Jennifer Chan

Introducing Artyč

22 April 2015

Curated by Hana Janečková,  I turn the images of my voice in my head is a monthly critical programme of recent feminist moving image practices (selected exhibition photos, top right), hosted by Czech-run online contemporary art platform Artyč and established by the Academy of Visual Arts, Prague. The series follows a resurgence in interest in Feminism and offers a space to showcase work by artists with diverse perspectives on the subject. Allowing for what Janečková herself describes as a “sharing of feminist strategies across cultural contexts”, the artists and their output already exhibited on the site follow ideas around “technology, language, labour and identity”. They include the likes of Julia Tcharfas and  Chooc Ly Tan‘s Wild Nature, along with the latter’s application to the possibilities within the chaos of ‘Oubilism’ in her ‘New Materials in the Reading of the World‘ (2011) work, as well as Jennifer Chan and Cadence Kinsey‘s Next Time Baby, I’ll be #Bulletproof (2015).

Running since November last year, the I turn the images of my voice in my head programme presents its  fifth online exhibition, called Gentle Triggers and featuring work by London-based artist and S.A.L.T. editor Jala Wahid and artist Nicole Morris. Their practices examine the body through moving image and its materiality behind a screen that’s described as “an unconscious fetishist object”, and “a space for imaginary tactile encounters”. Hence, Wahid’s ‘Let Me Touch You, Make You Feel Really Nice’ (2013) presents long-nailed fingers brushing a horse-saddles mane and prods the viscous brown goo of makeup and facial sponges, as an ASMR-sounding voiceover whispers, “…always fingering your hair as if it’s delicate”.  Morris’ ‘Soft Power’, meanwhile, presents its protagonist’s view through the red and blue lenses of disposable 3D glasses to an IRL London as well as its Google Maps equivalent.”Women are constantly confronted with their ability to produce affect and are well versed in using it pragmatically”, writes Rebecca Carson in an accompanying text to a presentation that questions “the role of affective labour within capitalism”.

Other works shown in the I turn the images of my voice in my head series include Jenna Bliss‘s Letters to ‘Dad the Analyst’, ‘Grandma’ and ‘Osama Bin Laden’, and  Rehana Zaman‘s multi-channel video – a fictional soap opera examining the worker within globalisation – ‘Some Women, Other Women and all the Bittermen’ (2014). These are exhibitions showcased for a month, along with texts commissioned as online ‘artefacts’, that are freely accessible via the Artyčok online archive, alongside video extracts and images, which Janečková describes as follows:

“While the body has been central to feminist critique, in these works narrative, voice and language are seen as its extension. In the presented works Jenna Bliss, Chooc Ly Tan, Rehana Zaman and Jennifer Chan employ strategies of technological mediation, language play and re-narrativisation , actively seeking to unfold and re-imagine the dynamics of patriarchy, allowing for new perspectives and positions of critique.” **

Exhibition photos, top right.

Jala Wahid and Nicole Morris’ Gentle Triggers is on at Artyč, running April 22 to May 22, 2015.

Header image: By Jennifer Chan. Courtesy Artyč

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Body Anxiety online, Jan 24

23 January 2015

The online exhibition Body Anxiety, curated by Leah Schrager and Jennifer Chan, goes live tomorrow, January 24.

Following an unmistakable trend – maybe better to use the word pattern or even a collective consciousnesses-like shift in thematics – of body politics in the emerging art scene, Body Anxiety brings together a group of diverse artists umbrella-ed perhaps only in their examination of “gendered embodiment, performance and self-representation on the internet”.

Participating in the exhibition are 20 artists whom have made a practice out of “female-empowering artworks”, including Hannah Black, Ann HirschGeorges JacoteyRandon Rosenbohm, and Faith Holland. Though the link to the site is still password-protected, the site should be open to the public once it goes live, and all the works will be available for viewing.

See the Body Anxiety FB page for details. **

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Private settings film screenings @ MoMA Warsaw, Dec 10

8 December 2014

The Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw will be hosting a film screening event titled ‘Total Body Conditioning’ to coincide with the Private Settings, Art after the Internet group exhibition on December 10.

The event focuses on “the body as an object and a brand”, exploring its representation within the public realm and within contemporary visual culture, and how they, in turn, affect one’s relationship with his/her own body as it continues to be “disciplined by technological mediation on screen”.

