tom moody

Archive for the ‘art as criticism’ Category

the banality of evil


hat tip footbath

- tom moody

September 18th, 2015 at 9:34 am

rene abythe on hacking vs defaults

Taking a second, up-to-date look at Guthrie Lonergan's 2006 Hacking vs Defaults chart (screenshotted in the previous post), Rene Abythe notes that these days tumblr will let you pick a preset style theme that resembles the chart's example of 'hacking':


Abythe also says:

This reminds me of something I thought about when I first saw Petra Cortright's work, that she fell into a category that I considered "hacking defaults" e.g. using the preset settings in everyday software to make something that appeared to be the result of "hacking'" (which is a testament to her creative talent). On the flipside, what is commonplace on the web today is "default hacking" ... a person who solely relies on glitch software presets, themes, etc to do all the tedious investigative hacker work for you: the end result becomes practically what once was [Lonergan's] "12 point times new roman."

Good points. Here's one of those Cortrights; as I recall she did these pixel by pixel in MSPaint:


And for an example of effortless "cartridge hacking," here's a bearded celebrity, run through ImageGlitcher:


- tom moody

September 17th, 2015 at 2:04 pm

Posted in art as criticism

Domenico Quaranta on surf clubs

In a recent interview curator Domenico Quaranta gives his take on the "so-called surfing clubs generation" and places Nasty Nets, one of the so-called clubs, into a comfortable academic narrative that is about fifty percent fantasy.
As an actual, prolific participant in Nasty Nets, and a continuing, prolific participant in its real time chat descendant, (which Quaranta seems not to have heard of), and as an early adopter addressing "internet in the gallery" problems (mine was the first show at And/Or Gallery in 2006), I've had a fun time combatting misinformation about these cultural moments (see, e.g., this Q&A).
Below is a chunk of the Quaranta interview with some impertinent interruptions. The questions (by Melanie Bühler) are in bold and my comments are italicized.

...In what sense has appropriating content as part of artistic production shifted with the rise of the internet when compared to earlier artistic strategies connected to appropriation?

...Early surfing clubs like Nasty Nets mark the turning point in which artists active online realized that filtering and recontextualizing general web content was more interesting, and more topical, than designing the web. Artists built relationships looking at each other’s delicious account, and were deeply aware of how a simple blog post can be a powerful act of re-framing, as texts such as Kevin Bewersdorf’s “Spirit Surfing” prove.

TM: "How a simple blog post can be a powerful act of re-framing" was an issue I'd been dealing with for a few years, as an artist-with-blog, before Bewersdorf's (I felt) overdetermined manifesto. A few simple cues, such as a mildly authorative-looking white page, were sufficient to effect this transformation. I didn't see the need to dress it up with loopy theories about "spirit surfing."

What was the context in which Nasty Nets emerged? How does it relate to earlier internet art and is there a relation to what later emerged as post-internet art?

The so-called surfing clubs generation shows elements of continuity with and resistance against the former “” generation.

TM: Resistance yes, continuity, not so much. Quaranta attempts to normalize Nasty Nets as some kind of bridge or synthesizing movement.

Resistance is made explicit in Guthrie Lonergan’s famous “Hacking vs Defaults” diagram, and is related to the broader shift from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0, from html to blogging platforms, and to the artist’s shift from the position of internet pioneer to amateur user among many others.

TM: See the famous diagram and my discussion of it below.

Continuity is related to the participation of artists of the former generation, like Olia Lialina, and younger artists grown up in the cult of early, like Cory Arcangel, in surfing clubs; but also to the ability of the former generation to anticipate tastes and topics of the new.

TM: Cory Arcangel was never a surf club participant, that's inaccurate. Lialina was invited to join NN seven months after it started. She adapted well to the blog format but was not an innovator of blog-based art, in the sense that, say jimpunk had been with the 544x378 WebTV.

There is a lot of interest in defaults in early, too. Many early works deal with appropriation, reframing and the absence of the digital original, and some artists have always been attracted by digital folklore.

TM: Unfortunately didn't find a dynamic way to engage an audience with these issues, such as a group blog, but instead relied on links from institutions that told you what you would be consuming and what to expect.

Despite Lonergan’s diagram, early net art is not all about “sophisticated breaking of technology” and glitch aesthetics.

TM: Quaranta is arguing with Lonergan now! This is partisanship masquerading as an objective curatorial point of view. Lonergan embodies his comparison in the contrast between my blog and JODI's "blogs," a topic Quaranta is completely unwilling or unable to tackle.


Also, the surfing club generation, at least at the beginning, shared with net art the interest in the internet as a way to exist as an artist outside of the art world, away from its rules and its contexts.

