Net Art and Post-Internet Art are our Neo-Fatalist topics for today!
I won’t deny it, when I had my first lecture on Globalisation Theory and the Art Market I was beyond overwhelmed. To keep with the technological theme, one could say my brain had a meltdown and crashed spectacularily. During my first lecture I sat there, as I and my fellow classmates exchanged those universal wide eyed side-glances – both marking and confirming our solidarity in confusion. However, today I will be trying to keep things nice and simple. The topic of Net Art and Post-Internet Art is already a heavy topic, with the whole Big Brother, we have no agency and Orwell was right reality sinking in…
In contemporary society the influence of the Technological Virtual World is inescapable… and in my opinion, it is the defining feature of our generation.
It is how we:
- Present ourselves to the world
- Communicate with our loved ones = entire relationships are now built online!
- Manage the growth of large populations within this rapidly developing Globalised World = *pretentious academic cough* emphasis on Geopolitics and Biopolitics
- Sustain our economies, as it acts as the keystone for both the global distribution and the consumption of goods
- Express ourselves creatively = entire businesses and artistic practices are now built online! And [apple’s biggest sales point] anyone with a phone can now be a photographer
Technology is our constant companion. It is the paradoxically conceptual and yet concurrently tangible network which allows us to function as a globalised world. There is no longer a clear divide between our physical reality and the virtual.
I tend to think of Technology as less of a ‘something’ but more of a ‘someone’. This may be because I just read George Orwell’s 1984 and now can’t help but overanalyse everything… but Big Brother, or at least the notion of him, is here!
However, before there was Big Brother there was JODI…
So meet JODI. She is my personal favourite prank to play on friends who haven’t been in my History of Art lectures, as she is every tech owning individual’s worst nightmare – the aesthetic of a serious virus. Just type in http:/wwwwwwwww.Jodi.org/ and you will find that your entire screen is suddenly screaming at you. That’s it the illegal downloading of movies has finally caught up to you! But no, calm yourself, you’ve simply clicked on a link that has led you to one of the earliest pieces of Net Art. The birthplace of the hacker aesthetic and the drawing back of the curtain to reveal the complex code behind our slick screens.
During the 1990s the mediums of painting, sculpture, and the modern genre of performance, were beginning to shift from Postmodernism and into the realm of Contemporary. However, out of this anarchist period of anti-art, anti-aesthetic and anti-intellectual came the Internet Boom, and with it a new mode of artwork – Net Art.
Like with every new being, Net Art was born as something pure and full of hope. It was an untouched medium and one that could never be touched by the ‘dirty’ hands of the capitalist art market. The internet was a platform where artists could upload their artwork ON THEIR OWN!
No Gallery and thus no White Cube! No dictation of aesthetics by Institutions! No bias view of the curator or art critic! And with this freedom came a notion that hadn’t been seen since the 60s… Avant-garde is that you?
The Death of the Avant-Garde
Within the landscape of today’s Big Brother surveillance world it is almost impossible to comprehend how the internet was ever perceived to be a space of Democratic Equilibrium. However, 24 years ago, JODI was born into a time which emobodied this Utopian view of digital technology. She was a product of the rhizome-like online artistic community, which in turn thrived on that Avant-garde mindset of ‘shacking off the shackles’ of social constraints and values of aesthetics.
JODI was the flag bearer of the first and seemingly last purely Avant-garde world. Her glitches of disruptive interference; in both her looks and her presence within the cookie cut art market, denied the gallery/curator the ability to sell or display her on a cold white wall. She was simultaneously owned by everyone and nobody. However, like every good thing, Net Art couldn’t resist commodification forever…Big Brother seemingly crept into our lives overnight and JODI was buried.
Post – Internet Art
Firstly, what you must understand is…
Net Art used the Internet ITSELF as a chosen medium
Post-Internet Art uses the Internet as simply a CONCEPT to base its work around
Now with this in mind we can link back to the end of Net Art.
The beginning of the new millennia was characterised by a transitional period for the internet. The 2000s marked the beginning of an easier, faster paced lifestyle with online banking, shopping and the rise of social media. To be perfectly honest, when contemplating the trajectory of the appeal of the notion of ‘convience’ it isn’t surprising that we allowed ourselves to be ignorant to the death of JODI. In the act of merging the everyday with the internet the Avant-Garde potential of the rhizome space was destroyed. Now the internet is no longer a free space but a goldmine fuelled by data mining and surveillance.
Jordan Wolf’s work ‘Real Violence’ is a perfect example of Post-Internet Art. Wolf visualises the brutal nature of Virtual Reality, which he in turn deems to be intrinsic to the passive character that is contemporary society. For this piece the viewer experiences the work through VR as they watch a brutal beating where one man – for no apparent reason – bludgeons another man with a bat. Additionally, the viewer is also made to hold onto a metal bar, forcing them to face the beating. The audience has no agency and is a passive witness to the brutality that is the Virtual world.
The notion of one’s lack of agency simply acts to highlight the extent to which the world’s perception of the Internet has changed. From a Utopian space of creativity to that of brutality and invasiveness. JODI is gone and her replacement is the turbulent and insatiable invasion that is our modern day technocratic world.
‘If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.’ – Orwell, 1984
And we stand passive.