Look At Me
This blog entry is to reflect upon the contemporary condition of the post-internet society and to critique how we, as a society, have reacted to art and culture. Explanations of the post-internet era will be reviewed, and will illustrate how we have culturally adapted to the internet today. I believe we have adapted extremely well, so much so, to the extent that we now take it for granted, and are therefore constantly and unknowingly influenced by it. I will critique how the platform of the internet has affected art and explain how it has altered the nature of presenting artwork. This will lead into the discussion of how capitalism has allowed the partition to a post-internet society with ease, due to the immense acceleration in technological developments, and how it has fuelled the now frequent, argument of authorship surrounding post-internet work. This essay will also discuss the changing role of the artist as he/she adapts to life after the internet, in becoming their own editor and curator online, and what this means in terms of the new and emerging societal yet virtual space, that is the internet.
Capitalism has swiftly enforced the transformation to a post internet society swiftly. People have fixated their energy towards mental and manual labour as competition grew within accelerated developments, and the price of material goods became more expensive. In the essay ‘Soul at Work’, by Franco Berardi, (Berardi, 2009, p.86), he suggests that,
The quality of existence has effectively and psychologically deteriorated due to the rarefaction of community ties and the sterilizing obsession with security.
The fixation to work more for a better chance of security in a drastically more expensive climate became the new focus of society. Changed attitudes towards work have alluded competition between many companies, and thus, a digitally changed world was constituted. An objective way of looking at wealth has replaced the previously subjective way of looking at wealth, as daily life became infatuated with what possessions you own and where you holiday rather than overall experience. Faster advancements in technological developments, meant more expensive and fashionable material goods to buy. Increased house prices have also meant that people understand more work is required to enjoy the lifestyle they so desire as the price of goods rose. This sparked a new societal fixation with security and providing for the family.
The eminent trait of acceleration within capitalism, encouraged the development of the internet, and its popularity escalated with more availability of personal computers. Mass production stemmed from seductive and popular consumerism trends and made it fashionable to own computer. Therefore, society took advantage of the availability of limitless information from the web. The trend to communicate online became a phenomenon and spaces on the internet to connect people instantly, were emerging. This was something that was unthinkable in previous years and because of its efficiency and accessibility, it has become very attractive, very quickly. Social media therefore became illustrious and an aspect of the internet that a great number of the population appreciated, which thus began a vicious and voyeuristic cycle. The urge to update others on your actions, thoughts and future plans became a fundamental activity. The need to give an opinion on everything also arose, with both negative and positive results. We are now in a society where we constantly have access to not only knowledge, but gossip, and useless information- such as but not limited to, what someone had for dinner. This has created an environment where it is difficult for the modern mind to decide what is relevant information for sharing and what is not, thus equating to – the post-internet society.
We have arrived at a pivotal point which illustrates the meaning of the post-internet era- where we are taking for granted the limitless information available to us, which therefore composes the extraordinary into the ordinary. The time of the post-internet society is where we have the opportunity to know anything, wherever and whenever but are aloof and not instantly bothered by it because we are so inundated with information. It is a still observance of accelerated development. In his essay ‘The Image Object Post-Internet’, Artie Vierkant, describes the internet today as ‘less of a novelty and more a banality’, (Vierkant, 2010, p.1),. He continues that post-internet is defined as:
A result of the contemporary moment: inherently informed by ubiquitous authorship, the development of attention as currency, the collapse of physical space in networked culture, and the infinite reproducibility and mutability of digital materials.
Securing the future of acceleration within a post-internet society was the quantity of engaging language that was created surrounding it - at a time when it was contemporary to summarize effects through language. Now that the trend of summarizing through language has helped it to grow, we have been met at a turning point where it is now current to summarize visually. We have become a visual culture, where visual representation is used to convey ideas more effectively than language. This has changed our relationship of how we interpret ideas, and we are now more responsive to the visual image of something rather than a written description of it, because of the instantaneousness and accessibility of it. We are now in a fast paced world, fixated upon work where the image has become the most responsive thing we can appreciate with our limited time for attention. The visual image, has escalated because of mobile social media applications, such as Instagram and Snapchat – where people can instantly create an expression similar to art, regardless of place of social media standing. The ability to instantaneously create an image was soon followed by a surge of reproduction of images. The internet allows us to search for any image, song, video, text to claim or alter it as our own. The original image has thus lost its originality and the argument of authorship has arisen. Anyone has access to work that is presented on the platform of the internet and can therefore add their own thoughts and ideas to the original to thus, take authorship of it. Often, work is created that originally has no intention to be similar to another author or artists work, but resultantly ends up unknowingly familiar. This explains that the post-internet era has arrived at a time when creativity has subtle references to the past because of something that has been viewed online, and therefore been an unrealized influence. We are both indifferent and unaware of the amount of information and images that we see on a daily basis, that we cannot understand or remember what our subconscious has been affected by. People now search for influence rather than allowing it to happen naturally, which has led to ideas and thoughts being constantly recycled. In an interview with Simon Reynolds on Retromania for the online magazine ‘Quietus’, Reynolds explains that it is now more difficult to come up with something original because of the access we have to the past. Pop culture is ostensibly consuming itself, (Quietus, 2011).