TM: That's not true, you find art references throughout Nasty Nets posts. Several of the members were artists or art school trained.

At the same time, the surfing club generation created the conditions for the later shift toward post-internet.

TM: Possibly the surfing club generation WAS post-internet.

Two of the core features of post-internet — namely, the creation of works that can fit the exhibition space while simultaneously addressing the artist’s experience of the internet, and the importance given to documentation and mediated experience of art — find their roots here.

TM: It wasn't a "root" -- we were talking about these issues. It's just that the more interesting, urgent question was "what would a blog-based art look like?" An actual schism over a shift from blog-based art to gallery based art happened later, with, which broke up over this issue, as Michael Manning noted in a recent panel. I don't know if I'd call that progress.

When your practice manifests itself mainly in collecting or making images, collecting or making videos, what prevents you from getting into the white cube? Pictures and videos are totally gallery-friendly; the audience that you can find in the gallery is now familiar with the internet jokes, stories and aesthetics, as Lialina acutely pointed out;

TM: This wasn't always so true. The response to my 2006 show in Brooklyn, "Room-Sized Animated GIFs," was like, "what's a GIF?"

and if you want to resist commodification you can always make fun of the “art object,” e.g. by choosing some cheap print on demand service to materialize a digital file. Artists like Kevin Bewersdorf and Guthrie Lonergan stopped being active as artists when they realized that their practice was, like it or not, bringing them straight into the gallery.

TM: Bewersdorf and Lonergan both took hiatuses but are back, with coverage in Rhizome and ArtNews, respectively. Did they pause because "their practice was bringing them straight into the gallery"? We don't know, but it's a good story.

The importance given to online documentation of art was pioneered by surfing clubs like VVORK, a blog run by a group of artists (including Oliver Laric and Aleksandra Domanovic) and featuring mostly pictures of artworks displayed on a white background with an essential reference (anticipating a trend in art blogging in which the flow of images and their arrangement prevail over text);

TM: One could say that Vvork was a conservative step backward, shifting the focus of a group blog from "the whole world" or at least "the whole internet" to obsession with the narrow confines of gallery-based practice. Some of us noted this at the time.

and is related to this generation’s perception of the networked computer as their natural environment, and thus as their main context for any kind of experience, included the experience of art. We could update Picasso’s famous statement saying that, for them, a found online image is better than the Nika; and an online image of the Nika is better than the Nika itself, because it’s ubiquitous, free, easy to share and use, spreadable and loaded with information (tags, metadata etc.). I’m wondering if Brian Droitcour [5] is aware of how conservative his criticism of post-internet—an art, in his own words, that looks crappy in the gallery and great online—may appear from this perspective. Making an expensive artwork and placing it in a respected white cube for the sole purpose of generating a good JPG may actually be the most corrosive challenge brought by netizen artists to the art world and its values. The gallery is not openly criticized, but subtly abused by turning it into a stage, and insulted by treating it not as a point of arrival, but of departure in an endless process of redistribution.

TM: This is a rehash of whether Guthrie Lonergan's phrase "internet aware art" meant art based on the internet or art made ready for the internet, which has been covered extensively here and on Rhizome.

Joel Holmberg mentions that many artists whose practices were connected to the internet and surfing clubs like Nasty Nets have moved towards more painterly, visual practices. Would you agree with this and how does this again relate to the label post-internet?

As said above, the surfing clubs participants were more interested in images than in codes. While the first generation was, to some extent (and with some exceptions) iconoclastic, the second is, no exceptions, iconophiliac when not even iconolatric. Also, most of them were attracted, since the early days, by the practice of computer drawing, and by the way in which postproduction tools like Photoshop implemented metaphors and gestures taken from reality and from the field of painting. So, no surprise if they kept working on this. But it would be wrong to think that the main motivation behind this move was the will to get in the art market with an easy to get, easy to sell art form. The market success of artists like Petra Cortright, Michael Manning, Jon Rafman and Parker Ito is just the top of an iceberg made of thousands of GIFs, PNGs and JPGs circulated for free online.

TM: This is all fine, and I suppose we had to end by talking about someone's "market success."

- tom moody

September 16th, 2015 at 8:14 am

Posted in art as criticism

proto-"post internet definition" art

In this recent interview I said that Nasty Nets wasn't concerned with gallery display issues (what is now being called -- ugh -- post internet) but forgot my own post on "gallery hardware."
The link was to a blog discussion at about a gallery-friendly brand of computer (which is quaint but still needed as most GIF display alternatives are so crappy) and what I was calling digital non-sites. This is all "post internet" by any current flaky definition of the term.
Continuing this theme of astonishing clairvoyance, I also had a post in 2006, "Showing new media work in the gallery": what's at stake." This was reblogged by Eyebeam and pronounced "self indulgent but useful," or words to that effect.
For that matter, this three part interview that Paddy Johnson did with Michael Bell-Smith and me, titled "Geeks in the Gallery," deals with some of these same issues.

