A contribution to a questionnaire about the "post-internet condition" directed to a wide range of cultural practitioners—art historians, architecture scholars, artists, curators and museum directors. The questionnaire accompanied the exhibition catalogue for "Art Post-Internet", curated by Karen Archey and Robin Peckham, at Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art, Beijing.
Rosa Aiello, Cory Arcangel, Juliette Bonneviot, Harry Burke, Esther Choi, Tyler Coburn, Michael Connor, Ben Davis, Simon Denny, Raffael Dörig, Brian Droitcour, Constant Dullaart, Tess Edmonson, Ed Fornieles, Orit Gat, Ann Hirsch, Jamillah James, Paddy Johnson, Omar Kholeif, Nik Kosmas, Elise Lammer, Gene McHugh, Ceci Moss, Marisa Olson, Jaakko Pallasvuo, Aude Pariset, Christiane Paul, Domenico Quaranta, Rachel Reupke, Bunny Rogers, Ben Schumacher, Tim Steer, Kate Sutton, Mark Tribe, Ben Vickers, Lance Wakeling, Rachel Wetzler, Elvia Wilk, Andrew Norman Wilson
Just as twentieth-century modernism was in large part defined by the relationship between craft and the emergent technologies of manufacturing, mass media, and lens-based imagery, the most pressing condition underlying contemporary culture today—from artistic practice and social theory to our quotidian language—may well be the omnipresence of the internet. Though the terminology with which we describe these phenomena is still nascent and not yet in widespread use, this exhibition presents a broad survey of art that is controversially defined as “post-internet,” which is to say, consciously created in a milieu that assumes the centrality of the network, and that often takes everything from the physical bits to the social ramifications of the internet as fodder. From the changing nature of the image to the circulation of cultural objects, from the politics of participation to new understandings of materiality, the interventions presented under this rubric attempt nothing short of the redefinition of art for the age of the internet.
...you will find responses to an exhaustive questionnaire on the definition and impact of the term “post-internet” and the practices that accompany it. It should be noted that the respondents represent a wide range of cultural practitioners—art historians, architecture scholars, artists, curators, museum directors, etc. We have only lightly edited this section for readability, and have sided with an ethos of inclusion. While it is possibleto do so, the questionnaire is not meant to be read straight through, but rather searched for keywords, favorite authors, and pull quotes. While there are many redundancies in the questionnaire, we hope that they will elucidate trends and divergences in opinion regarding post-internet art.
—Karen Archey and Robin Peckham, curators
Art Post-Internet: How do you define ‘post-internet’? How does this terminology relate to artistic practices?
Esther Choi: I would define “post-internet”, in the broadest terms, as a set of modalities and sensibilities that self-referentially respond to the internet’s advent and cultural influence. We may understand the internet as an information and communications-oriented apparatus that involves a particular arrangement of interfaces and infrastructures. Or, we may consider the internet’s procedures and its resulting effects—how it carries and transmutes information and materials, affects arrangements and experiences of space and time, aggregates human behaviour, and generates new subjectivities. Like post-conceptualism, post-internet artistic production inherits and expands on the discourses of media art and systems-based artistic strategies, and focuses its attention to the cultural impact of the internet’s technologies, material arrangements, and procedural operations.
API: Which ideas, artists, curators and institutions do you associate with this term, and which movements or creative producers do you think are its precedents?
EC: Although contemporary scholarship and curatorial work on post-internet art have focused on the practices of individual artists such as Ryan Trecartin, Constant Dullaart, Cécile B. Evans, Aids-3D, etc.—along with institutions and media platforms such as Rhizome, Eyebeam, and Ubuweb, post-internet art has yet to be examined from the perspective of the transdisciplinary culture of the studio. Since architects and designers share the tools, techniques and knowledge required to produce the work we associate with post-internet art, any analysis requires an embrace of disciplinary aspecificity to a degree; this, however, should not be confused with an eschewal of methodological intention.
While art practices categorically ascribed to the umbrella of “media art” are often cited as precedents to post-internet art practices (here I could name any number of practitioners ranging from Nam June Paik, Steve Beck, Dara Birnbaum, and so forth), the “new tribalism” of 1960s counter-cultural movements is also an important precursor. Just as historians like Fred Turner have examined how the cultural output of this time—embodied canonically in Stuart Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog —was central to the formation of internet culture and the notion of a “networked society,” the status of the collective itself requires further historical investigation: Why were so many artists and architects engaged in collective formation? What benefits did this afford artists? How were notions of identity, anonymity, and authorship mediated? Take, for example, Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.), which is often cited as a precedent for post-internet art because of their (somewhat generic) use of “media and technology.” Yet what is perhaps most pertinent is the manner by which their status as a collective enabled them to navigate the terrain of branding and corporate culture in an insidious and subversive manner. Billy Kluver was attuned to forming an image of E.A.T. as a distinctive brand, complete with style guides and dress codes—a brand that could absorb and give image to the desires of multifarious corporations. The Pepsi Pavilion for the 1970 Osaka Expo is probably the best example of this dynamic between two collectives/ corporations (and Calvin Tomkins’s account of this fiasco is one of the most engaging accounts of the project to date).1 It becomes an interesting historical correlative to the contemporary practices of collectives like K-Hole.
API: Do you find the term useful? Annoying? If not useful, what vocabulary do you prefer? (e.g. circulationism, dispersion, internet-engaged art, etc.)
EC: The term “post-internet art” is confusing because it refers to not only a specific historical period (post/ in response to/ all that follows/ the internet) but it is also tightly hinged to a highly specific technological innovation and its particular cultural effects. Unlike the term “postmodernism”, which was not tethered to a particular “thing”, but rather, a nebulous range of strategies and logics, the term "post-internet art" seems problematically diagnostic and prescriptive. While I find the precision of “post-internet art” to be more useful than “dispersion” or “circulationism”, which seem to allude to both everything and nothing, its reference to an object is deceptively misleading because it narrowly suggests what is at stake are questions of form, thus limiting the scope of engagement and interpretation. Just as curators like Caitlin Jones have argued that new modes of analysis and vocabulary are required to critically engage with and evaluate post-internet art practices without recourse to comparisons to conceptual and post-conceptual art, I would suggest that contextualizing, critiquing, and historicizing the products of post-internet art requires that we apply a broader outlook to include adjacent fields. For this reason, “post-internet aesthetics” is, perhaps, a slightly more accurate and useful term
API: Do you consider yourself a post-internet artist/writer/ curator?
EC: Not exclusively; it’s one of several interests.
API: Have you made, written about or curated internet art? Have you paid attention to internet art or new media art history?
EC: I have written about the interpolation of common digital tools and techniques amongst cultural practitioners irrespective of disciplinary-specific affiliations and how we might, in turn, develop new metrics to address form and medium in the context of production.
API: How many exhibitions have you been in that had a specifically post-internet theme or motivation?
API: Do you think the rise in discussion around the term post- internet has had a negative or positive effect on the art world?
EC: If anything, it has drawn attention to the desperate need for historians, critics, and curators to develop new languages, modes of analysis, and metrics of evaluation that reveal some (any) knowledge of how the internet operates!