The event brings a handful of artists who have in their own ways explored these questions through their video works and films, like Agnieszka Polska and Sarah Abu Abdallah, as well as Kate Cooper, Jesse Darling, Hannah BlackJennifer Chan, and Bunny Rogers.

See the MoMA Warsaw event page for details. **


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You Are Here: Art After the Internet reviewed

7 May 2014

In her ‘Note on Capitalisation’, Stephanie Bailey points to the heart of an issue grappled with throughout You Are Here: Art After the Internet. Concluding the book of essays, provocations and projects, edited by Omar Kholeif and published by Cornerhouse and SPACE, if involves a  discussion of how the editorial team arrived at the decision not to capitalise the word ‘internet’. The question they faced, she points out, was of what kind of space the internet is –sure, in the 90s, as Jennifer Chan observes in the ‘Note’, the dot-com boom had it feeling like a corporate entity divided into commodities: hence the capital ‘I’ (and emphasis on the capital). Since then, our perception of what the internet is –as in where, how and why it exists –has lead to an uncapitalised form being widely preferred. You go on the internet as you would go to the park.

Taking a stroll through this collection of texts that dare to ask the daunting question of how art has changed and is changing, and will change –in the digital age we now inhabit, you come across many renderings of how that public space might look. In the meditation ‘May Amnesia Never Kiss Us On The Mouth’ by Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme it’s an unknowable yet tangible “afterlife of our experiences”, producing spontaneous counter-narratives alongside real word ones, constantly archiving to the second. It’s a space entirely dependent on, and entirely separate from, physical life.

Jon Rafman, 'Still Life Betamale' (2014).
Image courtesy the artist.
Jon Rafman, ‘Still Life Betamale’ (2014).
Image courtesy the artist.

Proponent of Gulf Futurism Sophia Al-Maria sees it more earthily, talking of “terraforming the WWW”, bringing life from a whole new landscape as if giving birth to a second Earth. In her short provocation, she ties up “life” with emotions and relationships. Similarly, in his essay exploring the nature of relationships formed online, Gene McHugh looks at how digital natives perceive no difference between the meaningful context of relationships formed online and IRL. If real emotions can be played out on online platforms, what’s to separate such platforms from ‘life’?

Meanwhile, editor Kholeif brings the book’s central question about art’s new environment home as he explores the potential and actuality of the online realm as a curatorial space. He relays the experience of moving through algorithm-driven “recommendations” in spaces like Amazon and Artsy, and asks whether art that exists on this plane will soon be downloadable to iPads, in a sense crossing a physical boundary.

In his provocation ‘Where to for Public Space?’, Constant Dullaart takes this internet-as-physical-space metaphor for a walk, delineating the unseen and largely uncontemplated differences between ‘public’ and ‘private’ spaces in cities, and drawing attention to the web’s status as a network of privately owned areas masquerading as a wide open public landscape. Touching on the still-murky realms of the deep web and encrypted codes as hidden spaces where art may yet be contained, Dullaart raises uneasy questions about the freedom of movement and information we associate with our digital world. One thing’s certain: “private” ownership means nothing good for your privacy.

When considering this uncertain, tangible-yet-not, interconnected space that determines the shape of life and the creation and distribution (and content) of art, the notion of ‘post-internet’ as a genre becomes practically impossible to grapple with. You Are Here begins to tackle it by observing current trends in art as you might stare at an endlessly rotating 3D gif; there’s not much in the way of answers or definition, but plenty of absorbing examples viewed from a prism of different angles. Take the cross-section of Jon Rafman’s ‘Virtual Worlds’ presented here, excellently chosen shots of his recent ‘I am Alone but Not Lonely’ installation at New York’s Zach Feuer Gallery and stills from his ‘Still Life (Betamale)’ video for Oneohtrix Point Never in particular. What both of these projects bring to visual realisation is the point or the boundary at which digital reality sits alongside the physical, providing something very real and engrossing that acts as a counterpoint to the decay and depression that surrounds it.

Jon Rafman, 'I am Alone but Not Lonely' (2013).
Jon Rafman, ‘I am Alone but Not Lonely’ (2013). Image courtesy the artist.

