The philosophical breach occurring in scholarly certainties after 2018s far right ascension and left fragmentation, or a true post-brexit/trump time (and that’s a ‘post’ stuck in front of another word and you can’t argue with it, fuck off post-internet!!!!) might render this diatribe obsolete. Rationalisation after the fact is the speciality of the art hack, of which I partially emulate with this . Recognition of a malaise isn’t massively helpful when the rot has set in and just pointing out the problems, or problematising the causes, or contextualising the symptoms might boost yr gaucho club cred but do sweet fuck orl on any other front. The White Pube can point out a litany of human issues in the fabric of the 2018 Liverpool Biennale, which is good, but the culture management tend to close ranks in the face of criticism, or just fuck off to another job.The problems tendered to in their review are also not the kind of things any ArtReview shill would even address, altho they can be very content to performatively moan about their own profession. You’re never wrong when you point out how shit things are. The currents of funding within the UK arts network are put in ever more precarious tinged jeopardy, though that isn’t anything new so sound a fart trumpet in your head as grasp with wank claw enhanced strength on to a complimentary beer that will make your piss extra watery. The annual board of trustees dinner still goes ahead at rochelle canteen, but the in-house technicians get the fackin boot. Highronically, private philanthropy as saviour isn’t a certainty either. Depends on how your m8s will respond to you being a scab and hanging out with the children of the megarich who operate as lovecraftian privilege automata, dimly following their parentogarch into Thorstein Velben’s worst fuckin nightmare. Or perhaps those attitudes are unchanged, atomised shrinkage. Art remains great for money laundering, tho not in the way u think. But idk rly gotta check which way the wind blows before i stick my political axe into the anti-pc free speech log or the solidarty with anti-capitalist ethics stone.
ENTER FROM CENTRE: a polyester dream you once attended some seminars on adorno, deleuze, marxism and branding, you paid $300 for it at a para-academic institution. Later they cut the price to $150 for reactionaries under 35. Your academic m8 who thinks gender is fixed will be programming a lecture series on environmental disaster, because sure why not.
Adam Curtis is to blame first, but who next? Behold my podcasts, weasels and NPCs! To illustrate my left-wing yet anti political correctness transgressive third way fun credentials, I will take a huge shit on the art world in the form of a blog post. However I will recognise the irony of performatively dunking on the very source of my superego, which may give a new spin on the heteronormative expectation of self-loathing millennials. When this has built trust with the stan-in-waiting, I will use references of Mark Fisher and Camille Paglia to obtusely ridicule the failings of the left, the part of the left that isn’t afraid of being an interventionist, libcucks! Yeah that’s right, I’ll posture like I’m repurposing or doing an ironic mimesis of alt-right rhetoric, but jokes on you pal I totally mean it. #MeToo women are weak willed! Feminism is about usurping the patriarchy, not about equal rights for all people! I’ll date a Palestinian, but use slurs against Latin American migrants. These things are atomised and do not need to be reconciled. Who said so? The fascist left with their identity politics! Oh what, you want me to follow through with my challenges to the status quo? Sorry m8, only silver level patreon subscribers get that.
ßΩጺରSSSpeaking of… Theresa May delivers a convincing Tory conference speech, young people from the suburbs feel like she’s a role model for them to, rather than smash the patriarchy, negate the patriarchy’s portfolio of expense indexes into sublimation. Let’s all talk about racist policy ideas and not be racists, fuckin media, I do worry about immigration though, something must be done, I tell to my altar of Kirsty Allsop 3D printed skulls wrapped around a pulsing log of acrid New Statesmoan on the bone made sentient by my distaste for Banky. It’s a numbers game for my Banky takes, lads!
