Cory Arcangel and Hanne Mugaas' performance/lecture at Images last Friday was an unfortunate event for several reasons.
1) Most artists I know do have some self-doubt about what they are doing. Arcangel prefaced his performance by declaring the possibility of its failure, and a history of its past failures. Unfortunately, it didn't come across as self-doubt, it came across as an attempt to inoculate the audience against a subsequent failure.
2) uhhmmm ok ....ummm...ok...OK...no....uhhhhhhhhhmmmmm..ok...um...wait...ok... A few more nouns and verbs were needed. Or else just click on the youTube links a bit faster. I'll argue that it's not brave or interesting to surf in real time while speaking to an audience. (We all figured that out a long time ago during phone conversations with our mothers.)
3) Do not mistake the email links that you and your friends sent each other in 1997 and 1998 as an early universal web meme experience. That could actually be a perfect definition of a local experience. (For Christ sake, Vera Frenkel and Michael Snow were in the audience, he wasn't a 15 year old performing for 12 year olds)
4) I was a little confused by the proposition that an old dance clip's appearance on youtube was a direct influence on a later Beyonce music video. In the past I have been guilty of assuming that dancers and choreographers weren't the brightest bulbs, but I think it's safe to assume that they all know who Bob Fosse is. (it's not an obscure youTube reference that some choreographer discovered from an email link in 1997 - 1998.) [eta: Tim Comeau provided this link from NPR that does state that Beyonce learned about the Fosse choreography from a youTube video: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=97356053. I stand corrected - L.M.]
5) The premise of the evening was that he would dealing with a clash between the art word and art on-line, that's a great subject, but that's not what was presented there. (as one friend in the audience pointed out it was a squandered opportunity) Again in the preface, he asked the question about whether it should be done at all? Obviously the audience was there to hear about it, so the question we have to ask back: are you the one equipped to present this?
I couldn't agree more. It was really disappointing and not worth $10. One more complaining point: there was a painfully contrived attempt to present the peformance as a collaboration. While Arcangel puttered around up front, Hanne Mugaas sat in a control booth in the same room doing nothing except occasionally sending a phatic message via chat software that she could as easily have contributed if she was also on stage. I'd be pretty curious to hear her version of the lecture. But, once-burned, I'd only go if the event was free and there was nothing else to do that day.
I don't disagree with any of the points either of you have made about the Arcangel/Mugaas performance, particularly the problematics of the lecture not doing what the artist said it would do (address the difference between the 'real life' artworld and the online artworld) and the non-collaborative collaboration that was happening. But, strangely, I had the opposite reaction to the event. I really enjoyed it. I laughed a lot, was irked occasionally, but came away remembering everything that was shown and with lots of fodder for dinner discussion.
I howled during the spaghetti cat youTubes. But until then I was bored and frustrated with his delivery. It was not refreshing or charming to watch someone ramble on in the persona of a regular guy who just likes to surf the internet for cool funny shit ...gosh shucks...
I was keen to take in Hanne Mugaas’ and Cory Arcangel’s Art Since 1950 (According to the Internet). I, like many, believe that The Internet and its electronic systems have indeed effected definitions of art object and/or exchange and who exactly is an artist. But…one can only be so slack and get away with it. One can only be so offhandedly disorganized without simply losing interest. And Arcangel (Mugaas was the technician, or the brains?) did not sustain my interest. Even my dead cat knows that seminal art events (emphasis on body artists such as Chris Burden and Bruce Naumann) are endlessly “re-made” by You Tube pranksters. The 22nd Images Festival had already established that original prints were destined to become copies of copies and therefore what exactly is an original anyway. Animal events loosely parallel to cinematic moments do not cut the mustard, and so on and so on and so on. When somebody stands in front of an audience and informs an audience that this is their third presentation of this lecture cum performance and - guess what - the first two presentations were disasters; that somebody lowers expectations and had better be pretty on top of his or her game if they intend to recover those expectations. But Mugaas’ and Arcangel’s presentation and aesthetic has nothing to do with recovering or re-examining anything - it is about detritus and general flotsam. Nothing more and nothing less. Over and out.