- tom moody

September 16th, 2015 at 5:51 am

Posted in art as criticism

a. bill miller daily drawing remix


Another wrinkle (pun intended) on the idea of "digital painting." A. Bill Miller has been making physical drawings with oil stick and other media, scanning them, and texture-mapping them onto 3D-simulated folds of cloth. An archive of these is here.
Taking liberties I shopped (GIMPed) several of these into the "Magritte version" above.
Thinking back to studio days, painting cloth with a pattern was always hard because you had to simultaneously keep the logic or gestalt of the printed design in mind while reproducing the topological contortions of the fabric that you saw right before you. To get the folds right you were in constant danger of skewing the pattern. A 3D program allows so-called machine intelligence to do the problem-solving, freeing you the artist, up to do...what, exactly? What is the purpose of labor saving in a non-Taylorist context? In this case, I guess, it's to make a cloth-fetishist dreamscape.

- tom moody

September 7th, 2015 at 1:41 pm

zeitgeist design


hat tip cheseball for layout

- tom moody

September 6th, 2015 at 8:42 am

Posted in art as criticism

modern sculpture


Hat tip D_MAGIK for the basic shape in this drawing. This was a failed experiment to see if treating the shape as a David Smith-like sculpture on a hillside would blunt its instant recognizability. Perhaps someone in the world has never seen Matt Groening's apelike character but then that person would have no referent of a "David Smith-like sculpture" either, and would simply see a curving line and a circle against a blue sky, casting an unexplained shadow.

- tom moody

September 4th, 2015 at 8:08 am

Posted in art as criticism

about that new logo


Google recently switched their logo from a serif font to a creepily infantile sans-serif. They have kept their vaunted "minimal" search page design so the kindergarten logo really stands out now. It's as if the more monopolistic and world-straddling the company becomes, the more innocent-looking they want their "facing forward" page to be. At one point, as they gobbled up smaller companies, these subsidiary functions added more typography to the top of the search page. Then, a year or two ago, they scaled this verbiage back, as seen in the screen shot above.

- tom moody

September 4th, 2015 at 7:58 am

random surfing


A friend asked recently if anyone still "surfs the web" now that all net-like activity takes place within one or two large gated communities. The question was related to the topic of Young People Not Having a Clue What the Surf Clubs of 2006-2010 Were Supposed to Be About.
Well, for an hour this morning, I did (surf the web).
Started with links to websites from my blog posts of two and three years ago (random link-rot checking), which led indirectly to:

* A PandaWhale "stash" telling us about lead and cadmium in Soylent (the powdered food that techie types are living on). Great clickbait but neither Panda nor its linkee Takepart say where the heavy metals are supposedly coming from! Isn't that the first question in anyone's mind? A press release from Soylent blames trace elements in the brown rice extract and an unusually stringent California labeling law.

* Another PandaWhale "stash" with a mind-shattering item on cutting soft cheese with dental floss. (Note that the name of the floss manufacturer is covered with white tape.) The source is a "life tip" from iPPINKA, a lifestyle accessory vendor that requires a login to browse its merchandise (see photo of keyboard brush at top).


*A list of companies that make bamboo bike frames. I can't find that link now but I remembered one of the company names, Bamboosero, pronounced BambooSERo. But is that SER as in sear or SER as in bear?

At this point it became too exhausting to continue web surfing.

- tom moody

August 19th, 2015 at 9:50 am

Posted in art as criticism

painting thumbnails 3-4


Above: more thumbnails of paintings I've been doing using Linux MyPaint.

Was looking at Peter Halley's portfolio pages -- you click through dozens of his cell-and-conduit paintings, all roughly the same size thumbnails. It's an intriguing design exercise -- after so many years of production, there are hundreds of variations on the colors and basic shapes he employs. Halley wrote an essay in the '80s about Frank Stella and the simulacrum, arguing that Stella was neither the last formalist nor a "bureaucrat" but a post-modernist emerging early, in the 1960s. Halley's own career continued the logic of ironic serial production. He could even be said himself to have anticipated 3D printed canvases, since the actual objects he makes have a kind of chalky, plastic perfection. All those coats of acrylic could be passes of the print head, over and over until the surface is built up.
The ultimate logic of postmodern simulation would be to bypass the objects altogether and just have the digital archive of patterns. The art becomes more easily transmissible, gets out to more people, and doesn't add bulk matter to the universe.

- tom moody

August 18th, 2015 at 10:12 am