Artist Anthony Antonellis explored

21 January 2013

Anthony Antonellis “lives and works on the Internet”, as many of us do. His output is often classified as “post-internet art”, which, according to critic Gene McHugh, “is defined as a result of the contemporary moment: inherently informed by ubiquitous authorship, the development of attention as currency, the collapse of physical space in networked culture, and the infinite reproducibility and mutability of digital materials”. What this translates to in practice is a commentary on the situation whereby the Internet ceased to equate with The Future, and became instead a pervasive element of daily experience.

As a means of appraising the present, post-internet art often reaches for outdated media: ASCII characters, GIFs, over-pixelated awkwardness. These choices – which Antonellis is keen on – are a puzzling link to an era in which the utopian cyberspace over which William Gibson and Timothy Leary raved was impedingly due; a connection to a collective dream. The resurgence of near-obsolete formats and the ubiquity of these unshapely, awkward digital relics provide a refreshing DIY antidote to those showy, Flash-heavy, video-interactive-yet-user-unfriendly behemoth websites.

Anthony Antonellis, 'Public Domain' (2013).
Anthony Antonellis, ‘Public Domain’ (2013).

 Antonellis is interested in net art making its way into the IRL (‘in real life’) dimension, and vice versa. When the online experience is brought into physical gallery space, as in the case of “IRL GIFs”, it echoes the unabashed visual joy of Cory Arcangel’s gradient prints. Conversely, in Antonellis’ ‘putitonapedestal.com‘, the gallery is brought into webspace and the user can arrange the displayed GIFs according to their own liking. Very often, the sheer banality of online content develops into a fascinating set of patterns; the videos ‘People I May Know’ and ‘How Nicolas Bourriaud Uses Facebook’, recordings of someone’s social media activity, achieve the quality of a digital mantra after a while. This may happen at the moment when their content dissolves into pure process; following the flow, the personal nature of the information on display ceases to matter.

This is work that seems to share a common field with James Ferraro, whose brilliant Far Side Virtual was possibly the most acute commentary on our contemporary condition. Yet where Ferraro left the listener with the sense of a stock-photo-adorned void, Antonellis seems more playful and light-hearted in his attempts. His witty ‘Moneybrick’ provides an answer to the pressing question known from hundreds of spam e-mail headlines: ‘How to make money on the Internet?’ – print and fold it yourself, that’s how! ‘Facebook Bliss’, an instant cheer-up application with fake Facebook notifications, plays both with psychological readings of social media phenomena and the ubiquity of memes: the likes of ‘The Okay Button’ or the ‘Fukitol Wonder Pill’ became instant online fads as quickly as office jokes about coffee or Mondays and Fridays – highlighting the triviality of memespeak.

On another level, the continued expansion of copy/paste between “online” and “offline” can also be read as a critical response to the concept of digital dualism, which, despite being repeatedly questioned, seems to thrive equally in academia and magazine columns. According to the dualist perspective, there is a distinction between “virtual” and “real”, and on- and offline activities are of a clearly different nature. What post-internet art does instead is to stress a link between the two worlds – suggesting they are interconnected, mutually influential or, most likely, that there is simply no distinction at all. **


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