Meditations on class, culture and the modern condition, which used to mostly involve kinda being weirded out by New Labour and post 9/11 constant war atrocities broadcast from elsewhere, yeah yeah, fulcrums of value operations. What I mean by that is, I don’t have to explain it really, it’s in the press release. Some political bluff game of cons seem to be going on, maybs a symptom of declining white privilege? Violent death throes of empire ghosts for a 2nd death? Ah but don’t worry, as Hito says, we can artwash for the fascists without fear, as our political rhetoric don’t have to be followed through by action because rhetoric is action in theory in action. No action that decreases likes is viable for sure doe, the market is happy to be insulted as long it gets flushed through with art and spectacle. The massive synecdoche that is ‘art world’ is what we look to as space for renaissance even when the immolated dregs of aspartame fascist toryism fall around, as the financial markets ur-hydra smash the pound sterling, self-determination is suddenly one of those weird myths that go alongside ‘surviving in an art career without going to a posh school’. Agency! That’s the word, what we need now is agency. If 20 interns a year can successfully describe any object or experience they are confronted with as having some kind of agency, then we need more of that basically. Happy to allude to the solution, you’re welcome. Thank god sociopolitical gestures are the first stop on the professional evaluation of cultural products, and that even if the product is fucking mediocre and staid it’s still “good” because it becomes an instantaneous time-product. Soraya Roberts, in a piece for The Baffler, talks about a timely thing called cultural tokenism, how bad art with good politics can sidestep criticism because it is deemed necessary. In the text, Roberts is primarily referring to the adulation of Netflix special Nanette by Hannah Gadsby, which enacts a “revolutionary” gesture entirely unearned. Roberts is primarily talking about women working in the male-dominated world of stand up comedy and Hannah Gadsby’s approach of rejecting convention within a convention, but I would say the critical brunt sounds familiar to arts/academia, and such discursive acts offer themselves up to a shopping centre of both-sidesers. Third wayers. Moot point, art is subjective, and the art doesn’t even have to have good politics. If the art has bad politics, that can actually be better, for reasons I might muse on a bit later. Or possibly, in a less conspiratorial pontification, it’s just a way of praeternaturally gaming the assumed liberal audience to say strasserite, reactionary red-brown garbage like the credibility vacuum of zer0 books troll and plagarist Angela Nagle. Whiney boomer-spawn are very annoying with their right-on judgements about what can offend them, but does the horseshoe theory really work like that — unless you had some fashy affinity all along? Contradictory politics can result in interesting people, like Pier Paolo Pasolini, but now they can be journalists who thirst for DSA cred until a tenet of their catholic belief causes friction with actual socialist policies, like the right to have an abortion and then an insufferable flame war begins and the most you can take away from it is that white people are often very entitled and very myopic about their experiences translating to some kind of universality. The wackier side of privilege. Perhaps I am stuck in the past, unable to equate the duality of wanting just some things to be a basic human right and not others. Free healthcare, for sure, but not abortion! Safe spaces for women, but no trans women! I’m not the right person to ask for massively well informed takes on either issue, but exclusionary caveats don’t seem particularly well aligned with emancipatory politics. However I suppose congratulations on your branding, you can bat for Bernie Sanders but not for the victims of Harvey Weinstein and there will be a fanbase-in-waiting for that kind of stance. It’s not as gross as 4chan I guess, but it’s just basically lame ass fuckin centrism at it’s core.
It’s impossible to exhaust speculative denominations of taste, trends, code, future scenarios or historicising the present. Remember that episode of the Simpsons where Mr Burns was diagnosed with every disease possible and all the germs fighting each other in his body created some kind of biological stability, explaining how he is still alive? Like that right. Affective bio-politic theatre, yeah whatever.
This is a state where inequalities are painful, but while the demographic of cultural producers have changed, ultimately the product still remains. Hey hey hey hey hey nowwww they’re nice people trying to make art, and art is great for people to look at and can make some money sometimes? Like a sinking warship venting its entire arsenal before destruction. Galleries can randomly close with less notice than BHS nowadays (jail phillip green and redistribute all his wealth) But then once that person is within the cthulhulean network, they can be propelled by gestures that just allude to the presence of a work, a practice. Like Ryan Gander or The White Review crowdfunding to support emerging artists or writers or community engagement: a flotilla of terms with the radioactive half-life of a thousand years. And if your gallery has to close down you don’t even have to tell all the represented artists until they corner you by the drinks table at the Turner Prize party, lolol.
The beloved post-internet boom has nestled comfortably into the logic of the standard art market, prestige trading, vapid fuel for culture dispatches. Perhaps it was always meant to be that way, a subculture turning a profit within the lifetime of an average garden bird, all the while proclaiming it’s own radicality while doing the opposite. The appearances of VR or the rote gloopy craft beats impress collectors because it’s a fresh pool of value speculation that doesn’t have the rigidity of zombie abstraction flipping, or just yet anyway. Yung Anarcho-Ordo-Liberal (self-labeled, pained lexicon, of course!) dreams of ending capitalism but it would be too tragic for their platforms. Or doesn’t dream and just goes under the wing of a crypto-fascist, a neu phoenix from the ruins. And with the first utterance of crypto-fascist, which of course is gonna happen in an essay written by a faux-marxist cis white hetero anti-art art bro, high whilst at tirantis, we arrive at the Athens Biennale 2018. Beyond the Turner/Keller beef let’s glance @ the problem with edgelord curators playing around, supposedly for the beneficiary of cultural dynamism, with right-wing politics.