I read Andy's post earlier and, again, couldn't find much to argue with. It's interesting that both Andy and L.M. and Sally mention the issue of expecting one thing and getting another: a better link between the internet and how it's affected art, a more collaborative approach, something that overcomes the statement that the past two performances were disasters, etc. That was why I mentioned the aspect of professionalism - I guess in this case it's just a euphemism for "better executed" or "more convincing" which are maybe larger issues in performance art than professionalism.
I should have given you credit for that meaning of professionalism, Gabby. The word bugged me because we are all dealing with the contrived here, no matter what. As Andy points out, an aesthetic was chosen.
I've seen Cory Arcangel perform twice before and he was fantastic both times.
Have you thought about what was missing this time?
Also, for the record, corporate T-shirt tossing would have made the performance significantly better, in my opinion.
I think two things have changed. 1: in the past he was a bit less coy about his own abilities and intelligence 2: the gosh-shucks-I'm-just-a-hedonistic-culture-surfer persona is less charming now that more of us are doing it on a daily basis. And...number three...the first performative lecture of his I saw was about the electric guitar, and the second was about Paper Rad and Dr. Do was performing live as well. Another time I also saw Dr. Do without Arcangel performing with Paper Rad graphics. Those were all events where the art content was being produced live on the spot, with lots of reference to the internet-influenced cultural context surrounding them. Arcangel is canny, and smart, and informed and he's been around the block and no-way, no-how is he as naive as he was trying to come across. My reading of this performance is that he was trying to inhabit the role of audience, rather than the role of performer. I have a bit of sympathy for the project, but it didn't work out because trying to impersonate 'internet audience' in middle class western culture in 2009 is like trying to impersonate 'consumer,' or 'man on the street,' or 'artist.'
The assumed persona was really weird, now that I think about it. Especially when he'd go off on strange anecdotes about finding cool internet things in his college dorm. Unlike conceptual practices that "anyone could do" but only the artist/performer is supposed to be capable of thinking of or presenting, surfing for weird, but slightly conceptual or artistic, material on the internet is not counter culture in the slightest anymore. In fact, as Sally said, it's what everyone does in middle class western culture, whenever we have spare time. Maybe it would have been more effective if it was couched as an "anyone can find art on the internet" project rather than an "anyone can find cool stuff on the internet, but why would you want to if you have to act like this guy" project.
I do think you are right, though Gabby, my complaining about the fee is a bit of a red herring. This was a performance, and an experiment, and while I don't think it worked, I do think it was valid programming.
When I heard Phillp Monk say to someone on the sidewalk afterward, 'that was pathetic and so was the audience', he was the second person I'd heard complain about it, the first being some generic art fag saying it was 'awful'. Meanwhile, I thought it was one of the best things ever, and this reaction reminded me of why I've largely dropped out of so much art stuff.
Oh, and re: point #4 => Beyonce via YouTube's clip. I looked into this on the weekend and his story was accurate; NPR did a thing about it
Thanks, I stand corrected.
But you are wrong about everything else. Always. Forever.
Yes, I have perpetually bad taste. Lol
Not like this blog, which is all about formal presentation and sentimental seriousness.
Terence Dick is now directing people here in his latest Akimbo blog posting, where he's also on the bandwagon of "the whole thing was a waste of my time," adding,
You are leaping to a conclusion about our privileged artists' position, especially on this blog. I am fascinated and thrilled by what is being made online by people who don't position themselves as artists and we post it all the time. (Also taught a studio art class at U of Guelph in current web art practises last fall and my students were subjected to some gloriously inane stuff) Artists practising online are riding pretty damn close to all the other image making.
