Network as Artist: The Web as Creator of Aesthetic Experience
Co-workers: le raseau comme artiste [Co-workers: Network as Artist] at ARC
October 9, 2015 – January 31, 2016
ARC (the Contemporary Art Department of the Musée d’art Moderne de la Ville de Paris)
“Co-workers: Network as Artist” is a large and inclusive exhibition of digital art, and perhaps the first one to focus on the network, the internet, or the web as the creator of aesthetic experience. At this point digital works and web based works reach out into multiple arenas of the social and aesthetic worlds, in different voices with separate emotions, discrete social connections, and particular perceptions. The primary three impressions given by this survey of works made by this network and the people using it are that the works first of all are resolutely diverse and even individualistic, second reassert the presence the body as a social and physical source, and third reflect social concerns related to digital networks.
The first room confronts you immediately with the body as social media and personal event, through the Los Angeles artist Parker Ito’s 2015 work PBBvx.12345678910111213_son_of_cheeto_1415161718192021222324 . The images presented like posters around the walls are gathered from the screens computers and phones, and altered to speak for the artist and his body, as in the repeated phrase, “The inside of my balls is a network of some sorts.” However in Ito’s work, as in many of the others, images are repositioned, juxtaposed, printed over each other, seemingly both eventfully but obscure, immediately available through the digital imaging and complex printing systems, yet also obscure in terms of locations, references and meanings, which are not absent or absurdist, so much as mixed, mixed up and multiply connected.
The virtual and the photographed body, its locations, shells, processes, social activities, and networks, appear throughout the exhibit in the works of Ito, Christopher Kulendran Thomas, Aude Pariset with Juliette Bonneviot, Cecile Evans, None Futbol Club, Ryan Trecartin, David Douard, Hito Steyerl, GCC, DIS and Shawn Maximo. Roadmaps and ideas that run through this exhibition include the body and its locations as well as social structures as imagined in different visual regimes. Aude Pariset uses reformulated printing processes to create three-dimensional sheets of color, line, and hanging materials that are as much from the world of advertising images as from social media—perhaps advertising as social media and designed communication. Like Ito the digital network is involved, but the images are reprocessed through a lens of aesthetic and documentary processes. In Aude’s works reformulated printing processes and digital processes extend each other’s ideas and meanings
Groups and collectives are represented, including GCC, None Futbol Club and DIS, the latter, known through the online DIS magazine, designed the show. The DIS work in the exhibition, The Kitchen (KEN), locates us and our bodies in front of computer screens, head-phones and photos of an array of futurisitic latrines around a pool. Bodily functions, social relations and digital engagement are mixed and reshuffled. Throughout the exhibition the viewer is drawn into relations re-established and redefined through both technologies and our social uses of them.
The reflections on human nature, social control and functioning, and narrative power are drawn from the interactions of the body, its locations, and its desires for connections and displays. Work no. 2B by None Futbol Club equates identity and haircuts between Marcel Duchamp and athletes, using neon, photographs, and stylish gym bags. The location is the locker room, but the function is social identity and branding. On another spectrum and from another visual regime, David Douard’s We’ve Ne’er Gotten shows an image of an individual turned in on his own world in a backlight photo-box. The world is drawn-in and located through psychological isolation. The image is powerful through its multiple references to public and private space, recognizable from older mass medias and sensationalized journalism, as well as newer transformations of this such as YouTube and Facebook, here repositioned as personal insight into a human condition.
The idea of media is still present in these works, but recedes into the background of the technological handling of the media. Photography, film, installation, sculpture, video, painting, and printing are present, but augmented, manipulated, and engaged with the means provided by digital media and the internet. To be clear, in the end here it is not clear if the network of the title is the digital network, meaning the network within a computer, or the network of the internet, the network between computers. In the final consideration, I think it is fair to say that this distinction is blurred, if not erased. It is easy to forget—even for people who have lived through the change in the last thirty or forty years—how quickly and decisively we’ve moved from the now archaic world of personal computing, to a digital network in which a separate computer or phone is an outmoded device, barely usable and impoverished, if unconnected or un-connectable to a network.