My slideshow for Either/And is a selection of screenshots of blog posts, tweets, or facebook status updates by artists and poets I admire, and whom have online identities that place the personal into the public sphere in a new form of exhibitionism.
In 1979 Rosalind Krauss wrote:
The new is made comfortable by being made familiar, since it is seen as having gradually evolved from the forms of the past. Historicism works on the new and different to diminish newness and mitigate difference. [. . .] And we are comforted by this perception of sameness, this strategy for reducing anything foreign in either time or space, to what we already know and are. [. . .] Never mind that the content of the one had nothing to do with, was in fact the exact opposite of, the content of the other.
This sentiment was my point of departure for selecting images under the rubric ‘exhibitionism’. I have attempted to avoid easy assumptions of 'exhibitionism', or its easy historicisation within art (such as looking at the #selfie and discussing self-portraiture, for example). Instead I have continued conversations I have been having surrounding a definition, even an ontology, of representation within a networked society. To put my proposition for this slideshow more simply: the Image today consists of affect and narrative, which are not reducible to a representation of the self-body.
In a recent article for Bomblog, Amy Adler is quoted saying,
[T]he shift toward compulsive self-documentation that has come to characterise contemporary culture... It’s really a radical shift, where now we are all photographers all the time and we are all now photographers of ourselves, as if we were authoring ourselves in a new and fascinating way.
What I am keen to highlight is that, bound within photographic self-representation, is performance and distribution that artists are increasingly utilising to challenge hierarchies and subvert the norms of representation. The act of speech is intrinsic to the image today. The body speaks.
This collection of images contains examples of different models and functions of self-authoring. These blogged images and screenshots of status updates are, for some, ways to publish or document poetry; for others they are images, or artworks, in themselves. For artists such as Jennifer Chan they are not a part of an art practice but more a part of how they behave (online). This nonetheless inflects back upon artist-identity and cultural capital: syphoned through the streams of communicative capitalism yet maintaining something still non-complicit to it. For Chan it is a condition that is truly post-Fordist, whereby emotion cannot be separated from work-life.
Most understand the screenshots presented here as moments within an expanded art practice, one that constructs its own web-like layers across the platforms of self-publishing and, further, to generate meaning and inoculate narrative into the art object. To continue from Krauss, if sculpture began as monument, ‘a marker at a particular place for a specific meaning/event. [. . .A] commemorative representation’, then through modernism it became a self-referential form that was what it wasn’t (defined as being not landscape/architecture etc.). Instead, it ‘operates in relation to this loss of site, producing the monument as abstraction, the monument as pure marker or base’.
Krauss goes on to describe postmodern sculpture and its creation of an expanded field that includes what modernism deemed sculpture was not. In this expanded field, sculpture is defined by the set of relations it plays within. Like a game, sculpture under postmodernism is ‘rigorously logical [. . .] within the situation of postmodernism, practice is not defined in relation to a given medium—sculpture—but rather in relation to the logical operations on a set of cultural terms’.
As these cultural terms become ever more expanded with faster and newly accessible technology, it is less postmodern, less a game, and more one’s life. The cultural terms to traverse now (to create logical operations and produce work from), are maybe too plentiful. Perhaps the artist would never produce if she tried to construct the expanded field after the internet. Or maybe (and I think this is more the case), as the increasingly impossible separation from work and life proliferates into global economies of scale, there are more important things to communicate through art, as opposed to de-lineating the definition of sculpture itself. There is increasing comment on conditions: the expanded field is social, not logical. It feels.
Artists currently emerging are not naïvely applying this in a pseudo-altruistic operation of ‘relational aesthetics’. It is personal, individualistic perhaps. It is a mirror of context, because it is context. The hangover it has from Krauss’ contextualisation of the expanded field is clear:
Our culture had not before been able to think the complex, although other cultures have thought this term with great ease. Labyrinths and mazes are both landscape and architecture; Japanese gardens are both landscape and architecture; the ritual playing fields and processionals of ancient civilizations were all in this sense the unquestioned occupants of the complex. Which is not to say that they were an early, or a degenerate, or a variant form of sculpture. They were part of a universe or cultural space in which sculpture was simply another part- not somehow, as our historicist minds would have it, the same.
And it is in regard to this that I’d like to posit that we are in the midst of the final rejection of postmodernism, which from our experience (of being born at its zenith) could too often be quantified by an ironic challenge to the terms of sculpture as defined by modernists, and at times is as self-referential as its predecessors. More artists are losing interest and concern with the twentieth century foundations of what constitutes art-objects, and are more interested in making as a form of expression and communication. To go against Krauss’ warnings of overly historicising, I would say that they are in the midst of a re-crafting of practice.
In a tweet we can see the artist’s hand, can see making-as-marker for place or event. It inflects handmade craft objects that now find a place in fine art after years of being sidelined (such as Amalia Ulman’s recent piece at Martos Gallery - 27 Roses, 9 Butterflies, 6 Girls). This resurgence of ‘the artist’s hand’ is less monumental, less certain, and more bound with the wavering confidence of precarious workers becoming adults in the midst of global recession.
For Amalia Ulman her status updates are published furiously even though she notes how difficult these things are to monumentalise, to archive: ‘For me one important part of all this "exhibitionist" thing is geo-tagging; it's the most and least revealing thing. It's TMI* as much as it is uber-confusing. Especially moving so much – it is a little bit ‘catch me if you can’.’
We are told that images are so abundant, so mutable and moving that we don’t really look, or even see anymore. And, yes, so much of this self-representation that these selected images are part of, are also adding to a form of presencing – of being continually visible, shared, re-blogged, and part of the image’s velocity. But, just as the same social hierarchies show themselves online (we follow certain people more), to a degree this is a chosen network of our own, and those within it, their statements, help form our own identity and opinions, even if at times simply reinforcing them and allowing for the vanity of preaching to the converted.
These people are using narrative and affect as they are subjects of their conditions, which are societal and not solely located in the art object itself, and—just as Krauss noted of earlier shifts—this is blowing apart now normalised definitions of sculpture. These images are pertinent updates, the moments amongst presencing that stuck on me.
*Too Much Information