Artist Saul Chernick kicks off Paddy Johnson's IMG MGMT series with jpegs of Death: historical engravings of skeletal zombies visiting--and feeling up--hapless Everymen and -Women, plus lavish exploded view anatomical illustrations. (At least one of these images graces the opening montage of Dario Argento's recent gorebath Mother of Tears, a movie more people will probably see on the Internet than on the big screen or DVD. In a sense the Argento montage is a juiced up, sexed up, set-to-music version of what Chernick has done.)
The premise of the IMG MGMT series (as in image management), which this blog will be participating in soon, involves artists curating images off the Net, either because they routinely do that in their work or simply because more artists are exposed to or otherwise glom onto this material with the effect that it slowly seeps into their work (or doesn't). In a sense We Are All Surf Clubs now, which is one thing that might be upsetting the conceptualist geeks who populate the Rhizome chatboards--"what makes us special if everyone can do this?"
The second installment of IMG MGMT is from Spirit Surfers co-founder Kevin Bewersdorf, who seems on a mission to find an ironic sacred in the dead, materialist Internet. The spirit surfers call themselves infomonks and offer up art content as "boons" to the viewer. The title of the IMG MGMT post is "Stock Photography Watermarks as the Presence of God." Images of praying or touching hands all bear the ubiquitous numerical watermark of the stock photo site where Bewersdorf found them--an insignia he cheekily equates to a religious talisman, thus indicting the dogma-like aspects of the corporate world's copyright-worship.
The Chernick and the Bewersdorf posts are similar in the following ways:
1. Both are collections.
2. Both are presented as a top-to-bottom visual list.
3. Both are not the artist's "normal" work. That is, both artists exhibit "made" things, although as a surf club member/co-founder Bewersdorf is involved with "finding" as art.
4. Both have explanatory text.
5. Both deal with depictions of the sacred or otherworldly.
It is probably too early to draw conclusions from this but what the hell. The internet is a dead machine environment, a lifeless series of protocols experienced through little screens and tiny speakers. Beginning with Tron's "religion of the User" and William Gibson's voodoo gods haunting Cyberspace (in the Neuromancer books), artists have attempted to invest this domain-of-domains with qualities of the spiritual. It is almost an imperative.
Two artists who are having none of this are jimpunk and Damon Zucconi.
Jimpunk is an anarchist obsessed with American Media Shit (or American Shit Media). Here are some links to recent posts from Triptych.tv, his blog with Linkoln and Mr. Tamale:
Many of these are Jitterized or otherwise scrambled media quotations, reiterating America's insane hold on global culture. They are not "icons," however, but de-iconized by adding/subtracting visual information, layering and adding harsh buzzing noises. This is no info-monastery, more like a nihilist party scene from an '80s film that runs 24/7.
Damon Zucconi has curated a selection of works at Club Internet (click the wand thing in the upper left corner to change images) that are more phenomenological/fluxoid than spiritual. He scours the net for embedded media "moments" involving some kind of fleeting or half-perceived event, for example:
--"wait--what were those guys doing in that building we just passed? were those racing helmets? space helmets? aim the camera that way, try to focus"
--image of chair brightens and darkens
--camera zooms from pedestrian view to outer space
--scene from 12 Angry Men with added lens flares
--flashlight view of spooky cavern montage--things almost come into full view
--viewer rotates illegible 3D logo
--long distance views of billboards (?)
--rotating bladelike CAD objects
--microphone scrapes tree bark
--found photos with animated smoke, mist, etc
In other words, click a link and stuff happens (or not). Zucconi's taste tends to the arch and the slight but one appreciates the hands off, distanced, wtf? quality of much of this work. One exception to the lack of a religious theme in this group is James Whipple's vocoderized graphics demo where the droning language of a corporate instruction video acquires the uplifting cadences of a sung liturgy.