In the age of digital distribution, exhibition strategies for Internet-based works must contend with evolving notions of materiality and public space. With web browsers acting simultaneously as the medium and space of works of art, artists and curators constantly negotiate how online works function - somewhat paradoxically - as both active sites and as archival documents. Framing art whose mode of operation is within a networked environment thus poses new challenges to a curatorial field that is used to contextualizing objects, time-based media and performance in physical space with temporal parameters. What is more, the mass public viewership accompanying the online platform, coupled with its often privatized form of reception individuals on laptops at home, for example make considerations of the "public exhibition" as much an exercise in connecting those private experiences as gathering a populous.
These are not new concerns, of course. Exhibitions online have been an important part of artistic discourse since the advent of net.art1. But for artists who continue to take up the browser or social media-platform as site, issues of authorship, transmission, permanence, and participation go hand-in-hand with the ever-increasing pace of memes and circuits in an ever-expanding scape of production. Working on the public platform necessitates connecting privatized publics, making artistic and Internet processes legible through performative social interactivity, and in some cases results in full-on doubt about the permanence or reliability of any image that submits itself to the intervals and public access of the network.
Constant Dullaart is a Berlin-based Dutch artist who has championed a kind of "defaultism" in his work, which interrogates the limits and potential of generic web forms (like search engines and parked domains). Dullaart recently launched the second of two curatorial events called Public Interfacial Gesture Salon, which aimed to highlight the performative gesture of an artist releasing a web-based work for the first time, emphasizing this action through a lets-meet-in-real-life scenario. In addition to releasing works by Bernhard Garnicnig, Johannes Grenzfurthner, and Ubermorgen.com, the salon included a group drawing activity in Google documents by Chris Collins, Raphael Rozendaal, and JODI that was printed out at various times throughout its making but whose digital file was erased at the end of the exercise.
PAINT FX (Jon Rafman, Parker Ito, Micah Schippa, Tabor Robak, John Transue) is similarly interested in making visible a kind of collective production. Using Tumblr as a platform, Paint FX anonymously group-works digitally painted images that get blogged and reblogged. The artists engage in a visual dialogue about the possibilities of "painting" with software like Photoshop, a process that is opened up to viewers in real time. The immediacy of the action (one painting "meme" quickly begets another), coupled with the distancing of the result through its digital mediation creates a tension in the work about what presence really means.
The work of Paint FX, particularly in the way it exploits microblogging technology like Tumblr, shares much in common with The Jogging, a project of Brad Troemel and Lauren Christiansen. Functioning as both an artist and ongoing work, The Jogging presents a stream of images produced anonymously and collaboratively that are ostensibly documentation of installation, performance, photography, or digital objects, but may be better understood in their entirety as a simulation of the cycle of image accumulation and atrophy in the networked environment, one that questions the auratic or material importance of art objects. In an exhibition called An Immaterial Survey of our Peers at the Sullivan Galleries of the University of Chicago in March 2010, The Jogging played with the role of documentary practices by superimposing images of artworks into installation shots, extending this kind of destabilization of material objects to the exhibition format itself. In another work, READY OR NOT IT'S 2010, The Jogging initiated a kind of immaterial sit-in on the Los Angeles County Museum of Arts Facebook wall through their Facebook avatar Perfo Rmanceart. Artists posted images and links of their work at a choreographed time, initiating a distributed denial of service (DDoS) to the LACMA page, an action staking claim on the institution as a site for distributed production in an unruly public archive.
Furthering this interrogation of the mediated space is a current project by the artist Timur Si-Qin called Exhibition One at Chrystal Gallery and Gentili Apri . Si-Qin brings together 3-D rendered works by Kari Altmann, Charles Broskoski, Lindsay Lawson, Billy Rennekamp, Maxwell Simmer, and Harm Van Den Dorpel in a 3-D rendered environment (Chrystal Gallery) that presents a kind of coded building-up of virtual objects under the guise of documenting a physical reality. The exhibition asks, "Where does an artwork stop and its documentation begin? What is the function of a prospective image that is decisively not-a-model?" Si-Qin shows not only how public perception can be folded or transformed like any other medium, but perhaps more interestingly, highlights the way in which archives are increasingly the original site for discursive activities and distributed practices. In a networked landscape, "being there," is perhaps less important than taking what is already "there" somewhere else.
1And it is worth noting that a primary misconception of new media practice is that it has to happen online at all (Marisa Olsen, for example, has written extensively about so-called Post-Internet art that takes the structures, aesthetics, or impact of the web as a starting point for projects off-line.)
Jenny Jaskey is an independent curator and M.A. Candidate at the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College.