For a minute I’m confused. Looking through the images for Warsaw’s Private Settings, Art after the Internet group survey, curated by Natalia Sielewicz, it’s a disorienting trip through a recent and familiar past for any fan of this kind of contemporary art. It features everything from the droll and deeply troubling leftist philosopher-as-popular-icon-and-fashionable-brand video commission and “sportswear range” ‘Thinkspiration’ (2014) by DIS, to Cuss Group‘s more aspirational attempt at redefining post-Apartheid South Africa into a “rainbow nation” in their ‘Live Distillation’ (2013) video and digital print installation. To try to attempt to explain what this kind of art is, where any attempt at a broadstroke compartmentalisation of a creative cluster of artists dispersed along an incongrously digitised world would forever fall short, is impossible. So let it be a generation born at the genesis of the internet and raised in the squall of its exponentially expanding reach; their immediate environment, politics, identity playing a central role in shaping a collective output fed by and filtered through the network.
Pooling together the work of 27 international artists and collectives born in the 80s and 90s, the exhibition – running in Poland’s Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw (MOMAW) and naturally spilling out onto the web as well as a live events programme – supports a deftly constructed insight into some of the most dynamic and influential practitioners working today. Whether its Korakrit Arunanondchai‘s ‘2556’ (2013) – “painting with history in a room filled with men with funny names” – video or Loretta Fahrenholz‘s dystopian Ditch Plains (2013) film – made in collaboration with members of Ringmasters dance crew and Hurricane Sandy – theirs is an experience that is shared in all its difference.
With a capacity for self-mediating at unprecented velocity, images, ideas and popular cultural tropes are consumed and regurgitated in infinite mutations, while remaining static in a state of endless motion. Jesse Darling‘s materialisation of software’s influence as owner and objectifier in Photoshop 1 (Healing Brush, Clone Stamp, Paint Bucket) (2013) confuses the point where the body ends and the image begins, while Harm van den Dorpel‘s ‘Untitled assemblage (selfie)’ (2013) mimics the cyclical nature of identity creation and curation within its sphere of digital prints on perspex while still dangling within, and being dwarfed by the concrete structures surrounding it.
These works, which also include those of Ryan Trecartin, Jennifer Chan, Metahaven and more, are collated, curated and recalibrated into the Private Settings website, where images and information are dispersed across artists pages, then themes: ‘Body in the Web’, ‘Affect and Presence’, ‘Corporate Aesthetics’, ‘Surveillance and Biopolitics’ and ‘Copies in Motion’. Less an index of art and more a web of associations, the exhibition becomes an experiment in form over content; contemporary culture as shaped by “today’s imperative for creative participation in public life”.
A mammoth survey of some of the world’s most influential emerging and established artists and collectives, Private Settings, Art after the Internet, is happening at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw (MOMAW), opening September 25 and running to January 6, 2015.
Curated by the Polish institute’s Natalia Sielewicz, the show press release reads like a search engine optimised article around the dominant art discourse of the last decade. Littered with tag words like “affect”, “authenticity” and “anonymity”; “prosumer”, “late capitalism” and “stock photographs”, the lineup is an equally expansive overview of some of the most relevant contemporary art of the day.
It’s another bold attempt at categorising the uncategorisable swell of artists rising from the milieu of online awareness, the same way that the Art Post-Internet exhibition in Beijing earlier this year did with its title’s integrated umbrella-term for ‘kind of a product of the internet but not entirely’ and more nebulous objective, spanning a broader generational cross-section.
Interestingly, the Private Settings sub-heading is identical to that of the Omar Kholeif-edited book You Are Here: Art After the Internet published in April. It’s unclear whether the reference is intended but there is some overlap with contributing artists also featured in the MOMAW exhibition, including Jon Rafman and Jesse Darling, perhaps revealing a consciousness for a shared experience, however incomprehensible that experience might be.
A board of blinding lights, the metronomic click of a beat-up CASIO taps against an elastic keyboard loop that stretches and contracts, expands and compresses, across the ebbing tide of space and time. A tiny bottle of Chanel No. 5 materialises, Steven Warwick gingerly squirting its contents on a convulsing audience at the Berghain in Berlin. This is one of several times I’ve seen, felt and absorbed a Heatsick performance but the perfume’s a first.
At the time, I thought it was just another addition to the multi-sensory experience that Warwick strives towards; a bodily transcendence founded on a powerful conceptual bearing. By now I’ve figured otherwise. Said ‘feminine fine fragrance’ reappears, again and again, as a bootlegged ‘climate change’ sweatshirt and the “clear chanel” of his RE-ENGINEERING artist statement, a manifesto of sorts accompanying what he calls the “11 blobs” of his upcoming vinyl release, out through PAN on November 26. “It’s the smell of modernity”.
Warwick is as much a musician as he is an artist and intellectual, the distinction as imperceptible as his life view is malleable. A Berlin-based performer steeped in a visual culture orbiting but not limited to the city, his first full-length as Heatsick is littered with references to the contemporary art discourse and theory that he disrupts, dissects and often parodies, in the same cyclical way that RE-ENGINEERING ends as it begins, if not in a distant, degraded form.
Fellow artist Hanne Lippard’s colourless, disembodied voice preens, over measured exhalations and a crisp melody evoking a dial tone, as she robotically engages in a disintegrating loop of references; speaking, quoting, sloganeering, “black power”, “gay Google”, “what we do is secret”, “labour in the bodily mode”, “second annual trend report”, over a rhythm that is less a groove than a forward lurch. Warwick’s manifesto’s “relentless interconnectivity” carries on, across ideas and ideologies, philosophers and philosophies, even past recordings and present tracks, surfacing and disappearing across its track listing.
