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Erika Balsom, Senior Lecturer in Film Studies and Liberal
2017i

College London, UK

Contemporary Art and Digital Culture analyses the impact


and digital technologies upon art today. Art over the last
been deeply inflected by the rise of the internet as a mass
socio-political medium, while also responding to urgent
political events, from the financial crisis of 2008 to the ong<,
the Middle East.
This book looks at how contemporary art addresses digital�
privacy, and globalisation, and suggests how feminism and··
have been shifted by new mediations of identity. It situates
practice both in canonical art history and in technological
such as cybernetics and net.art, and takes stock of how the
infrastructure has reacted to the internet's promises of d
An invaluable resource for undergraduate and postgra
contemporary art - especially those studying history ofa
and theory - as well as those working in film, media,
education.

Melissa Gronlund is a writer and lecturer on contem


in the moving image. From 2007-2015, she was c,
Aftera/1, and her writing has appeared there and in
frieze, the NewYorker.com, and many other places-.

ART

Cover image:© Hite Steyerl, How Not to Be Seen: A Fudcing 0,-


.MOV File, 2013. Image courtesy of the artist and Andrew tc....,.

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ISBN 978-1-138-93644-7
Routledge
1 1111111� 11111111 rn Ill Ill 'fu,lor & F11.nci$_G�
Beyond the visible image 3
2 Beyond the visible image
s the int er n et's em e rgence int o the
main­ which can b e understood as const ituted by a Ber muda Triangle of institutions,
necessar ily on the int e rn e t, a nd track
dia. Art conce r ed with dig ital biennials, and c omm ercial galleries. In the 2000s, moving-image work in the art
stream, particularly as a platform for social m e n

nal, rguin g for a st y, s e tting world was still deeply invested in analogue t echnologies of 16mm and 35mm
culture te nds to b e discursive and representatio a or

f ff ct ng d ed by a dig ital c elluloid film and its paraphernalia o f proj ect ors and the film strip. Tacita D ean's
out a case, or operating as a m etapho r for a stat e o a e e en er
po st-interne t wo rks try tr iumphant m onum ent to celluloid film, her Tate M odern Turbin e Hall com­
reality. This notion of aff ect is key: a great numb er of missi on FILM, was made .as late as 2011: that is, it to o k till 2011 for cont empo­
digita l era , ,and the first-p erson
to get across the n ew feeling of a lif e live d in the rar y art t o say, "Analogu e film is d ead! L o ng live a nal ogue film". In sculpture,
narrator is a major navigator through this terr it o ry.
m only to migra te craft-bas ed proj e cts were resurgent, and painting, influenced by mass-production
Medium loses its imp ortanc e, as work app ears in on e mediu
tural work s , employing new proc ess es, was (and is) still a dominant m od e of working. This suggests a conser­
to another in a different exhibition cont ext. Sculp vative rather than avant-garde impulse at th e heart of art-making - an implica­
cul t d imag s; vid eos appear in
items of t echnology in asse mblages, becom e cir a e e
p rfo m c e s a re accumu­ ti on that artists now s e ek to sh ow what has b een le ft be hind as much as pushing
immersive installati ons that privilege spectatorship; e r an

sing and cr tiquin g the w social media forward with the new. W hen networks and computers were entering office
lative. Works are als o mad e online, u
i ne

t with th t of exp and ed digital spac es in th e 1960s, one might rem e mber, C o nceptual artists b ecam e inte rest ed
platforms of the We b 2.0, whose rise is c oincid en a
on mod is: crucia l: that of p er­ in the type writer, th e index card, and other physical effects of administration.
culture. Among these crossings of b o undaries, e e
and a mod I call p ers onatio n. Th e slowness of art to pick up on digital t echn ologies was one of the fac­
for mance, particularly the lecture-pe rf ormanc e
e
r h r bodily s lf a against the t ors in a divisive 2012 Ariforum article by Claire Bishop, "Th e Digital Divide:
Th ese a llow the individual to de monstrat e his o e e s

ip t nt mind. Cont emp orar y Art and New M edia", which queried why c ont emp orary art
technology that o perat es under a regist er of the om n o e
mid-2000s t o 2016, was " so reluctant t o describ e our experience of digitized life" (Bish op 2012). 1
The years that this study focuses on, from roughly the
ogi s m ve, like debr is from The article caused a furore with th e net. art community a nd that of other artists
are those in which the internet and digital t ech nol e o

is found e d in 2004, YouTube in 2005, working in digital media and m edia arts, who, of c ours e, had been working in
an avalanche, into daily lif e : Fa cebook
Th young artists whose the field of digitise d life. But Bishop's article, though refl ecting a historical inac­
Twitter in 2006, and the iPhone appears in 2007.
e
red t s "post- internet art" curacy of artistic progression, accurately de monstrated the pur vie w of the art
work is c omm only, though cont entiously, refe r o a
s m time, conc ns relate d t o mainstream, and the ma j or magazines, art j ourna ls, and art academe who track
em erge alongside these devel o pments, and at th e a e er

c rculat io , info mation, and it: The art mainstream's elitism and fenc e-building is itself s om ething that net.
the int ernet and digital t e chn ol ogies - patterns of i n r

ady stablis hed critica l artists. art and othe r t echn ological m ovem ents were keen to cha lle nge ; Bish op's articl e
digital representation - infle ct the work of alre e
r , to use a cyb rn tic t erm. was doubly a slap in the face for the m, marginalising thes e art practices by the
It is important to underline the feedback lo o p h e e e e

artists just s th i t t and ve ry criteria they disavowed.