With visual interjections like these, the form of the book reflects the volatility and dynamism of the subject matter elegantly, always implicitly asking the question of what our post-internet world means to publications and consumption of information, as much as art. Jesse Darling’s ‘Post-Whatever #usermilitia’ kicks off with a Facebook status and a hashtag before even drawing a breath for its first sentence: this strikes up an instant familiarity with a reader whose reading experience is augmented by half-hourly Twitter-scrolling. The voice is that of a digital orator, strong from the offset and wittily contained. Embracing change as inevitable and technology as human, Darling asserts: “It seems unlikely that the contemporary condition should be qualitatively different from other technological and teleological shifts in human history. Current anxiety that the internet may be making us stupid (or lonely, or sexually aberrant, or socially dysfunctional) echo Plato’s worry that the widespread practice of writing would destroy oral literacy and the ability to create new memories.” This is a mindset that feels like a crux of the whole book, tying in neatly with Rafman’s depictions of un-lonely aloneness and McHugh’s assertion that real emotional bonds can be (and are) forged over the internet.

To quote Bailey again, she states in her provocation ‘OurSpace: Take The Net In Your Hands’: “as the internet continues to evolve, it might be worth admitting that its so-called ‘age’ is not yet ‘post-’ because it has only just begun. Its future therefore remains, to some extent at least, in our hands.” And so we find ourselves here, wherever here might be, inside the ‘after’ signified by ‘post-internet’. If you need a hand navigating, You Are Here maps the movement as diligently as you could expect to map a movement still in motion. **

You Are Here: Art After the Internet, edited by Omar Kholeif, was published by Cornerhouse and SPACE in April, 2014.

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Artists announced for FULL SCREEN exhibition

14 February 2014

The list of artists taking part in Aram Bartholl‘s FULL SCREEN group exhibition at Paris’ XPO Gallery on March 13 has been announced and it’s no less than impressive.

In celebrating the end of “pixels in a rectangle” and the beginning of straight-to-retina mediation, artists to feature include Jennifer Chan, Petra Cortright and Constant Dullaart, as well as Evan Roth, Addie Wagenknecht, Ai Weiwei and more. In the words of Bartholl himself, “for your eyes only”.

See the XPO Gallery website for details. **

Header image: Rafaël Rozendaal, ‘everything always everywhere .com’


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4 January 2014

Curated by one long-dead Soviet hero, Vasily Zaitsev, design and exhibit installation, M0N3Y AS AN 3RROR, has been available to view at the website since September last year.

It’s the first of what will hopefully be a rich and ongoing platform for supporting and promoting net and digital art on the M0US310n site and does what the title promises, which is focus on money. That’s from the perspective of some of the most exciting artists out there, including Nick Briz, Addie Wagenknecht, Martin Kohout, Jennifer Chan and many more, announcing “This is very EXPENSIVE”. The pieces on appear to disrupt a system of capital as a major glitch in itself because, after all, “*ONLY FACEBOOK, YOUTUBE, VIMEO & FLICKR MAKE REAL MONEY WITH ALL THIS”.

You can view the installation at**


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‘Crazy, Sexy, Cool’ online @ .dpi now

16 December 2013

Curated by Jennifer Chan and expressing her concerns with gendered online environments as an artist -as well as a part of a ‘Gendered Cultures on the Internet’ issuethe Crazy, Sexy, Cool gif exhibition over at French-Canadian feminist art and culture journal dpi. is up now.

Featuring contributions by the likes of Lorna Mills, Emilie Gervais and Jaakko Pallasvuo, each artist is assigned a folder and a cute girl anime avatar to file their contributions. Those include the obvious in Faith Holland‘s ‘boobs.gif’ and an illustration of gender stereotypes in Anthony Antonellis‘ ‘alphachannels.gif’.

In reference to the 1994 TLC album CrazySexyCool, that many an internet artist like Chan would have grown up with, it’s a reminder that, online or offline, nothing much has changed.

See the .dpi website for more. **

Header image: LaTurbo Avedon, ‘dancer.gif’.

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An overview of Frieze on the fringe

31 October 2013

Superficially diverse but elementally connected –if for nothing more than their positioning outside of the official programme –a handful of things worth doing beyond Regent’s Park during Frieze week criss-crossed the London city map. In fact, geographical location had almost as much to do with an event’s significance as it did the event itself. Emerging art from the dynamic South London cluster started the week with Harry Sanderson’s Unified Fabric exhibition at Arcadia Missa and Jesse Darling’s play on the notion of Frieze event exclusivity with her Haus party –art as presentation and piss up –at the centre of it.