Maybe I’m not smart enough, like the kind of people who are smart enough to understand that Nick Land isn’t racist (plot twist: he is), but I don’t see how a Biennale can be opposing fascism and anti-semitism but platform what is essentially nazi LARPing. Yet a colleague of both, Fil Leropoulos, organised an event at Athens School of Art in which an actual neo-fascist to deliver a talk, the very same who makes online anti-semitic threats against Luke Turner. Yet in their “active opposition” they sought to provide a space for some very on-the-nose nazi dress up. So one might think that the Athens Biennale curatoriat do not really have skin in the game, do not really oppose fascism yet desire to have the credibility of doing so. It wouldn’t be too conspiratorial to say it reeks of a Steve Bannon-esque logic, to again use “ironic mimesis as critique” but uh, unironically? The SDLD50 statement on the Athens Biennale and the similarity of their behaviour to defunct fascist safe space gallery LD50 describes it as a “celebration of the ‘pleasure’ of political centrism”. It would not be necessary to do a deep dive into centrism/populism, as it in theory it postulates a kind of de-fanged capitalism but in reality it is as useless as Objectivism and the poster boy of populist centrism Emmanuel Macron is anything but bipartisan. He hates unions and he won’t stop selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, even after the countries boy king ordered a journalist critical of him to be tortured and killed. So the Athens Biennale curators go ahead with their provocative third-wayist fascist cosplay, pre-chewed for some AQNB type “writer” to idiotically signal boost with absolute 0 enquiry or interrogation. I’m sure there is a cleverly worded contextualisation, there always is. We can’t be anti-semitic when we dress up as nazis because we are using a strategy of “overidentifcation”! It’s strategic ambivalence at best, fence sitting to get that EU money but also to own the EU neolibs (and Documenta, those office bastards).
One instance where overidentification does work as a critical strategy is the videogame Bioshock and its sequel Bioshock Infinite. GROAN>>! I’m a curator I don’t need to get videogames they’re for those online hyperracists we find so symbologically interesting. OK OK bear with me a sec U don’t need to be a giant manbaby with disposable income and psychologically grafted corporate allegiances to get this example, it’s just supposed to show where overidentification works and representation doesn’t become replication — because that is the case with the Bioshock series and not the Athens Biennale. In both videogames, you inhabit a dystopian environment which exists on the premise of either 1) if Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism was followed to the absolute letter (the first game) or 2) a turn-of-the-century incarnation of American Exceptionalism (the sequel). Each dystopia exists completely separate from the rest of society in its own retro-futuristic LIMINAL SPAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACE. As you explore these digital realms, the player character encounters many examples of racism, patriarchy and countless ethical/moral transgressions, obvs. They’re not criticised explicitly within the framework of the cartoonishly inflated simulated experience, because the whole environment is a dystopia that is resultant of a self-destructive socio-political ideology (sounds familiar). Objectivism, catnip to the libertarian right, is totally incompatible with reality and any Atlas Shrugged type scenario could only be a shitstorm. Everybody dunks on Ayn Rand fans, yet when nazi punchbag Richard Spencer talks about a “peaceful white ethno-state” it doesn’t seem like a massive departure from the kind of embellished colonial theocracy of Bioshock Infinite. One yearns for the days when art writers just discovered narrative driven videogames and would write daft, twee paens to how pretty the rendered landscapes were, conveniently ignoring the massive and often hostile labour intensive global industry perpetuated by the innate human desire to play as the hive mind of an american football team or shoot dudes in the head to death on a television (preferably while in your underpants with a bowl of cereal balanced betwixt your tender manbobs in both circumstances).