The internet and digitality becom e c oncerns for
a e n erne
As int ern et usage ha s becom e ubiquit ous, its p o tential challe nge to this
digitality b ecom e parts of e veryday lif e.
e is precisely the gallery-institution-biennial triangle of power has been on e of its most exciting
Indeed, the int ersection b etwe en daily life and digital cultur
prospects. As a circula tor y mechanism, it has all owed young artists t o bypass
field investigated by art of digital culture.
al productio n: its curat or and gallerist to post work online themselves and t o use the int ern et's
The digital bleeds into all other categories of life and cultur
one reason for th multit ude of artistic capacity for self- organisation and ne tworking to establish ne w hybrid institu­
radical reorganisati o n of how we live is
e

with which th e hav been gree ted. tions that fulfil th e role of producer, cr itic, and commercial gallerist alike. Th e
resp o nses t o it as well as to the enthusia sm
es e

spr ad ch ng s. In this way, reorga nisation of these roles has b een one of the claims made for the "sea
People are hungry for s ense to be made of thes e wid e e a e

p ri d c n b disting uished change" effected by work of this per iod, and in this study, we will l ook at th ese
ar t that responds to digital culture during this tim e e o a e

t m v m t uch s net. art views in d etail. The movement of the internet into daily life m eans pot ential
from technological predecessors. The internet th a o e en s s a

rli t chno gical m v m ents infrastructural shifts are part a nd parcel of what is m eant by "n e w technolo­
treat ed was a very diff erent internet, and other ea er e lo o e

qu st r d within a t chn ologi- gies", and ind eed th ought of in this way, we can see h ow art-making practic e
were re garded as marginal to the mainstream, s e e e e e
was indeed infl ected by the internet and new technologies much earlier than
cal ghetto.
the mid-2000s, as well as throughout the 2000s and 2010s in ways that are not
relat ed t o si mply th e presenc e or absence o f a digital console in an exhibition
The move into the mainstream s etting. By this, I mean th e attitude shifts that are c onsonant with, though not
It might seem odd tha t it took until the mid-2000s for the mainstream of c ontem­ s olely det ermined by, th e internet and digital t echnologies.
porary ar t to start addressing the internet. At the turn of the mille nnium, the inter­ F or exa mple, my incredulity that th e New York Times editors might care
net a nd dig ital technologies were a relatively min or subject, in this mainstream, what is wr itt en in a small comm ents b ox below an articl e sh ows a deference to
216 The art world post-internet The art world post-internet 21'
manifesto accompanying the work (http://dismagazine.com/dystopia/67039/constant­ --- (2015) Dark Cloud: Shapes of Information: Lunch-Bytes. Talk given at the Haus d(
dullaart-100000-followers-for-everyone/), and High Retention is a form of income Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, 20 March, as part of the Lunch-Bytes programme, organise
redistribution: understanding that the size of an audience is tantamount to visibility and by Melanie Buhler.
opportunity, he set out to give everyone a fair shake. He bought the fake followers from
Lepore, J. (2015) "The Cobweb: Can the Internet Be Archived?"The New Yorker. 26 Januar
the site "buysocialmedia.com" for a reported $5,000, distributing them to the likes of
Zach Feuer and Gagosian galleries as well as post-internet figures such as Petra Cortright, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/01/26/cobweb (last accessed on 7 Septerr
Karen Archey, and Brian Droitcour. High Retention posits a 1% theory of the internet: in her 2016).
the same way the rich get richer, those with more influence get more influence - and Nora, S. and Mine, A. (1978) The Computerization ofSociety. Bell, D. intro. (1981) Cambridg
more opportunities, more resources to pursue more opportunities, and so on. MA: MIT Press.
10 For more on the Internet Archive see Jill Lepore, "The Cobweb: Can the Internet Be "One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age: Digging through the Geocities Torrent". Blog Geocities Inst
Archived?" The New Yorker. 26 January, 2015, http:/ /www.newyorker.com/magazine/ tute [website], http://blog.geocities.institute/ (last accessed on 29 April 2016).
2015/01/26/cobweb. Price, S. (2002/2008) Dispersion, New York: 38th Street Publishers.
11 See "One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age: Digging through the Geocities Torrent", Blog Geod­ Steyerl, H. (2009) "In Defence of the Poor Image". e-.fiux journal [online journal], 1(
ties Institute, http://blog.geocities.institute/ (last accessed on 29 April 2016). The artist 2009, http://www.e-flux.com/journal/in-defense-of-the-poor-irnage/ (last accessed o
and designer Richard Vijgen also used Geocities for his virtual project The Deleted City
23 April 2016).
(2011), which imagined the site's structure as if it were a street map.
12 See VVORK.com,nowavailableathttp://webenact.rhizome.org/vvork/20141006184357/ Tomkins, C. (2014) "Experimental People: The Exuberant World of a Video-Art V ision
http://www.vvork.com/ (last accessed on 29 April 2016). ary". The New Yorker. 24 March, http://www:newyorker.com/magazine/2014/03/24
13 Danto (and others not already mentioned in this volume) also argued for the "end of experimental-people (last accessed on 7 September 2016).
art", though on more philosophical grounds. Though Danto's philosophy is by and large Troemel, B. (2013) "Athletic Aesthetics". The New Inquiry [online magazine], 10 May, http:/
analytic, in his After the End of Art, he strikes a Hegelian note, arguing that, with Warhol's thenewinquiry.com/essays/athletic-aesthetics/ (last accessed on 27 April 2016).
Brillo boxes, subject and object had become one: representation and the thing itself closed --- (2014) "Art after Social Media". In: Kholeif, 0. ed. You Are Here: Art after the Interne
together. Once this has happened, the project of art as traditionally conceived comes London: Cornerhouse, 36--43.
to an end. See A.C. Danto, After the End of Art (1995), Princeton: Princeton University
Press, 2014.

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