On Seeing Online: Archive and Artifice

In the midst of ever-expanding technical capacities for artifice, it is surprising -- and gratifying -- how much of online art is still, in many respects, genuine.
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Created with support from Curatorial Intern Sapira Cheuk

This edition of On Seeing Online mines the realms of artifice and archive. More than a fun alliteration, these ideas represent polarities of Internet experience. Growing out of our first round of submissions, the title sums up much of what happens online -- we search and seek and file, and we question (if we're thinking) what is real and fabricated, the lines between them blurring more each day. Yet in the midst of ever-expanding technical capacities for artifice, it is surprising -- and gratifying -- how much of online art is still, in many respects, genuine.

Curatorial intern Sapira Cheuk provided organizational support and also broadened our reach with her post on the California Arts Council, to which many of you responded. With the wealth of submissions for this round, we decided to take a broad approach, including artists across the spectrum from pure archive to wild artifice and everything in between. We hope you will enjoy it!

On Seeing Online: Artifice and Archive

On Seeing Online: Artifice and Archive

We begin with an exuberant image made exclusively for this exhibition by Spain-based @whateverlulu, a young artist that works online. Like many of his peers, @whateverlulu's projects -- as well, his sources of inspiration -- seamlessly span distinct fields including fashion, advertising, pop culture, design, and art. With grumbles about the messy complications inherent in the blurring of disciplines coming largely from earlier generations, it is refreshing to see an artist from such a generation playfully critique that grumble, ageism, and most anything in her path, with her wildly irreverent parody and pastiche. Terri Lloyd's "Pink Buddha Memes" take form in fabricated postcards, impromptu performance, and video. Lloyd's online profile also includes running a feminist art collective for women over forty, evidence of the collaboration the Internet affords many artists.

The next two works remind us of that poignancy and mourning, too, can hold court in the Wild West of the Internet. Emily Promise Allison, based in Canada, completed The Archivist, in 2013, a performance in which she entered the historic Charles Rennie Mackintosh library at the Glasgow School of Art dressed all in white, sought out the oldest books she could find, opened them and breathed in their scent -- inhaling history and time and memory. A document of that performance is included here. As we corresponded about this exhibition, news broke that a fire had sadly destroyed the historic space, adding a layer of urgency and commemoration to this compelling and original piece.

Memory, loss, and erasure pervade Navid Sinaki's series, "White Ash," a collection of photographs from friends, family, and flea markets that Sinaki physically marks or scratches, pointing to that which is gone but still remembered. Sinaki writes, "Growing up gay in Los Angeles, I was always struck by a particular absence. I came of age after the AIDS generation and the lineage that remained was patchy because of all the casualties." Each of Sinaki's affecting altered images acts as a simultaneously intimate and collective memorial.

We found many examples of the Internet as a space for artists from near or far to gather for collaboration, shared interest, discussion, or, in the case of the imaginative and ethereal Ministry of Clouds, based in Australia, to promote "the sublime beauty of the sky." The poetic potential of a digital realm dedicated to the ultimate in spaciousness, the sky, is endless. We included two works by Madeline Fountain and Alice McCormick.

In another work made for this exhibition, Robert Stanley provides an apt bridge from lyricism to document. This re-imagined poster for Stanley's own 2009 tacit performance, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, of John Cage's renowned 4'33", points doubly into the artist's past re-presentation of Cage and into vast digital space to locate a link to an earlier performance of Cage's iconic 1948 work, cleverly making use of the Internet's potential to revive and revisit. Noting that the Internet allows far more people access to this piece, Stanley commented that, "it excites me that many people online will get to think about nihilism in some art today, the denial of the pleasure of the medium itself."

In a playful approach to fictitious documentation, Helen Chung inserted her own readymade image, taken through a tube of packing material, into a previous version of "On Seeing," interjecting herself and her work in a manufactured archive, reified with its inclusion here.

Miles Hochhalter Lewis, also part of an online collective, The Metaphorical Association, draws on the massive archive of "stuff" online as inspiration and material; his digital compositions begin with material generated by search engines. Vancouver-based Natalie Reynolds repurposes her imagery by photographing her paintings and manipulating the collected results in colorful digital collages informed by loose narratives.

Mechelle De Craene-Gilford represents a democratizing shift in how we think about creativity, thanks to a multitude of miniature cameras in phones, ipads, and other devices. A teacher currently residing in Berkeley, California, De Craene-Gilford caught my attention with her bright cartoonish image of an otherwise everyday artifact (a clock on a donut shop) and her curiosity about, "how many generations had looked up at that clock."

I wonder, too, at the generations that will continue to engage with and on the Internet and how this will shift and change the landscape of art, visual language, creativity, contemporary culture, and who makes and accesses these. Who are the artists that we will remember centuries from now? Will their works be digital, analogue, ephemeral, social, or take some other form?

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