Closer to the well-to-do west but not quite there was Moving Image London, on the South Bank and in the Bargehouse and possibly one of the most exciting exhibitions by sheer volume and diversity of video works from across the globe, as well as the unforeseeably controversial National #Selfie Portrait Gallery huddle on the top floor. In the upmarket commercial district of Mayfair, the GCC art collective’s Achievements in Swiss Summit, its Rolls Royce joyrides and location at Project Native Informant assuming the pan-regional political pose of a Gulf Arab delegation. Wrapping up the week of outer-events and perceivably speaking to its artists’ proximity to making the leap to Frieze Proper soon, the Sunday Art Fair at Westminster University’s Ambika P3, literally down the road from the official site, showed interesting works from ripening, nearly ripe, artists set to complete the art market cycle.

Unified Fabric exhibition view. Image courtesy of Arcadia Missa..
Unified Fabric exhibition view. Image courtesy of Arcadia Missa.

But in the meantime, a moment for the underground. Down here a ring of sound and images has Harry Sanderson’s DIY render farm at Unified Fabric surrounded; the super computer and the labour behind it literally placed at the centre of videos looking at the problem of the image. Among them is Hito Steyerl’s ‘STRIKE’, exploring the artist’s position in relation to the screen and Clunie Reid’s ‘The More or Less of Miley Cyrus’, interrogating representations and their source in an uncomfortably familiar image.

Then there’s Darling’s Haus. As a relative outsider, the prospect of a Camberwell residence packed with strangers was an intimidating one to say the least, but appropriate to the invite-only setting of “post-fordist scene colleagues” the event consciously caters to. A house party but also a showcase of video works and performances, its gesture to a Frieze-emulating fake-exclusivity was realised by a guest list and actual bouncer with an entry stamp reading “neoliberal singularity”. Darling’s ongoing refusal to “frame” her work in the ‘white cube’, as she iterated in a recent aqnb interview, reflects the anarchic nature of London art as “gallery-as-brand-as-dj-as-person”, while one busting for a wee is confronted by a ‘performative’ toilet; a couch keeping the bathroom door ajar for your viewing pleasure. Precious privacy is mercifully granted a floor up with one that shuts but the option of keeping public, as a nudge to contingency, with an in-house camera inviting patrons to contribute toilet selfies, beneath a mirror with text that reads “PLEASE FUCK #frieze”.

Downstairs, Lead Pipe, a “metal band” featuring a shirtless Arcadia Missa co-curator Tom Clark on drums, as well as artists Charlie Woolley, Harry Burke and Paul Kneale, play among Leslie Kulesh’s artforum chain decorations, while a hand written poster on DJ Imran Perretta, aka Madboy Zimba’s deck (singular) announces studio visits around his corner of the lounge room (#fuckfrieze). There’s also the promised stack of “good” video art –the “bad” being screened in the perpetually rammed kitchen that I don’t dare enter –called The basis of all structures is the placing, very carefully, of two bricks (Faust was right, have no regrets) curated by Takeshi Shiomitsu. I’m not sure how ‘good’ The Armando Iannucci Shows episode called ‘Twats’ is in itself but the (homo)eroticised initiation of a young protégé into the business world by puffing on his first official phallus in Annika Larsson’s ‘Cigar’ suggests the commentary’s in the context.

The same could be said for the Frieze week art interactions in general, where perceptions of legitimacy are established by a series of ritual gestures and arbitrary signifiers determining social value. Achievements in Swiss Summit exposes said charade as a Gulf Arab “delegation” of nine artists –including Fatima Al Qadiri, her sister Monira, Sophia Al Maria and Khalid Al Gharaballi, among others –descend on Mayfair to congratulate themselves on their oblique accomplishments, buried in political jargon and described as “a High Level Strategic Dialogue”. What the specifics of that dialogue is, is anyone’s guess but it’s in the ceremony surrounding it that the empty concession to economic self-interest is exposed: a display case of glass trophies, proud symbols of accord, and large-scale photos of delegates in thobes, shaking hands, drinking tea and signing papers in the idyllic backdrop of a Swiss village. Here, ‘delegates’ exchange “cordial talks” and discuss a nebulous agenda, while visitors ride the Rolls in circles around the gallery to a looping recording of the collective’s official charter, hijacked from their Gulf Cooperation Council namesake. Meanwhile, in the same way that the chaotic Haus party in Camberwell knowingly celebrates what Darling calls its “post-fordist network of friendly/collegial affect & etc”, so too does the GCC hold on to its in-group interests of art associations, friends and family in a brilliantly-executed and pointless PR exercise.