In an extract of Mark Fishers work, ‘Slow Cancellation of the Future’, featured in the article, ‘An Extract From Mark Fisher’s Ghosts of my Life’, (Fisher, 2013), he provides the scholar Berardi’s explanation that people have been left tired and overworked from the attitude of late capitalist work. People are short of time, attention and energy, and the internet provides so many quick fixes of ideas and problems, presented in an appealing visual representation.
But what is the reaction to art within a post-internet society, particularly the value and relevance of art within a post-internet society? The internet has certainly created a new and exciting platform for artists to exhibit and disseminate work, allowing their potential audience to grow enormously. Artists have taken advantage of this, to become both their own curator and editor. If the artist did not have an upcoming show – the internet created a platform to exhibit. It also allowed them to present their work on personally selected platforms that would commit them to access a chosen audience. If they do this, they must also create an online presence for themselves and think about the type of audience they want to approach- in respect to the type of websites that they appear on, thus creating their own online identity. The internet is now a medium itself, and can be used as a tool. It contains similarities to the average physical sketchbook, where ideas and thoughts can be spread over websites like Tumblr, Facebook or a blog, as a place to gather information and organize work publicly.
However, we now somewhat take for granted the constant array of information and images that we see on the internet, it is difficult not take to take for granted the exceptional art that we pass by online. Art has become an image that is available at the click of a button. Due to this availability, people are desensitized when they see something genuinely appreciable. In his online essay, Vierkant includes a portion of Boris Groys essay ‘On the New’(Vierkant, 2010), writes,
The successful (and deservedly so) mass cultural image production of our age concerns itself with attacks by aliens, myths of apocalypse and redemption, heroes endowed with superhuman powers, and so forth. All of this is certainly fascinating and instructive. Once in a while, though, one would like to be able to contemplate and enjoy something normal, something ordinary, something banal as well… In life, on the other hand, only the extraordinary is presented to us as a possible object of our admiration.
Rather than having to travel to a gallery or museum, we as a society can instantly view a painting or a sculpture online. However, due to the fact we are bombarded with information on the internet, some now feel that we can also represent art and participate in the same experience by viewing it online. Everyone can access it so easily so why should we make the effort to travel to a museum or gallery. The internet is an opinionated place that obtains limited boundaries in regards to the variety of possible opinion. Alongside viewing the image online, we are also granted with a variation of opinions on what an artwork is representing, which becomes an even more lax way to view art, as the viewer no longer needs to think why the artist originally created the work, or what their intention had been – it is all presented to the viewer online. The vast quantity of explanations are however, sometimes applicable as there are now so many variations of an original piece of work, with a vast amount of viewers, which necessitates a variety of expressed opinions.
As the term post-internet is relatively new, it is contemporary – which means the idea of art on the internet or making art on the internet, can be defined as ‘contemporary art’. Due to the repetition and variation of work that occurs which I have previously mentioned, it is difficult not to become warped into this encapsulated space. In her essay, ‘Notes on Post- Internet’ (Chan, 2012, p.118), Jennifer Chan reinforces this idea that, ‘it’s hard to be optimistic about making art online without feeling like a complete drone’. This idea also affects presenting work online as we are dulled as a viewer, by seeing so many variations of an idea of work. On the internet, space is interrupted – there is a screen separating you from a digital representation of an artwork. This not only creates a physical barrier between the viewer and the art, but also an emotional one. The viewer is not admitted does to experience the texture, the smell, and sometimes the touch that he/she would in a gallery. They do not get to experience the abstract view of observing a painting in close range, and then the expected view from a length. In the article, ‘Changing Arts Distribution Requires a new Perception of Objecthood’ (The Jogging Archive, 2010), Brad Troemel explains ‘that seeing a painting in person creates a feeling of control within the experience’, - ‘the tactile destruction the viewer is capable of committing is total’. The digital image can be deleted also, but will usually be upheld elsewhere. The viewers overall experience of art online is therefore, limited through a lens.