So overidentification does kind of miss the point that actual neo-nazis LARP as nazis, or some military fetish composite, or some neolithic nationalist incarnation — not just the weird kirkland chinos and polo shirt campus racists or the loungewear kek shitlords. The Athens Biennale crew spinning it 4 arts sake isn’t massively different, as much as they’d like to say it is because of course it is different they are in the arts! But insofar as I know, the Athens art scene is pretty small and these guys are like the mafia. Cushy institutional jobs so they don’t want to ideologise anything overtly antagonistic but need some kind of reactionary intertia, unofficial prestige tenure in the arts scene so nobody would dare take the piss out of them just in case they get blacklisted, that sort of thing. The left may be more fragmented than ever, but the fact the right are crossing generational gaps within their spectrum is interesting yet I wouldn’t go so far as to laud it. Commune, a new online & print lefty mag, which I’m sure prods the brain geniouses of the NRx contingency to churn out their NPC memes, an absolutely Partridgean self-owning action, had an interesting undercover report on the american alt-right. The merging of old guard and new guard via media networks and perplexing confluence of bigotry is interesting in itself. Organisationally there are echoes of scientology, how they used to scour for potential converts amongst the LA acting scene. The various alt-right orgs do similar things, with online red-pilling as a must, naturally, but also using various bars and gyms as networking spots. A “hate hike” is one particular activity that the Commune article focuses on. It concludes that the dangers of the alt-right and of rebooted fascism in general is one along the lines of structural analysis. The alt-right worldview(s) make sense of a desperate situation, one that can make sense to people increasingly ostracised by late stage capitalism. The affluent middle classes already have their minds made up and the centrists are authoritarian enablers despite their pathetic moderate dress up. Otherwise, there are semblances of 1930 in a lot of places, depressingly. In an essay for the LA Review of Books, Ajay Singh Chaudhary (whomst also wrote a fucking great praise piece for the rebooted version of videogame classic DOOM) & Raphaële Chappe provide a non-hyperbolic contrast to the rise of Nazism in 1930s Germany and the contemporary era of strongman politicians with fashy fanbases. One point that bears repeating is that our precognitions of what totalitarianism looks like is often a lot more clean cut than what occurs, but the groups that ushered the Nazis into power were a loose coalition of traditional and new right wingers, the armed forces and businessmen. The new right often combine a few things, Richard Spencer is a silver-spoon landed bourgoise but talks racism all calmly and dresses nice. Tommy Robinson is a friend o working classes but has a countryside mansion and generous annual salary from Rebel Media, despite scamming his supporters for every racist pound he can. Chaudhary and Chappe’s text offers us an explanation of how neoliberalism reproduces crisis conditions that also lead to fascism, in ways that differ and parallel the conventional idea of how developed western nations may drift to the right in an economic crisis.
Cultural institutions aren’t inherently neutral and the art world is not some insulated place or semi-connected metaverse to the actual world. It’s been long concluded that online/offline are 100% inseparable, so trying to play the opposite is just a game of arse covering and OH BOY are there many delectable ways to cover ones own arse, such ass GETTING a sense of humour (memes are just memes), I can’t be racist because I’m a migrant (while WASPs have a majority sharehold in racism, they aren’t the only ones), I can’t be anti-semitic because I’m Jewish (editor of Jewish newspaper literally deploys an anti-semitic media controlling trope in an attempt to discredit Jeremy Corbyn), I’m not anti-trans I’m just having a discussion about biology and experience (this is way out of my lane but something about biological essentialism seems like a beginners guide to eugenics) and many many more. Whatever actual harm may come to people, it won’t be the artists involved in the biennale, so that’s the main thing. Why are they doing this then? What really is to gain from this flirtation with the extreme-right but processed through an academic filter? It’s possible, and probable, that the Athens Biennale curatorial team are just vacuous and hungry for controversy. Neoliberalism, at least in the post-financial crisis version we experience, is a rotting carcass filling with gas and ready to explode like one of those beached whales. What fills the cavity is exposed group to fight on for whatever social measures may be needed to replace that void. Two of the largest countries in the world now have open fascists in the head of political office and clearly that can be seen as a failure for the left, as a whole and for a number of particular local reasons. Yet to the curators of Athens Biennale, politics is just a land of endless symbolic exchange, filled with signs to consume, digest, shit out and trade. If that is what politics is to you, then of course a glut of overidentification with right wing tropes seems like a canny way to satirise the neoliberal or neocolonial art world, especially when Athens Biennale is primarily funded by the EU. As a global model tho, not rly sure on that one. Delusional extremes are the only form of marketable dialectics now I guess, cool! I’m sure in their defense they would use the ‘representation does not equal replication’ argument, which I think was last used to explain why a television series set in a pre-civil rights era of America might contain depictions of racism, misogyny etc. Again, being purposefully obtuse is a model in art that is often deployed to evade criticism, a tactic especially favoured by people who use cultural appropriation or similar exploitative methodologies(tries to re-situates the art in the praxis of the viewer, detaches/fragments authorship etc).
