Just as twentieth-century modernism was in large part defined by the relationship between craft and the emergent technologies of manufacturing, mass media, and lensbased imagery, the most pressing condition underlying contemporary culture today—from artistic practice and social theory to our quotidian language—may well be the omnipresence of the internet. Though the terminology with which we describe these phenomena is still nascent and not yet in widespread use, this exhibition presents a broad survey of art that is controversially defined as “post-internet,” which is to say, consciously created in a milieu that assumes the centrality of the network, and that often takes everything from the physical bits to the social ramifications of the internet as fodder. From the changing nature of the image to the circulation of cultural objects, from the politics of participation to new understandings of materiality, the interventions presented under this rubric attempt nothing short of the redefinition of art for the age of the internet.
This understanding of the post-internet refers not to a time “after” the internet, but rather to an internet state of mind—to think in the fashion of the network. In the context of artistic practice, the category of the post-internet describes an art object created with a consciousness of the networks within which it exists, from conception and production to dissemination and reception. As such, much of the work presented here employs the visual rhetoric of advertising, graphic design, stock imagery, corporate branding, visual merchandising, and commercial software tools. Arranged along several thematic threads, this exhibition considers issues related to internet policy, mass clandestine surveillance and data mining, the physicality of the network, the posthuman body, radicalized information dispersion, and the open source movement. It looks at changes taking place in the age of the ubiquitous internet, from information dispersion and artwork documentation to human language and approaches to art history.
Perhaps because textual information often assumes a secondary role in the circulation of images today, including the digital milieu of the art world, many of the practices around the post-internet have not yet been sufficiently or critically introduced or interpreted; this exhibition aims to redress this imbalance by allowing for substantive commentary and conversation. Without a framework for contextualizing or identifying post-internet art, one risks grouping such work by voguish aesthetics alone. By contextualizing post-internet art within theory and art history, we hope to elude the inevitable relegation of these new positions to a fading trend. We remain committed to an inter-generational approach, convening work made in the recent past with that created decades prior. Here, unlike other positions claiming an artist’s age endows them with unique, empirical knowledge, this exhibition acknowledges the agency of the artist in teaching us about the ever-changing world, these individuals often acting as consciousness-raising conduits between art and society. This tie to the outside world, and consequent shift against the hermeticism of the art world, is among the most revelatory aspects of post-internet art.
Further, it would be a disservice to the artists in “Art Post-Internet” to not qualify the term “post-internet” as one that is as complicated and deeply insufficient as it is useful, and one that rapidly, and perhaps rightfully, came under fire for its opaqueness and proximity to branding. We acknowledge that the term to describe this phenomenon could be recast, yet the strength and relevance of such work remains.
The text in this pamphlet categorizes the artwork within “Art Post-Internet” into seven subthemes: distribution, language, the posthuman body, radical identification, branding and corporate aesthetics, painting and gesture, and infrastructure. While much of the exhibition’s artwork could fit into one or more categories, or even spawn new categories of their own, this text should act as a beginner’s introduction to this wildly heterogeneous phenomenon. Additionally, it should be noted that the information disseminated about the exhibition was organized with a post-internet sensibility, paying keen attention to its potential international reception online and throughout China across various layers of public and private strata. An exhibition, as a collection of artworks, texts, documentation, and interpretation, might inhabit a wide variety of such spaces, and today must be designed with this intent.
—Karen Archey and Robin Peckham
Participating artists and collectives include Aids-3D, Kari Altmann, Cory Arcangel, Alisa Baremboym, Bernadette Corporation, Dara Birnbaum, Juliette Bonneviot, Nicolas Ceccaldi, Tyler Coburn, Petra Cortright, Simon Denny, Aleksandra Domanović, Harm van den Dorpel, Ed Fornieles, Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff, GCC, Josh Kline, Oliver Laric, LuckyPDF, Tobias Madison and Emanuel Rossetti, Marlie Mul, Katja Novitskova, Marisa Olson, Jaakko Pallasvuo, Aude Pariset, Seth Price, Jon Rafman, Jon Rafman and Rosa Aiello, Rachel Reupke, Bunny Rogers, Hannah Sawtell, Ben Schumacher, Timur SiQin, Hito Steyerl, Artie Vierkant, Lance Wakeling, Andrew Norman Wilson, and Jordan Wolfson.
The exhibition is presented in cooperation with the Goethe-Institut China.