Actually, I'd love to see this Paul Slocum and Guthrie Lonergan project too.
democratized creativity on the internet comes about because A) the viewers are producers and B) the viewers have agency about what they/we look at. As soon as you set yourself up in front of a captive audience and start clicking links you are opertating in a completely different paradigm.
Am enjoying the discussion. What struck me about the performance was the streak of self-loathing, either contrived or actual, in Arcangel's presentation; the fake dopeyness and the tiresome patronizing of his audience. Flirting at a safe distance with abjection or treating failure as cosmetic is too easy. There was nothing about the form or content of this performance that most of us hadn't seen or thought before and any notions of the transgressive that fuelled the presentation were truly naive. I agree that it was coy and a wasted opportunity. If Arcangel is as smart as some imagine perhaps we can look forward to a fuller expression of that smartness. This effort was a dud.
"treating failure as cosmetic is too easy"
But in the future, pick a screen name because when I convert anonymous comments to kitteh-speak they can lose a bit of their sting:
Sorry about that, L.M., it's just that I got distracted and by the time I added my initials, it was too late. Loved the conversion though.
I will say this, it is interesting to watch the various ways in which internet artists and internet art proponents have been trying to validate the practice for offline institutions. The boundary between art/non art practice is not only threatened online, but, better, the vernacular of online art is utterly entangled and engaged with non art to the point where making the distinction is pretty well completely irrelevant.
They seemingly embrace the dissolution of the category “artist,” as all upstanding net artists since Alexei Shulgin must, yet they are compelled to justify the benefits of something called “art” to society at large. Their strategy is to posit a formulaic analogy, suggesting that technology is a virus and art is an antibody. They argue that art adopts the functions of technology in order to “keep up” but art is “accountable to the social body as antibodies are to the biological one. Neither viruses nor technology by themselves are accountable to the bodies within which they operate.” The analogy does not hold up. First, the authors have naturalized technology as a progressive force outside of, and unaccountable to society. Second, they describe art as a force opposing technology, rather than a technological mode in and of itself. In their obvious efforts to bolster institutional support and funding for internet art, Blais and Ipppolito ultimately fail to embrace the multivalent hybrid potential of online art, opting instead for a set of false dichotomies between art versus technology and technology versus society in order to argue that art serves society by predicting and buffering the effects of technological advance.In my opinion, the Arcangel & Mugaas performance was a another example of this kind of strategy, an attempt to marry two distinct discourses with the goal of educating the established art world about the value of internet practice and, in doing so, sacrificing too much of the value of internet practice.
Wow. people are talking - back and forth and so on and so on. No, I didn't have to pay - since I was also an exhibiting artist in the Images Festival. Yes, I d have my own angle in the interplay between The Net and The Art, which is not Arcangel's. But I still thought it was a sloppy and muddled presentation. But I'm such an old formalist _ I'm long slackered out.
This is where someone usually steps in and says "This lecture must be really important, see how much you're talking about it?" Let's just go ahead and get that out of the way.
Hey I would pay $10 to see Joe McKay to 'do this sort of talk/performance'
I'm interested in trying to talk about these things without the Net 1.0/2.0 dichotomy. I think the differences are a lot blurrier than before/after and I think the labels are part of an attempt to historicize online practice that is still too murky and fraught (and close) for that kind of distinction. Kind of like people who are working through modernism calling themselves postmodern, and you don't realize til later that the terms of reference are fundamentally the same. It's useful to note shifts in value and motivation, but I don't think it's useful to pose them as opposing binaries.
I like dichotomies, they focus the mind.
Too many dead links. (though Olia Lialina and JODI weren't a problem)
"I was generally showing them the most technically accessible methods that I could teach in one term"
"Do you really want to go back to late '90s era net art?" uh...no. Did I give that impression?
By saying mo and poMo were close you were implicitly saying the work such as L.M. taught in her class was much like the earlier slow-loading, find-the-place-to-click-me narratives about the body or absence thereof (your phrase, one of the best in the history of criticism). Or so I took it.
