No Internet, No Art – A Lunch Bytes Anthology is a thick book with a lot of white space that’s heavy on the content. It looks like what you’d imagine ‘the internet’ –as in, the nebula that exists somewhere between fibre optic cables and servers; labour and networks –would. Like something that emerges more as an abstraction than a thing that you can define. Published by Eindhoven’s Onomatopee and compiled by editor Melanie Bühler –who also conceptualized and curated the Lunch Bytes project –No Internet, No Art condenses the series of discussions, conferences and resources into texts examining the role and consequences of digital technologies in the art world for its American Edition that ran from 2011 to 2013. There was also a European Edition that concluded with a conference in Berlin in 2015 but this text covers that block of time that still bleeds its concerns into the present discourse around art and the internet through a collection of essays, interviews and images with its key contributors. They include the emergent practices of people like Adam Cruces, Harry Burke, Paul Kneale and Elvia Wilk, alongside established artists and academics like Monica Lam, Bernadette Wegenstein, Cornelia Sollfrank and Kenneth Goldsmith.
Flipping the format in a book that resembles the way you might read something online, No Internet, No Art is laid out in what contributor Katja Kwastek calls a ‘feeding forward’ of old media to new media. It’s a text that’s rich with ideas and images –all numbered and ‘linked’, so to speak, to a corresponding index page –and the table of contents features two columns with arrows pointing down parallel streams of ‘Commentary’ and ‘Contributions’. The commentaries serve as a sort of Afterward relating to a piece or pieces one is yet to read, instead becoming introductions that summarise (and often critique) what’s about to come. It’s a clever gesture to the rhizomatic, non-linear flow of information that you could call an ‘internet education’ and enables memory consolidation through growing synaptic connections. Collaborative architecture studio m-a-u-s-e-r suggests that rendering “is not so much about its architectural object, but about the relational context of this object” in a pre-response to artist Kari Altmann’s assertion that the “abstract render” is key to the viral success of the “wet look” image-object. Jenna Sutela proposes a ‘science poetry’ as part of her practice that speculates on projected technological futures in anticipation of Nicolas Nova’s idea that what he calls “design fiction” has picked up where Science Fiction storytelling left off.
In the same way that No Internet, No Art presents its content in collated fragments of contemporary art discourse, its images are also fed through its pages as if the book were an interface that exists within the realm of infinite scrolls. A reproduction from Jon Rafman’s Nine Eyes series of selected Google Map photos is split between pages 152 and 153, at the horizon where a lone man stands to the side of a deserted road in South Africa. A screen grab of Joel Holmberg’s softly satirical artist website is cut off at the bottom of page 73, to re-remerge with its corresponding footnote when you turn the page.
There are some interesting juxtapositions here too. UBERMORGEN’s acerbic, and willingly paradoxical dismissal of ‘political art’ as being “mostly a scam” is followed by Mark Tribe’s extensive insight into his practice of public reenactments of old political speeches and the “spectacle of protest”. Claire L. Evans’ personal and poignant argument for a ‘slow internet’, allowing for us to “quietly fall in love in the age of machines”, precedes Brad Troemel’s essay positing the notion of the self-exploiting “aesthetic athletics” of a new kind of artist he calls the ‘aesthlete’. Jaakko Pallasvuo attributes this tendency to over-production less to the limitlessness of digitized media and more to the ‘panic/anxiety’ associated with a highly competitive art market in big cities. It’s an effect of accelerated capitalism that curator Karen Archey also calls the compulsion to neatly label ‘digital art’ nothing more than a marketing ploy. That drive to the further neoliberalisation of the art market is replicated, not only in Holmberg’s consciously corporate-looking website, but Rafaël Rozendaal’s droll use of the language of Indvidualism, Californian Ideology and startup speak to define his practice in a Q&A where the artist interviews himself.
These are ideas and practices that are placed in a historical context of shifting and changing online environments recalled by new media, internet art veterans and ‘digital immigrants’ like Aram Bartholl, Michael Bell-Smith and Domenico Quaranta. A lot of space is given to exploring the so-called ‘New Aesthetic’, coined by James Bridle and built by the blogger swarm, in relation to the art made by seeing the world through the eyes of the “machine watching us”, exploring and unpicking writing on said subject by the likes of Bruce Sterling and Claire Bishop, as interrogated by Daniel Pinkas and David M. Berry.
The real perspective, though, comes in the meticulously constructed thematic thread that runs seamlessly through No Internet, No Art as a whole, from authorship and affect to curation and archiving; storage and production to surveillance and social media; art and activism to performance and mediation; labour and capital to design and technology; and, finally, the future. With that, Andreas Broeckmann closes this text containing just a fraction of the breadth of the Lunch Bytes project’s concerns by predicting merely that the discourse surrounding it “will continue to constitute and confuse that obscure practice and object of desire that we call art.”**