Taking Stock of Art Making in The Age of “I’m A Child of The Internet”
Nothing discredits artists quicker than adopting mantras that mean absolutely nothing to their practice. A note to young practitioners using “I’ve grown up with the Internet” as an accolade: Don’t do it.
1. It doesn’t say anything. Just because a two year old can figure out how to use an iphone, doesn’t mean they will grow up with instinctually better or even different knowledge of its functionality. It just means that one generation’s cultural references will be different than another. This has always been the case.
2. It creates meaningless pejoratives. Was your experience of the web in the 90′s more valuable if you were eight or 20? “I’ve grown-up using the internet” implicitly suggests the former even though the polarization itself is bogus.
3. It buys into popular myths about art making. Two sentences that mean the same thing, yet evoke entirely different connotations when used: “I grew up with the internet” AND ”My childhood experiences deeply influence my work.”
So what are some of the changes in contemporary art making practice that are brought on by the net and worth noting? Here’s what I see:
1. Decreased importance of authorship. Trying an idea out without attaching a name to it is common amongst artists using the web — particularly younger generations. Anon. Tumblr’s,temporary web pages, and even this year’s IMG MGMT essay What Relational Aesthetics Can Learn From 4chan, authored by Anonymous provide good examples. Unauthored work sometimes becomes authored once the project starts gathering steam as was the case with this blog.
2. Increase in collaboration + decreased importance on authorship. File sharing is very easy on the web, which means collaborations happen very easily. Interestingly, on the group image chat site, dump.fm files are shared and manipulated so frequently sometimes authorship is impossible to trace.
3. DIY branding (or increased importance of authorship). In contrast to the i-don’t-give-a-fuck-about-authorship approach to art making on the web is the self-branding that naturally occurs when distributing digital files and text. Hello twitter art. Hello Nic Rad, William Powhida,MTAA, An Xiao, Cory Arcangel and Man Bartlett.
4. Decreased preciousness of art work. The knowledge that the web is constantly changing actively effects art work — at least that appearing on the web. Many artists — particularly those of a younger generation — have a much more cavalier attitude towards work they do online. Andrew Laumann expressed this thought recently to me in an article I wrote for The L Magazine titled, The Rise of The Online Gallery.
5. Decreased importance of who did what first. Ideas expire more quickly on the web because they are absorbed with greater ease so who did what first means a lot less. Uniqueness of vision is important, originality less so.