Brion Gysin Internet Circulation Project



Dear reader, I would like to ask you a favor. Can you please repost one or both images above on your social media vehicle of choice? They are collaborative artworks by Brion Gysin and William Burroughs, published on the occasion of a Gysin exhibit currently on view at the New Museum in NYC. Marxist scold critic Ben Davis believes these images belong to a vanished world--and I don't agree. (cf. Sigmar Polke, Nasty Nets, Photoshop, newmoticons, jimpunk, etc.) If you don't either, could you please help me circulate them via that most un-vanished of media, the Internet? Thanks.

As I've noted at Paddy's, solo Gysin may not be as influential as Gysin/Burroughs but the man is not in need of debunking any more than he is in need of posthumous inflation. Davis's critical method consists of a prolonged character assassination of Gysin the person, judging him by standards of political correctness that didn't exist in Gysin's day. And a few incidental descriptions of artworks, which should have been the meat of the review, since that's what's on display.

More on the vanished world--Davis somehow maintains that while Gysin's images, maybe, possibly, could be influential today, the thinking behind them is not.

Update: Corrected post to note that above images are Gysin/Burroughs, not Gysin solo.

optidisc in the news

Thanks to Paddy Johnson for including some of my GIF-making and -collecting efforts from the 2000s in part one of her animated GIF art history on Artnet.

Also thanks to Walker Art Center for tweeting the OptiDisc GIF (a screenshot below to add to my collection of sightings):


What the Walker tweeted is actually an mp4 video file, because Twitter, like Facebook, won't let you post a GIF without converting it to its preferred format. I can't complain about that, having shown the same GIF as an mpeg-2 (DVD) file, in a gallery setting.
Johnson mentions OptiDisc as an early-ish "GIF shown in gallery" example. The version above was, in fact, created because I'd been invited, in 2005, to submit one of my web animations to a show and had to do some thinking about how to present it in "real space." The earliest version of OptiDisc was a smaller one posted in Feb. 2004 (so it's ten years old!).
I posted a series of DVD-format-friendly "sketches," still in GIF form and prior to any conversion, got some comments (back when my blog had comments), and then I picked "Number 5A" -- which was the one that got the most internet circulation and I still consider the definitive version.
OptiDisc's first gallery appearance was a 2005 group show curated by Christine Vassalo and Matthew Fisher under the name MatCH-Art, which showed at SICA (Shore Institute for the Contemporary Arts) in Long Branch, NJ and then traveled to one other venue. At SICA the animation was projected in a theatre-like space; for the second leg of the exhibition run I asked that it be shown on a small-ish CRT screen (I think they used an LCD monitor).
For the show at And/Or Gallery in 2006, mentioned by Johnson in her article, Paul Slocum showed it on a vintage CRT computer monitor. At artMoving Projects, later that year, it was shown projected.
In a 2007 show in Perth, Scotland, the GIF file was converted to a Quicktime (.mov) file, a cousin of the mp4 above.
OptiDisc's life as a GIF has mainly been on the internet, where it has been shared around (hotlinked or otherwise), with and without regard to context.


Some more oppositional writing in response to a post, in this case Ceci Moss' Expanded Internet Art and the Informational Milieu. Hers is yet another screed attempting to nail down a recuperative art of connection, which she calls "expanded" (a la Rosalind Krauss' "Sculpture in the Expanded Field," although Krauss isn't mentioned) after offering a laundry list of the damned of similar terms: Post internet, post media, post media aesthetics, radicant art [no, really], dispersion, formatting, meme art, and circulationism. Am not sure if I believe in hermeticism or if it's just agitprop in my role as Rhizome's resident angry comment dude. The contours of hermeticism are defined mainly by disgust with the top-down editorial conceit of circulation qua circulation as a desirable or necessary condition of the present moment. The van den Dorpel and Murphy examples are taken from Moss' essay and re-spun.

In view of the plethora of terms all saying the same obvious thing (not all internet art takes place on the net) let's propose a new term suggested by Ceci Moss' essay: hermeticism. The hermeticist artist keeps to herself in spite of the widespread and much-flacked availability of online connections in the social media era. While not shunning collaboration or eclecticism, the hermeticist artist believes "the buck stops here" with regard to artistic expression, "here" being the artist's own judgment and decision-making process. The hermeticist artist still has a studio, even if it is located in a single device. The hermeticist pursues shamanic and occult practices in the face of consensus art-making. Many hermeticist artists operate as artistic outsiders, a considerable achievement in an era of maximum surveillance and self-surveillance (i.e., commodified confession), but not all hermeticists are paranoid loners. Harm van den Dorpel's Assemblages is a classic hermeticist work, where noise from the digital economy is obsessively collected, mixed with the artist's own gestures, and fused into a primary structure resembling an atomic sphere. Van den Dorpel's private studio activity de-recuperates a wealth of data that has meaning in other contexts, creating an autobiographical talisman others find pleasurable to view. Similarly, Brenna Murphy produces discrete objects in the form of floor patterns that are individually photographed and operate according to their own perverse internal logic. These will be mistaken after the fact as metaphors for communitarian circulation when they are in fact monuments to a kind of sublime self-awareness. The hermeticist artist is not concerned on any level [with] whether art "pushes us forward" but instead moves inward at tangential angles to the dominant networked culture. [To be continued]

Another Shoutback

To Stephen Truax for mentions in his post Artists on the Internet. Will give this a closer look and report; am happy to be included as an artist but wanted to say a few words about self-promotion. Truax was the email correspondent I referred to earlier, and I am still uncomfortable with "minor leagues" and the idea of promotion in the Mad Men sense for artists.

Have written more press releases for myself and others than I can remember but they were always addressed to critics and editors of "art beat" writing for general circulation media. The goal was to communicate an idea that the artist was trying to get across, with some kind of story hook, as opposed to promoting the artist as a character or personality. When I started blogging I briefly used a photo of myself but then settled on that dot pattern because I wanted the personality of the blog to be words and pictures, not me me me.

Truax mentions several recent social media art histories, including this one by An Xiao, which, like many others', starts with the creation of Facebook. But of course before Facebook there was the "art blogosphere," which arose in tandem with the political blogosphere in the aftermath of 9/11 and Bush's Iraq invasion. Was just perusing a specimen from that era (which I still had in my browser bookmarks), the blog "Thickeye," by Benjamin Godsill, who later became a curatorial associate at the New Museum. He blogged regularly from '04 to '06, and instead of an instant network provided by Mark Zuckerberg, readers found him through links and Google searches. Here, for example, is a report he did on the Beige collective's 2004 lecture/performance at the Whitney (BEIGE was Cory Arcangel, Joe Beuckmann, Joseph Bonn, and Paul B. Davis).

Was also recently re-reading this post (with comments!) from 2005, where I was complaining about the art world's lack of awareness of the internet. All that changed a couple of years later when Zuckerberg's "internet lite" made it easy for everyone to get online.

Have been toying with the idea of a book documenting the blogosphere period, to be called The Lost Years: Art on the Net Between the Dot Com Crash and the Rise of Facebook.