Throughout the development of my practice this year, I have been aware of the overlapping between my work itself and the research/information collected in order to develop it. At times it has felt that there has been very little distinction between research and practice, for example in the text pieces developed through autocomplete and generative information scripts, this has led me to consider whether research and information itself need be a separate part of art practice – or whether the two can come together and be worked with holistically.
I have been looking at a number of artist’s work that blurs the lines between information (particularly relating to the digital consumption of information) and art.
Kenneth Goldsmith, Printing Out the Internet
In this quite controversial exhibition, Goldsmith invited internet users to print off a webpage and send it into the Labor Gallery, Mexico City. While many saw Goldsmith’s work as an irresponsible and ostentatious challenge to the nature of art, Goldsmith comments that those who oppose his art do so out of a fear of the democratic nature of it. Through collaboration and appropriation, Goldsmith is able to challenge the nature of art’s authorship, allowing anyone to contribute and thus become an active member of an art project. As well as this, his work challenges the somewhat private spaces that exist within the web – the world of walls and passwords that prevent a complete and open relationship with the information held on the internet.
Perhaps what I am most interested about in this project is the alternative relationship that Goldsmith is able to forge between the viewer and internet content. By collating internet pages into book form, as he has done in a number of his projects, Goldsmith alters the way that we are able to experience the information, it exists in a physical and much more objective format, disallowing the flow of hyperlinks and connectivity. There develops a much more physical relationship with the information, a relationship that frustrates the connectivity.
In some sense, this is what I am hoping to achieve with the video pieces that I am creating. In my videos the collected information, that has very much utilised hyperlinking as a method of collection, resists the connectivity of the place where it has been found. Instead the information is collated and fed into the format of a song, the song lyric becomes the only means of connection, and the user is frustrated from engaging with any wider context or relationship with any other piece of information.
Chris Alexander, Mini McNugget
Kenneth Goldsmith references this piece in his writing ‘the artist as meme machine‘. The work consists of found online tweets containing the word ‘McNugget’ that are collated and printed into a 528-page book. Goldsmith comments that for artists such as Alexander ‘quality is beside the point—this type of content is about the quantity of language that surrounds us, and about how difficult it is to render meaning from such excesses.’
This piece, created by a data engineer, takes the novel Moby Dick and translates the work entirely into emojis. The work not only highlights that through the use of information as medium, all can become artists, this blurs the boundary between what is and isn’t art, and who can and can’t produce art. The work also explores the digital relationship with information and language, exposing the new language of a digital society and juxtaposing this with the familiar language of fiction writing. The more I consider this, the more relevant it becomes to my own practice, in particular, the process of translating a more traditional, structured form of communication into a new digitalised form.