tom moody

re-materialization of commodification (2)

In response to the previous post about Jennifer Chan's essay on internet art commodification, Duncan Alexander, who also wrote about her essay, asks, via email:

Are you suggesting that people can't write on the subject of net art without a consensus, or that there are ways to locate boundaries? How would you go about assembling a group to discuss tendencies? What I really think you're saying is that the blurred boundaries of the term "net art" are what keep the label off of the metaphorical packaging, and that's the better way to go. If I'm right, why would that be your opinion? You seem to be pointing out a big lie underlying many people's initial assumptions about art practices in relation to the net. Apparent as its incidentals are, I'm not seeing it quite yet.

Chan tackles the issue of how 0s-and-1s expressions build institutional cred which is then monetized or monetizable, using as examples her own work ("Installation Fail is a whitespace tumblr that uses these non-discursive codes of image curation to critique the trope of found object installation in contemporary art") [link] and a select group of peer efforts such as Sterling Crispin's Greek New Media Shit, which collects video, GIFs, and images (mostly from the same peer group) that reference classical Greek sculpture.

Four years ago Ed Halter wrote a pre-review of a show in Belgium with the premise:

Marx and Engels claimed that capitalism's "constant revolutionizing of production" ultimately means "all that is solid melts into air." The contemporary art market, however, describes an opposite process: innovations such as the flat-screen monitor, the digital print, and the editioned DVD, have helped transform immaterial forms like video and net.art into a new generation of physical, sellable objects.

That show centered around a group of artists Halter championed (Eddo Stern, Cory Arcangel, Paul Slocum) and it's by and large not the same group as Chan's. They were, however, the artists being written up on "art and technology" websites four years ago just as the Chan group (the Chanon?) are the ones being written up on those sites now (Crispin, Oliver Laric, Rafaƫl Rozendaal). The Halter group mostly wasn't offering commodity critique as their art; rather, the show asked whether their work could be commodified, which I said was a boring topic.

The lack of institutional memory here seems very much of a piece with capitalism. Oh, yeah, those were the artists we were trying to sell four years ago, these are the NEW! IMPROVED! artists of today, who embed institutional critique more deeply within their work.

Elsewhere in his email, Alexander notes that I'm being equally vague with my counter-Chanon of "internet art types" that range beyond the small groups that crave or attain the recognition of the same one or two institutions. "Keeping the label off the metaphorical packaging" seems a noble goal -- well said. Championing outsiders, the overlooked, and the institutionally blackballed without strictly matching artists to categories and without regard to their eventual sale-ability interests me more than the latest rollout of commodity critique.

- tom moody

February 8th, 2012 at 9:28 am

Posted in general