“I’ve just really thought about these things, they’re such concerns,” says Warwick through Skype and on tour in Australia, about the ideas and aesthetics that he often explicitly explores, sometimes abuses, on RE-ENGINEERING, “That’s the thing with a lot of network theory and circulation. I’m really trying to link a lot of ideas, or map my own ontology, or even some kind of mode, and I’m trying to think about why I think that. Sometimes, if I see people referencing certain philosophers or schools of thought, and it’s just a bit of a quick joke, you feel a bit short-changed, and not in a particularly subversive way.”
Jesse Garciapurrs, disjointedly in ‘DIAL AGAIN’ emulating the stilted automated voice, deliberately, poorly, over swaggering toms, while Warwick’s voice comes through a far-off megaphone, beneath the noise of a field recording, repeating Lippard’s words (“Modern life is still rubbish, you say. Modern rubbish is still life”) from the beginning, now at the end, as it links into album-closer, ‘ACCELERATIONISTA’ –a circular motion of movement ending up where it began, but different.
“With RE-ENGINEERING,it’s playing around with treating it more like a manual. It’s like, ‘let’s look at these options and maybe you can reprogram yourself to try and get around this dissatisfaction’, or you could just also remould something,” Warwick tells me, following up an email listing ten artists he thinks are doing just that.
“Ed Lehan is known for his acerbic commentaries on participation and the public event. See his various shows where the opening will consist of a reconstruction of an empty charity box built by the artist, a case of beers, a barrel of mojito and the visitor(s). For the one at a gallery in Tallin [Error 404 at Temnikova & Kasela] he reconstructed an adizone that had been popping up in various parts of London for the Olympics.”
“In Loretta Fahrenholz’s film ‘Ditch Plains’, a street performance group contort in the early hours of a desolate area of East New York, various upscale hotel spaces and an apartment in Manhattan, post-Hurricane Sandy. It’s a strange post-apocalypse zombie HD afrofuturist hypercapitalistic ecological crisis; a networked virus of disconnect.”
“Georgie Nettell’s last show [2013 at Reena Spaulings]dealt with notions of recycling, circulation and eco branding. Local dirty dishes were picked up in restaurant bus trays and re-presented in the gallery, images found on the internet were downloaded, distressed and formatted onto raw linen canvases. Her musical group, Plug (with Sian Dorrer), also used a stock image as its cover, confusing the listener as to the public image of the group. “
“Katja Novitskova uses images found on the internet such as wildlife and prints them out, mounting them in physical space and opening up the notions of documentation, preservation, ecology and materiality. The digital image is itself fuelled by carbon materials and minerals extracted from the earth. Species on the verge of extinction are fed back into image circulation and, in turn, play with the neuro-chemical recognition mechanisms in the viewer’s brain.”
“Paul Kindersley’s thebritisharecumming YouTube channel is best viewed left running during a morning after with genuinely bizarre makeup tutorials, presumably also made the morning after (perhaps a satire of the MT genre themselves) at once absurd, daft, unnerving, hilarious and engaging. Current fave: Babes (correct usage).”
“Gili Tal presented REAL PAIN FOR REAL PEOPLE [at LimaZulu]as a wall text superimposed by four gestural paintings, evoking haptic gestures and waiting room paintings. The text consisted of the “goriest parts of Marx’s Capital” (itself full of references to Dracula and Frankenstein), written in languages from post-Communist countries and presented with the deceptively friendly aesthetic of an Innocent smoothie, one visitor was heard to have described the show as “Muji Expressionism”.”
“Sabine Reitmaier is a photographer and artist whose work blurs commercial and fine art contexts. Her show [Not comme les autres at Galerie Friedlaender] last year consisted of portraits of models staged in a similar method to how she would present them for the Psychologie Heute covers she also shoots for. In the exhibition, the large format photos confront us, provoking how we make neurological recognitions and associations, down to posing, body language or the coloured backgrounds that Reitmaier herself painted as per a photo shoot.”
“Hanne Lippard‘s vocal register evokes the automated hold tone of a service centre phonecall and plays with pre-existing imagery found online. Her videos such as ‘Beige’ deploy wordplay and humour to comment upon the hyperreal mundanity of part time work, lifestyles and (non) space.”
“Sarah MacKillop‘s Ex Library Bookis itself an artist book consisting of fragments of obsolete library books –withdrawn from circulation and sold off at a discounted price onto a discarded heap –presented as a shiny glossy catalogue. Her other artist book, New Stationary Department, consists of various materials found at various stationers, be it neon marker pens or corrective materials such as Tipp-Ex, found in the commercial office, highlighting and reworking notions of editing, work and commercial presentation.”
“Rachel Reupkedeals with HD stock images in videos that, when stripped of its conversations, penetrate an eerie and uncanny atmosphere of social relationships and catalogue-like objects. The warm emotional bond of social relation deployed by advertising is stripped and the viewer is suddenly presented with a cold flat image.In ‘Containing Matters of No Peaceable Colour’ from 2009, the hard gaze confronts the viewer with a series of HD towels while an automated voice proceeds to obsessively list a lifestyle specification quota with the delivery of a Robbe-Grillet novel.” **