The fact that most of the stuff I showed in class was absolutely bonkers should go without saying. (And for the record, I am excited about web based imaging tools that are brain-dead simple yet can be subverted for one's own purposes)
I am re-skimming some of Rachel Greene's book Internet Art. She seems to have been sleepwalking in some of her descriptions of the early work. She calls Lialina's 1996 piece My Boyfriend Came Home From the War an "oblique, dramatized romantic narrative" with elements of interactivity (what Sally calls "find-the-place-to-click-me").
I realize this is straying from Sally's point about legitimizing net art in the gallery (and the Arcangel lecture that inspired it, if inspired is the right word). For something a little more on topic, see this Rhizome post about preserving Lialina's art for posterity and note all the comment spam after I mentioned "infection" and its effect on how we view the work.
In 1996 Alexei Shulgin said this
Artists! Try to forget the very word and notion "art". Forget those silly fetishes - artefacts that are imposed to you by suppressive system you were obliged to refer your creative activity to.
When I was browsing around in the 90s looking for art on the world wide web jodi was, of course, extremely impressive. But I was more excited about etoy and RTMark who were operating in the 90s activist mode of not giving a shit about boundaries between art audiences and wider publics.* If it's worth doing, and you are an artist, you are free to call it art, but it's really not necessary. The biggest, single most significant change between then and now is more people online. The tools have changed (1.0 - 2.0) as a result of increase in masses of users, not as a result of changes in art theory. The art question about whether or not to delineate a special place for artists, and if so, how to do that, remains pretty much the same, and it's always been about the same amount irritating. But it's also becoming more and more silly and irrelevant as the numbers of people invested in calling themselves artists (on the internet) diminishes in ratio to the numbers who have never heard of rhizome and couldn't be bothered. Not that that stops people like us from going on about it.
But no one listened to him. How many Rhizome commission proposals this year will involve some form of "interactive media installations" or "intelligent interfaces"? Most, I'd say.
Him meaning the Shulgin quote.
L.M.'s compendium is one of the best articulations we have of this new work. Nobody is presuming to alter societal norms or telling you how to experience their art--I think that's a big change.
I'm not saying everybody has to be an activist. But I do think that the significant difference between online art and artworld art is the collapse of the barrier between makers and audiences. Shulgin's manifesto poses a genuine threat to those who want to hold onto authorship and expertise, and its not a surprise that it's being shuffled under the rug.
"Nobody is presuming to alter societal norms or telling you how to experience their art" - hear hear! Yes I much prefer this climate. (And it should go without saying that I am in total agreement about the fabulousness of L.M.'s compendium)
But who is self-historicizing? The Web Art 2.0 meme was put out there in a couple of Rhizome panels. I could take or leave it as a way to describe what I've been doing. Most of the turf-defending seems to have been coming from people who objected to the shorthand (without seriously considering the work that underlies the shorthand).
I recognize and appreciate your advocacy, Tom, and I'm not trying to argue against your theory or your strategy. There's a politics about art&audience that pre-dates the internet and continues to inflect art practice both on and offline, and it gets lost when the history is divided into two recent chunks. I don't think that politics is necessarily your concern, and I'm not saying it should be. I'm just saying why I'm thinking about dropping the 1.0/2.0 dichotomy for a bit.
You may drop the 1.0/2.0 and I will drop the politics about art&audience. (I still think 2.0 is a leap towards resolving those politics.)
"The tools have changed (1.0 - 2.0) as a result of increase in masses of users, not as a result of changes in art theory."
The reason the performance was "by the seat of your pants" is why it was good. Cory was artfully mirroring the amateur aesthetics of the internet and the pathos of electronic collaboration. That also sums up his entire practice as one of the most relevant artists alive today. It's probably one of the best performances I've ever seen.