But sadly you don’t beat fascism with satire. You can’t defeat them in the marketplace of ideas when they never really want to “debate” in the first place. The Daily Stormer, with it’s ironic meme culture and white nationalism intertwined, might have been great reading material for racist murderer Dylan Roof but it’s not a praxis that can be inverted for spreading DSA popularity. Giving fascists airtime is a risk that unfortunately ends up in a self-own by most people who try that whole “sunlight is the best disinfectant” routine (BBC Newsnight, Sky News, New Yorker Festival etc). Professional contrarians don’t have much interest in supposed “libertarian” free speech sanctity, moreso just pushing woke cynicism as ground-breaking transgression. Probably on a podcast. Turtleneckbeard accelerationists (lol remember them) end up serving a take about how abortion is similar to necrophilia????? But what the Athens Biennale Boyz don’t get is that ‘over-identification’, becoming a monsterous version of something instead of critiquing it — and then embracing the haze in which onlookers catch a serious case of cognitive dissonance/poe’s law in action — is just teenage reactionary edgelordism by any other name. Kick up a fuss because ‘journalists’ want everything to be clearly laid out for them, fuck them! How will they like it when we queerwash some nationionalism? Yeah! Embrace inconclusiveness! I’m surprised nobody has dressed up as Bane from the joyless Cristopher Nolan helmed shot-like-a-Renault-Megane-advert Batman films. Bane but with a grudge against Documenta festival instead of Gotham City. For fucks sake, the adult baby takeover never stopped did it. There’s a developing node of academics who excuse shit politics by throwing around the word “perverse” in order to justify their flirtation with fash culture darlings. Breathe new life into your career with fascism, especially after you might have done something that perpetuates the systems of abuse you have criticised from a position of marxist solidarity. First as tragedy, then as fash.
[old-man voice] Artists have less power nowadays. The power structures have shifted upwards, so that artists as producers of that vital content of object d’art are not in such a great bargaining position unless they’re affluent yuppies or a critically lauded safe, polite choice. How that power has ceded is probably a cocktail of market logic, post-crash precarity and social media platforming. Take the nefarious Zabludowicz Collection, par example, which funds pro-Israeli thinktanks, gives money to the Tories and to Netanyahu etc etc. Nobody expects techno-centrists like Jon Rafman, Rachael McLean or the entirely of the Holly Herndon Bitcoin fanclub to be bothered by that, as their personal politics are defined entirely by a on-the-fence all-politics-should-be-heard kind of wilful ignorance. They’ve always been that way, yet it is also a shame that artists like Joey Holder, originally beloved for their forays into speculative ecology, have descended into this obsession with conspiratorial thinking but as just a facile spooky quasi-mystic playground. Their Deep Belief Network piece has been uncritically humped by everyone, either because they’re already fans from the earlier work and don’t want to jeopardise friendship by criticising an inconsidered piece that thinks it is more deep and clever than it really is. Remember how the right wingers like Cernovich and Spencer loved Kill All Normies? It’s that kind of art that is cynically palatable to the far-right but kind of acts like it isn’t. I know the whole QAnon thing and Pizzagate/Incels/Flat Earth/Infowars was interesting in the sense that we can empirically deduce that the internet has made evil people group together and become even more worse somehow, but to critically flatten things, compartmentalise and slice it up for pontification is immensely dodgy. Wilfully naive at best, closet bigoted at worst. Altho it’s perfect for the cottage museum mafioso who need a bit of edge, but nothing too much that makes them draw a line in the sand. That position is commonplace and the increasing desire of artists in MA programes to “professionalise” means that the apparent meritocracy have a trickle-down praxis of sorts. As is the case with Zabludowicz, many art graduates who might be anti-tory happily have accepted invitations to show there via the ‘Invites’ programme. Why? Because they’re probably fuckin scabs! However if you opt-out of something vile like that, you feel it might be pointless on your part because there will always be someone to take the place you’ve chivalrously vacated. Then what’s the point? Your metaphorical nuts have been snipped off and placed in a zippable freezer bag by the arts management class above — the gallerists, curators, project managers and programme coordinators, who are all behest to the funding of a group of benefactors as well as various tempestuous charitable bodies. Quite often the politics of those benefactors are pretty bad — Blavatnik is a Trump donor, Sackler manufactured an