Achievements in Swiss Summit. Install view. Image courtesy of Project Native Informant.
Achievements in Swiss Summit exhibitionview. Image courtesy of Project Native Informant.

Perceivably reflecting the outsider perspective of the GCC set –as an exhibition set apart by its location in Mayfair and its ‘delegates’ transplanted from the Gulf to the Swiss mountains –so too does the green triangular display of the Maraya Video Archive at the multi-level Moving Image art fair present a similar vantage point. It features video works by three UAE-based artists, Alaa Edris, Nermine Hammam and Karim Al Husseini under a title explicitly referencing the geopolitical nature of their presence. Between Edris’ expressionistic montage of pre-confederation British film documentation and personal footage in ‘Kharareef’ and Al Husseini’s poignant mixed-media narrative on the dispersal of his family’s Palestinian roots across the globe in ‘Dew Not’, the display not only illustrates their experience as unique but as a fundamentally, and problematically, alien one. It’s very proximity to Constant Dullaart’s stunning ‘Niagara Falls, Special Economic Zone PRC, HD VIDEO’ –a single shot video of said miniature natural wonder at China’s ‘The Windows of the World’ theme park in Shenzen focussed on an unaware couple posing for photos –exposes the problem of the artist as outsider looking in. Those issues of patronage and intervention it raises are echoed in the intrusion of a Mountain Dew delivery truck and a ship marked “UN” in Al Husseini’s video, pointing toward a type of occupation, beyond the Israeli kind and to a corporate and humanitarian one.

Hence, the Maraya Video Archive display’s situation between Cliff Evans’ play on Jasper Johns’ work of the same name, ‘Flag’, and Jonathan Monaghan’s CGI animation, ‘Mothership’. One, a digital simulation of its familiar stars and stripes made up entirely of drones, watching its audience and awaiting orders to strike. The other, a more insidious system of control realised in its ubiquitous popular cultural tropes and the entertainment industry’s art of emotional manipulation and propaganda by littering the surreal landscape with images of Marvel superheroes, London city discworlds and that flying ‘mothership’ propelled by a Fed Ex engine.

As anecdotal evidence of a world view externally shaped, Eve Sussman and Simon Lee’s ‘Seitenflügel’, a floor down, tricks my eyes into thinking its a large-scale projection of an iPhone interface from a distance but turns out to be a stylised view of apartment windows inhabited by the artists’ Berliner neighbours. More than an insight into our everyday voyeurism, said incidental confusion for a smartphone is a telling illustration of modern life as State control via the consensus rule of an inward and outward-looking screen. In some ways the National #Selfie Portrait Gallery, curated by Kyle Chayka and Marina Galperina subverts that system in 16 commissions from emerging artists. As a showcase of short-form video contributions based around the digital self-portrait, or “selfie”, artist Jennifer Chan mediates her recent feline phase, also performed on twitter, by literally drawing the ‘Cat Ears’ of its title on a pixelated shot of herself saying “my dick”, while ever-prolific Darling presents herself nude and in a sunbed, all Žižek quotes and apocalyptic self-obsessions vocalised through a pitched-up voiceover (“like me ya know I jus wanna look good naked”) in ‘Lil Icarus’. Paul Outlaw and Jennifer Catron literally devour each other, in the form of busts fashioned from food, in ‘Succulent’. Anthony Antonellis mediates himself, to himself, through his macbook screen, flesh fading into his keyboard, while Daniel Swan’s self is represented by the dazzling cover of a smartphone facing outward in Selfie Video Loop.

Pronouncing this form of self-mediation a “democratic artistic medium”, the N#SPG press release assumes the concept of liberal freedom –from political autonomy to access to technology –isn’t still a privilege afforded a lucky few, here demonstrated in a collection of works by EU and US-based artists only. Again, it’s a hard reality physically realised by their positioning on opposite ends of the same room and in view Al Husseini’s ‘Dew Not’. Meanwhile, a general public still hostile to the dynamic net art community, the consciously exhibitionistic nature of National #Selfie Portrait Gallery especially, was aptly summarised in a tweet by fellow ‘selfie’ contributor Petra Cortright. A link to the 700-plus comments (“each more LOL than the next”) on a Yahoo News article on the exhibition with the ‘narcissistics’, ‘not arts’ and ‘I could do thats’ liberally heaped on the resounding thumbs down from the readership.

