes Michael Sacasas who observes how social media sites produce a “memory abundance” that “devalues” the “past’s hold on the present.” Snapchat presaged the movement of (scrolling, digital) photography into a temporary realm. A response to “user’s feeling saddled with the distraction of documentary vision.” As photography was cheapened, snapchat attempted to “re-inflate” it. Finally, his vision for snapchat is revolutionary: if more people snapchat, photos permanently posted to “facebook will become correspondingly more scarce and perhaps seem more important.”

 

 

Posted
AuthorMike Pepi

Why put artists in a class based on their relations as producers? It is only recently that artists produced work in a field with a robust and open market for it. Artist’s classlessness has its intellectual birth after Modernism. The debate over artists’ class only arises after the appearance of the market for living artists and the concomitant challenges to the academy’s ability to temper taste and production. Unless we unpack this from the start, parts of Davis’ formulations regarding artists’ relations to activist politics are the forced manifesto of a de-historicized worldview dominated by a concern for direct, effective action.

 

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AuthorMike Pepi