Internet Art and the Artist’s role.

As I am developing my digital practice I have begun to recognise that certain question are continuously surfacing, questions such as ‘where are you in the work?’, ‘Where is your voice?’. It is a fair observation and I am increasingly trying to find my voice as an ‘internet artist’ which is actually a lot harder than I had initially thought.

I consider my practice to be a sort of digital collagist, taking sourced online material and reframing it in order to challenge the relationship that we have with the information that we experience online.

I have read a number of internet/post-internet artists discussing similar concerns regarding the voice of the artist working within the masses of digital data and information comprising the internet.

Jon Rafman“I sense that me and the other internet-aware artists are all collaborating in the search for structure in this seemingly formless overflow of information that we are bombarded with every day. Other times I feel like we are all simply attempting to highlight the contradictions and chaos of the digital age, revealing a world in which we are constantly being bombarded by fragmentary impressions and overwhelmed with information, a world in which we see too much and register nothing.”

I have found it so hard to articulate what I am trying to do with my work, but find myself really relating to Rafman’s summary. To adopt a cliche, it’s sometimes hard to see the woods from the trees, but I feel that with my work I am somehow trying to carve out a pathway through the information that I am collecting in order to somehow open up a new dialogue between the viewer and that same familiar information.

An article titled ‘Net Results: Closing the gap between art and life online’ by Lauren Cornell published following a 2006 EAI panel discussion with a number of ‘online’ artists cover similar concerns.

Lauren Cornell: With so many people online, memes or individual actions (like the guy who quit his job to go to every Starbucks in the world) stand in for conceptual art or performance. How do you distinguish between what is art and what isn’t these days? 

Michael Bell-Smith: I think memes and other kinds of “Internet folk art” are some of the most interesting stuff happening online. The challenge, I find, is to take things I find amazing and recast them so others understand what I see in them. There’s a curatorial aspect to the approach but, ultimately, I am trying to make something of my own while respecting the original, whether it’s art, nonart or something in between. 

Cory Arcangel: As a conceptual artist, its tough because chances are some 14-year-old kid from Brazil has already beat you to  your new project.

Michael Connor: British cult writer Stewart Home says that art is bureaucracy, that the line between what is and is not art is often just a decision made by a curator or gallerist. I think a lot of the best art of our time is out there waiting to be labeled as such by forward thinking art bureaucrats.


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