This very focus on ‘real art’ and what legitimises it is a recurring theme on the Frieze Fringe, resonating through to the Sunday Art Fair as it establishes its place in the hierarchy of cultural value. The Ambika space is less ‘white cube’ and more “vast concrete construction hall”, speaking to the nature of the fair, down the road from Frieze London and showing artists just outside or halfway in to the big leagues. The ICA: Off-Site video showcase features Sophia Al Maria and Fatima Al Qadiri’s ‘HOW CAN I RESIST U’ and Martin Arnold’s unsettling ‘Hydra’ video loop, an animation reduced to its eyes, teeth and salivating tongue, making reference to the sexualised nature of children’s TV and resembling the creepy Cheshire Cat of Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. Katja Novitskova’s ‘Branching IV’ and ‘Approximation VIII’ digital print cut outs and Avery Singer’s acrylics on canvas, grey and ungraspable geometric forms, in ‘Exhibitionist’ and ‘Dancers Around an Effigy to Modernism’ keep things abstract, expressing a contemporary tension between overtly political art concerned with the exploitation behind image production –most explicitly illustrated by Harry Sanderson’s Unified Fabric –and a growing concern with lofty philosophical concepts, potentially in response to imminent environmental catastrophe, even human extinction.

That’s a possibility George Henry Longly attempts to counteract in his rather dazzling marble tablets that look like they could survive the ravages of time in a way that a MOV file won’t. Respectively engraved with “GHL”, “SORRY”, “Don’t be an Asshole”, among other things, and studded with gilded tubes of YSL “Touche Éclat” complexion highlighters and silver plated “poppers”, Longly speaks to said fatalistic outlook by evoking a sense of knowing what the problem is, being helpless in resolving it and doing what you do in the meantime. **

George Henry Longly. Sunday Art Fair Install view. Image courtesy of Luttgenmeijer.
George Henry Longly. Sunday Art Fair Install view. Image courtesy of Luttgenmeijer.

Frieze Art Fair runs in London’s Regent’s Park annually in October. The fringe events happen elsewhere.

Header image: #fuckfrieze: Scenes from JD’s Neuliberal London. Image courtesy of Jesse Darling.

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‘How to Sleep Faster’ Issue 4 out now

30 July 2013

The Summer 2013 edition of How to Sleep Faster by London collective and art space, Arcadia Missa, is now available. Issue 4 of the ongoing publication, which published its first in 2011, features a slew of some of the world’s most exciting artists, including Jesse Darling, Ann Hirsch, Paul Kneale and recent Auto Italia collaborator Huw Lemmey.

Via their Open Office (AM-OO) programme, Arcadia Missa explored precarity within immaterial labour, within the cultural lexicon of a much discussed and relatively popular ideology based around post-Fordism, including neo-liberalism, consumer agency, and “playbour” in a globalised economy. How to Sleep Faster‘s 4, builds on this critique by asking four related questions: “What now is a radicalised, networked, subjectivity? How can we build a commons through and from this subjectivity? Is it self-critical in its understanding of the ‘we’ it talks for? And lastly, how do, and how must, these subjectivities engage with globalised material realities?”

See the Arcadia Missa website for more details. **

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transmediale 2014 open call for works

15 July 2013

Last year’s transmediale festival in Berlin explored the influence of shifting cultural paradigms on our understanding of science and the world with Back When Pluto Was a Planet and yielded impressive appearances by the like of Andrew Norman Wilson and Jennifer Chan. This year afterglow explores the perceived digital cultural wasteland we exist in in the wake of the Great Land Grab by those major corporate entities that descended on the web early on and they’re seeking artists with finished works engaging with this post-internet discourse exploring the aftermath. Submissions close on July 31 so see the transmediale website for more details. **

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‘Networked Performativity’ panel @ Sight + Sound 2013

Networked Performativity.
30 April 2013

Some of the most amusing, interesting and informative Twitter feeds are run by artists. Jennifer Chan‘s is one of them, as well as Emilie Gervais and post-ironic  pop star and friend to Ryan Trecartin, Lauren Devine. Luckily for Montréal, two of those three will be joining the panel at the city’s Sight + Sound 2013, running May 8 to 29, to discuss ‘Networked Performativity: Systems, Platforms and Identity’.

Jennifer Chan.
Jennifer Chan.

