Hybridise or Disappear

Artie Vierkant – Image Object (aluminum and vinyl, 49x49x38in)

This work of Artie Vierkant’s, Image Objects, is described as “a body of sculptural works that existed – or rather, exist – between the physical object and the mediated digital image, and (which) highlighted the increasingly fluid boundary between the two. ” (Rhizome)

Vierkant accompanied the series with “an extended statement of artistic purpose and critique of our contemporary relation to objects and images in Post-Internet culture”, in the form of a downloadable PDF essay, The Image Object Post-Internet, published in 2010. This drew inspiration from some of the points made by Gene McHugh in Internet, developed between December 2009 and September 2010, a translation of which can be found here, compiled by Domenico Quaranta in 2011.

The origin of the term “Post-Internet” itself though, is attributed to artist and curator Marisa Olson, who used it in a March 2008 interview with Régine Debatty on the blog We Make Money Not Art to describe her art’s categorisation as “less art ‘on’ the Internet than it is art ‘after’ the Internet”. Artist Cory Arcangel elaborates further: “It wasn’t necessarily Internet art anymore, but it was art that could only exist because the Internet exists”. In a 2006 interview with curator Karen Verschooren, Arcangel had argued that one of the characteristics of internet art must be to find a way to fit into the gallery space, rather than galleries changing to fit the art. Vierkant seems to respond to this idea jokingly with Image Objects, where the series of artworks repeatedly transferring from the physical to the digital leaves one wondering where the real ends and the manipulated begins, and whether that really matters. In the images, the works seem to be occupying a physical space; the digital manipulations made by the artist himself make any assumption hazardous, leaving us with a desire for an “irl” view. Is actually anything there?

More than ever before, art is consumed online. Exhibitions are experienced online. Before we even set foot in the gallery – given that the work has “left the internet world and entered the art world” (Gene McHugh, Post Internet) – we experience its representations online. Vierkant writes, “the viewer’s experience becomes split between the physical encounter in a gallery setting and the countless variations of the objects circulated in prints, publications, and on the Internet. The documentation becomes a separate work in itself.”

The discussion surrounding mass-reproduced images has been prominently resurrected in the art world since John Berger’s 1972 Ways Of Seeing, but these concepts seem to resonate in the Internet and Post-Internet ages especially, when the reproduction is instant, the manipulation seamless, and the sharing of images constant. Oliver Laric’s ongoing Versions project asks the questions, “Was there ever an original? And does it matter?” Ultimately, Artie Vierkant is also asking this. His project presents image-based works that appear three-dimensional until circulated as digitally manipulated online documents. It is a smart critique of how art is now consumed, and galleries experienced. Vierkant asserts that “it marks a denigration of objects and our relationship to space: if an object before us in a gallery is only one of an infinite multitude of possible forms that object could take, its value to the viewer becomes little more than a curiosity”.

Lastly, consider this artwork by Michael Guidetti, Untitled (Standards) (2009). It is a delicate, contemplative piece, really smart and beautiful in its simplicity. The format is listed as “watercolour on canvas with animated digital projection”. Here again, the boundaries between the physical and the digital are forgotten and a simple static watercolour painting gains motion thanks to the animated projection, which slowly changes the colour of the sky, and mimics the light of the sun as it moves across the room, touching individually every item on the pedestals and bringing the imaginary gallery to life. Similarly to Vierkant’s piece, the gallery space is not only containing the objects of art but rather is contained, it becomes part of the actual artwork. This creates an almost tangible parallel reality in which we jump between the spaces with ease.

We must also be mindful that our experience of it right now, as we watch the video presented above, is mediated. It has entered the internet world. It is not the same piece that was painted and hung and projected on over the course of roughly 3 hours, but a time-lapse of that project, used in the very specific context of this discussion. The point made by both Vierkant and McHugh is now relevant, in that as contemporary artists we are now forced not only to somehow deal with the internet but really to acknowledge it as a new context for the distribution of art.

The merging of physical and digital worlds will always be a fascinating concept. It’s extremely interesting now because it feels closer to us than ever before. Increasingly in our daily lives, the line that used to divide the two worlds is becoming more indistinct. Perhaps the idea of the digital world trickling into ours and silently altering our perceptions is strangely seductive and totally relevant and the art will reflect this. “Hybridise or disappear”, says Oliver Laric (Versions, 2012).

This concept of hybrid art and multimedia collage is exciting because it plays with our perceptions and overturns our expectations. It moves between worlds and morphs to escape convention. To me, this is the message, that “first, nothing is in a fixed state: i.e., everything is anything else, whether because any object is capable of becoming another type of object or because an object already exists in flux between multiple instantiations.” – Artie Vierkant, 2010.

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