Up now at Nudashank is a display of work about the digital and the web, but often manifesting itself in a physical practice as opposed to a purely digital or web based one. REAL TIME attempts to answer the question of what strategies artists have to respond to the sea change of the Internet in terms of how we process images? When the Internet provides an open repository of the world’s visual culture to be appropriated, manipulated, and shared by anyone with access to a computer? We touched on this in our discussion of Division of Labor, but the difference here is that the artists in REAL TIME are making more explicit commentaries and engagements with the digital, and it seems that this type of work is actually perhaps the most problematized by the Internet.
Take, for example, the following anecdote: Last Fall, Friedrich Petzel gallery in New York mounted a show of photo-based works by the American artist Robert Heinecken (1932-2006). In the front hall was a series of re-photographed images from advertisements grouped into motifs and paired with texts titled, Lessons in Posing a Subject (1984). In one example (follow link), 8 women are shown striking a similar pose, with a text that reads, “This classic pose involves positioning one hand in proximity to the head and projecting a sober facial expression. . . Either hand may be used, but the inactive hand is best kept out of view to avoid competition. . .”
Though the gallery owners would probably have preferred Heinecken to be interpreted through the narrative of the Pictures Generation, for someone versed in trends on the web the similarities between Lessons in Posing a Subject and the Hairpin’s “Women laughing alone with salad” and related memes are apparent. They both appropriate images from advertising, and juxtapose them to display the absurd codifications of that industry, particularly with regard to the positioning of women. The Hairpin site, however, has the advantage of being fast, free, accessible to many, and participatory, the embodiment of an egalitarian ideal. There is no textual analysis, just the hashtag form title, and that’s enough for people to go to it, understand it, share it, or use it to make their own site. Although there is a specific author for the post, she’s not unique in her level of access and information or analysis. The issue here is not that the uses of a new form of technology might mirror an older one (internet image appropriation versus rephotography), but more the issue of the uneasy role of the artist/author on the Internet.
In the past, artists responded to new technology by using that technology in the core of their practice and critiques. This was particularly true with the new accessibility of video recording equipment in the 1970s, as well as with the 1980s engagement with originality, textuality and identity in photographic visual culture that employed photography to its ends. In the case of the Internet, the tremendous level of access, and the preconditioned self-awareness of many of its users may make the role of the individual artist in exploring and critiquing the Internet on the Internet somewhat irrelevant. Many people producing content on the web in the form of blogs, videos, curated selections of stock imagery, macros, etc. already use the Internet in creative, recombinatory, and analytical ways. Some of the content may feel superficial to many, but it’s a reality of web culture. (This is not to say that there aren’t a lot of really fantastic web artists and projects, but that there may be some serious limitations to this strategy).
Rather than succumbing to the possible nihilism of this fact, the artists in REAL TIME instead produce works that draw on digital or web based technology, imagery, humor, and identity but then posses and physically embody the imagery and concepts through sculpture, prints, and performances. All the works pose questions about translating imagery and objects between various media: from the digital to the physical world and vice versa.
Jerome Acks appropriates images from the web into compositions with digital prints and dyed canvas, or crackling plastic casings. Video artist Alan Resnick displays two video works in which he performs the conditions of the web: for one portion he is in a green room wearing a suit hooked up to a laptop and camera, chatting and photographing himself, describing his current location, while always remaining on screen in the same place (the web). Kate Steciw makes sculptures that resemble, especially when photographed, random digital compositions, but are in fact made of metal and other materials.
REAL TIME runs until this Sunday, the 22nd, and Nudashank will be hosting a closing that night from 7:00 to 9:00. Check it out!