The festival’s 5th edition focusses on “black markets in a global sense”, with this particular group exploring social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr and their roles as artists within them. Joining Chan and Gervais will be Vincent Chevalier and Heather Dewey-Hagborg with moderation from Michelle Lancombe. In redefining performance through media, it should be an interesting listen. **

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An interview with Jennifer Chan

13 March 2013

A proponent of the post-internet era, Ottawa-born, Hong Kong-raised, Syracuse (via Toronto) based Net artist Jennifer Chan is sipping a Club-Mate in the café of Berlin’s Haus der Kulturen der Welt. It’s an early morning chat for the young practitioner, in Germany to present her [[[ I’ll Show You HD ]]] exhibition, featuring a stream of decontextualised online imagery that reflects and remixes the accelerated attention spans created by the Online environment. Employing a uniquely amateur aesthetic in the form of a slideshow, or ‘powerpoint presentation’, Chan uses these methods to explore and critique increasingly pervasive digital forms, their modes of mediation and the agency of the user.

A 9:30am start during a week of long nights and hectic schedules at this year’s transmediale, Chan is well-groomed and surprisingly clear-minded. Summarising her interests and motivations as an artist in an easy five-minute opening, it’s obvious that she’s given a lot of thought to properly articulating her ideas: “sorry if this is a lot of information. You can stop me.” But there’s more to Jennifer Chan than a semi-rehearsed dialectic outlining her artistic practice.

Not only an artist working within so-called ‘new media’, Chan is also a self-described ‘amateur cultural critic’, inspired by curators and scholars Sarah Cook and Beryl Graham, and a feminist whose pieces (like the titillatingly-titled ‘An Informal Survey of Swag: The Sociology of Hip Hop In the Micro-World of Emerging Net Art‘) have appeared online through publications like Art Fag City and Rhizome. She’s a part of that “academic cluster” of prosumers, centered around the North American regions of Chicago and New York, where she’s currently completing a Masters of Fine Arts in Video at Syracuse University. It’s from here that Chan explores ideas of gender and racial identity within a digital medium and (what she affectionately calls “the toilet of the human mind”) the Internet.

What do you think about those people who can and do disregard Net art or web based art, for being just kitsch and pointless?

JC: That’s a common reaction. There have been efforts by many younger curators to make that bridge between Net art and contemporary art. I feel like, with a lot of 2.0, or post-2.0 artists, they are adapting their work into exhibition spaces and they’re creating their own spaces online. Like you mentioned, Tabor Robak and, some of his friends, Kari Altmann and Amalia Ulman… A lot of people are working to create their own internet art galleries. In Berlin there’s Future Gallery that shows pretty much just web-based work but it also looks hyper-contemporary. I’ve also been involved in that; curating DIY shows but also curating video screenings with institutions to leverage a new hierarchy, in a way [laughs].

I also share that sentiment of ‘fuck the traditional definitions of contemporary art’, to try to elevate this Internet trash as something worthy of looking at, like, artefact. I think Kari Altmann’s practice is about that; finding these things, creating these memes and looking at them like artefacts.

You obviously approach the Internet quite critically. Having worked with people in their late teens, I’ve found they don’t seem particularly interested. They use it as a tool rather than something to be fascinated by or deconstructed.

JC: It depends on the person. I think that there is no average user but people like to talk about users as this homogenous group; that they’re necessarily going to use and interact with the interface for its functional reasons. There was quite a bit of discussion about that at What Was The User? panel yesterday. Of course, it’s great to hear from people like Olia Lialina and Cornelia Sollfrank on those ideas; those early sentiments of really trying to create systems so people can change the way of making art and challenge authorship. But I think it’s different now, it’s post-2.0 time. They also have very different ideas of the word and the use of the word ‘user’.

Jennifer Chan, REALCORE Exhibition (2012). Install view.
Jennifer Chan, REALCORE exhibition (2012). Install view.

Do you think about that uneven distribution of Internet access, globally?

JC: Yeah. I’m aware of the digital divide and it makes me uncomfortable. I went to China in 2008 and 2009. We went through the city in a tour bus and half the city is really developed and the other half is squats and squatter houses. It’s interesting too because, there people might be living in uncomfortable conditions but then they’ll whip out a smartphone or they’ll have a TV. There’s also that privileging of technology or entertainment.

I guess, my work tries to resolve those problems because it’s something that’s almost larger than within what I can do. I think it can raise awareness about that, in the way of looking at technology. I’m really aware that the ‘post-Internet’ revels in that privilege almost; of the Internet’s role in the First World.

