Wall Street Journal on Pro Surfer Artists

This Wall Street Journal article by Andrew Lavallee attempts to make sense of some of the Net Art 2.0 content that's out there: he zeros in on a group of artists who find boring Internet content interesting. Yr humble blogger is both that content (peripherally) and its regurgitator: The article discusses Marcin Ramocki's Blogger Skins piece (where "Tom Moody" is one of the five "google portrait" subjects) and the Nasty Nets "Internet Surf Club," a group blog where I've been posting work.

The most thoughtful quote comes from Guthrie Lonergan,* who talks about defaults in our culture. He is broadening a technical term--a default is what software ships with as opposed to what you add--to include any kind of societal trope or habit, and (it could be further elaborated) his artistic practice involves using the Internet as a lens to reveal these. The example given in the article is the MySpace intro. Lonergan notes that MySpace doesn't provide a template for this, so people "default" to a kind of telephone answering machine greeting when they first make their pages, with added images.

Taking Lavallee's article a bit further: Ramocki's Google portraits are also a collection of defaults or habits--the Googlebot assumes any photo with the caption James Wagner is James Wagner and doesn't make any further investigation such as: Which James Wagner? Is a caption misplaced? So you end up with a "portrait" of 100 images of James that is a collage of largely irrelevent crap. It is visual proof that the systems we increasingly rely on aren't as smart as they're cracked up to be.

Much of the humor on the Nasty Nets site centers around glitches and technical failures in our brave new cyberworld--it's not just about artists slumming or "looking at the world around them" or "searching for inspiration." And the practice isn't just bookmarking-as-found-object-finding. Manipulation of the found content also occurs, often using default tools such as Photoshop, iMovie, MSPaint, or an off-the-shelf MIDI sequencer.

*Update: On his del.icio.us page Lonergan says, regarding the MySpace intro quote: "The observation about answering machines is a paraphrase of something Sean Dockray said about the MySpace vids."