In a recent article in Flash Art magazine, writer Marco Tagliafierro explains the meaning of the object within a painting. He depicts the subject in work by the artist, Nathalie Du Pasquier’s 2002 series, ‘Molto grigio con blu’ (Tagliafierro, 2015). Du Pasquier’s series of paintings depicted the banal and everyday objects of life with little explanation as to why. Her focus was on painting itself, but through this she reminded us of the need to truly observe an object. She positioned objects in front of her that served as elements of interest that she had observed in her everyday life. This meant there was a great deal of time spent actually seeing and viewing the objects in the moment for what they are, as opposed to searching online through repetitive images. Tagliafierro reports that Du Pasquier held ‘on to her conviction that a painting is an object in itself and not a document about reality’. In effect, to view her work online was actually to go against what she was trying to achieve. The structure, composition and time that she had spent with these objects, resultantly ended as a reminder to be still for a moment without the internet.
(Du Pasquier, 2002)[endif]--
The series ‘Molto Grigio Con Blu’, depicts paintings of mostly glasses, jars and water bottles. They are recognizable objects within the painting, but have a painterly quality that makes them quietly abstract. Du Pasquier appreciates the act of painting as an opportunity to frame objects. This is similar to viewing an object or image on the internet that are framed around similar status, composition and structure. However, I believe that a painting allows you the opportunity to step back to view the painting, and then step very close to it, which distorts it. There are many ways a person can look at a painting, which can distort it and that accompanies the beauty of a painting within a physically, first hand sight. To view a painting online, means the ability to technically zoom in, which will give the viewer the sight that they would have expected to have in person. To view a painting in person, means that the viewer is admitted to experience the first hand, humanistic distortion that being physically present would supply.
(Du Pasquier, 2002)[endif]--
Alongside his aforementioned essay, ‘The Image Object Post-Internet’ which I have previously mentioned, Artie Vierkant has developed a practice since 2011, which is in unison to his theory on post-internet art. Vierkant creates physical sculptures, which are then digitally documented by either himself or the gallery in which he is exhibiting in. He uses the documentation as work in itself to create collage’s that present the work from many different views – creating new
dimensions with photographic prints that allude the presence and depth of a physical sculpture. Amalgamating images of his previous work together allows him to create new pieces of work, which he then names as ‘Image Objects’.
Such ‘Image Objects’, are to remind us of the oscillation that we encounter on a daily basis,
between the choice of viewing a physical object in person and a reproduction of the object through an online image. This process allows for the integration of the 2D surface and the 3D effect – which is in actuality, summarizing the intention of the image online. Vierkant is reminding us of the capability of the image and therefore, proving how powerful and influential the internet has become.
Writer, Eli Diner in the article, ‘Productive Contradictions’, featured in Flash Art online magazine claims that, ‘the cultural status of the object is now influenced entirely by the attention given to them, the way they are transmitted socially and the variety of communities they come to inhabit.’ (Diner, 2015)
I will critique how the platform of the internet has affected art and explain how it has altered the nature of presenting artwork.
To conclude, Diner summarizes the idea of how the post-internet society functions. The more you present your work onto the online platform, the more of a presence you create and thus, the more attention you are given. I have critiqued how the platform of the internet has affected art and explained that attention means everything when presenting your work onto the internet podium. The intention of this essay is not only to illustrate the definition of post-internet society, but also to explain how we have arrived at this juncture, and recognise the aspects that have fuelled its progression and acceleration. The definitive branch of capitalism allowed the space for the generation of post-internet to grow because of the obsession with manual and mental labour which accompanied it. This fuelled the need for knowledge and therefore stemmed the appetite for the internet in which to obtain more information. Such eagerness for knowledge was arbitrated as social media arose, which indubitably created the need to not only obtain knowledge, but also useless facts and gossip. The internet has therefore become taken for granted, and the information we are presented from it on a daily basis has become an unknowingly later influence in our daily lives. The expansion of the internet made us realise the power of the image and therefore created an extension for the role of the artist. The virtual space of the internet appealed to the public artistically, as it offered art instantaneously and with limited boundaries. However, accompanying this positive aspect was the negative point in which people have became desensitised to potentially great work. It has become too easy and accessible to understand and view art. Both Vierkant’s and Du Pasquier’s work are reminders of the power of the image and the experience in seeing an artwork in the flesh. While the internet is powerful and extraordinary in the knowledge that it provides us with – the current post-internet society should acknowledge the necessity for the appreciation of the physical space and experience of art.