You’ve also said you disagree with the term ‘digital native’, especially when you don’t know how to code or programme. It’s easy to forget that the Internet, on the whole, is founded on a space built by mostly male programmers.

JC: I have a piece of work about that in the exhibition. It’s called ‘*A Total Jizzfest*’. It’s a rough history of the sexiest and richest computer and Internet scientists, programmers and web 2.0 moguls. I was also looking at their representation over time because Google search stock images of them that are flying in through the video. As well as that, it’s a small research project for me just to understand who did what over the course of time, from the 1950s up until the present.

It seems like, also, the post-web 2.0 or the web 2.0 moguls are way more informal about the way they represent themselves but they’re all brands. Christopher Poole is ‘moot’, the founder of 4chan. Jakob Lodwick, he’s the founder of Vimeo but then there’s a myth around him because of how much personal life is on his Twitter account, also blog posts and emails are made public by people he’s dated. I find all that really juicy. I’m really interested in this human dimension around technology and how people approach the social web.

You mentioned Marisa Olson defining ‘post-internet’ culture as a new mode where communication and socialisation is a part of every day life. Do you think it’s important to continue to explore and critique the racial and gender conventions that still exist on the Internet?

JC: I think that there are artists that are querying those dichotomies or conventions. I guess, in music, it’s Mykki Blanco and Le1f… I really like his work. I think it’s possible to look at various representations of masculinity and femininity through a queer lens online. As well as just understanding that people selectively appropriate various orthodox definitions of masculinity and femininity, in a pleasurable way. I don’t think they’re strictly adhering to them all the time but it’s definitely questionable when someone posts something that looks heteronormative, or whatever, what that means…

I can’t speak for the general Internet art community, in terms of what their ideas about orientation are, but from just embodying different identities in chat forums when I was 14, when there wasn’t any live video chat yet, I recognised that certain spaces online that are meant for everyone are highly gendered in terms of language. Even on [online dating site] OkCupid, the advertising sometimes targets me as a really feminine woman. Other times it targets me as a man; where it’s really important for me to own a Lexus or something.

For me, it’s an understanding that many spaces are very gendered and knowing how I can talk about that. It’s important to remember that it’s a condition of half-internalising these ideas of being a particular kind of user, which these websites think that I am.

Net art seems to have had a more pervasive impact on the US because of its traditional role as a global economic centre. Do you think growing up in Hong Kong has had a similar effect on your outlook as an artist?

JC: Yeah, I suppose. I guess it’s a certain kind of Net art, which is very cosmopolitan or ‘blanket international’, that has definitely influenced me. Just growing up in different cultures has influenced my ideas of how to appropriate, what to appropriate, what can I appropriate? Yeah, definitely this ‘global feel’.

I’m actually thinking about Energy Pangea, who make work like Kari Altmann, they’re really looking at images of globalisation: African kids, images of different national flags and the way that it’s almost removed from what they usually mean. It’s almost this very corporate aesthetic, very designer-y and slick, which is not like mine but I think about looking at things that way too; almost everything as a brand, a potential product or commodity and ultimately an experience.

There’s always more than one way of looking at something; whether it’s Net art and its creative worth, or the critique of globalisation and corporate culture by embodying it. There seems to be this unsettling awareness that there’s nothing that can’t be commodified. Rihanna doing #seapunk is a good example.

JC: Everything’s susceptible to reappropriation and shifts in meaning. I think that comes with just working within this networked community. It’s so rapid in terms of its responses but then groups of people have the agency to respond and talk back to it. I don’t think it’s the end of an aesthetic because Rihanna’s appropriated it. If you put your work online, then it’s going to travel. Nick Briz made this rotoscoped and green-screened Rihanna video, where people were making response videos as well.

Do you think that ‘right of reply’ is specific to the digital era, that conversation?

JC: I think it is but a lot of the times it stays online. I suppose it does end up being heard of outside of the internet art community when it reaches more mainstream media forms. Like, I’m thinking if it hits an art blog, or a lifestyle blog, then people find out that #seapunk was incorporated, or a glitch aesthethic was incorporated into a mainstream music video. I think those are all great dialogues between niche subcultures on the Internet and mainstream media.**

Jennifer Chan is an artist living and working in Syracuse, New York. Her next exhibition An ILLUMINATED iDENTITY is showing at XPACE Cultural Centre, Toronto for Images Festival running Thursday April 11 to Saturday April 20, 2013.

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