opiod crisis and a child of arch-racist Rupert Murdoch is an Arts Council chair. There is an interconnected sphincter tunnel between private enterprises like Frieze Art Fair (which even gets public money) and public culture bodies. While all may wither if no artist made any art to consume, since the audience for things doesn’t even seem to matter anymore, going on art strike would seem futile if there are enough guaranteed scabs to nullify yr actions. So if there is a glut of shit politics at the top, ofc that trickles down and you can be an artist or art writer AND a TERF or anti-semite and it’s fine! It’s fine for Nigel Farage to use the ‘George Soros is a threat to democracy’ dogwhistle to anti-semites on a fucking radio show. It’s fine for Rod Liddle (whomst I will take deep pleasure in the hopefully painful death of) to say Muslims should just blow themselves up in east London council blocks. The wider rightward drift in the anglospheric media overton window (BBC platforming a woman beating racist and extremely bourgoise landlord Stephen Yaxley-Lennon and The Sunday Times/Spectator publishing the worst possible opinions regularly are two examples) also cushions this. Conservative views are being censored apparently, because of the “violent” fascist left! This kind of tone policing or concern trolling seemingly eclipses actual violence carried out by the far-right, such as the incel school shooters or the “Proud Boys” beating up counter-protestors. I suppose this is just because physical violence seems so distant to us, if you just stay home when the DFLA march through central, nothing in your world changes, even if open fascists march down central London. But telling people off online is more gratifying (those likes tho) and weirdly more permanent than going in the streets (its cold sometimes). Pale Gammonian BBC lovers shit the bed when James Butler, an editor at Novara media, ruminates on the historical class struggle of the English and amusingly laments that they never slaughtered the rich. Or they fuckin lost their minds when Lily Madigan became a womens officer for a Labour Party constituency. In their little brain worm addled minds, they see this as some sort of “woke stasi” totalitarian liberal takeover, in a totally unironic reading of a broken britain pc gone mad Brass Eye/Alan Partridge bit. It’s easily observable that rabid brexit support and transphobia often go together, tho the proponents are a bit too fuckin velvet jacket at a farmers market to be properly alt-right. They’d like to bring back national service but not for their kids. To these people, the no-platforming and callout culture of the left are indistinguishable or surmountable to actual fascism. To make a mild concession, those can be very annoying habits of the left when improperly deployed (Ash Sarkar, always reliably excellent, has a handy framework of when and when not to no-platform in this Novara show https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdxONayUcV0). HOWEVER, to lose your shit because some TERFs get kicked out the Labour party or similar for their “views” which are “free speech” (saying that someone should be denied rights because of something is free speech, there are your brain worms hard at work), to call that fascism is fucking wiiiiiiiiild. Bolsonaro supporters are murdering leftists, a massively anti-semitic Trump supporter mailed a bomb to George Soros while another shot up a synagogue and neither are condemned by the architect of their environment, take your fucking pick. Pretty sure that Momentum aren’t sanctioning the guillotine for Boris Johnson or Nigel Farage, although tbf that’d be great. If some antifa maybe guillotined Alexander Nix then yeah, GeoffScone203934581, the left wingers would be just as bad as the nazis. Then what would the stale breaded gammon from the Academy of Ideas Institute for Economic Brain Geniouses do for their ticketed sub-academia waitrose finest circle jerk? The marketplace of ideas would be ruined, in that you couldn’t use a false veneer of free speech egalitarianism to demonise the idea of “diversity” or whatever might threaten your job in a few years, tory scum.
TIMEWARP your spinning ass head back to the time when people said “post-internet” art with an interesting voice and weren’t immediately going to follow that utterance up with something perjorative. The good times of slime, sports direct, crystals, latex and when a 720p resolution was luxurious. That certain dumb things like glittering slime and sports direct can be inserted into the post-internet genre canon and ignite a flicker of recognition in one art scenester’s mind is a mild testament to the flexibility of the genre. In August 2018 Larne Abse Gogarty delivered a lecture (https://youtu.be/1UaJyokkC6g) on, among other things, how certain elements within post-internet aesthetics and adjacent culture meld so readily with the burgeoning fascist resurrection in Europe and the US. What both things share is a love of esoterica, conspiratorial thinking, phantasies about a life structured by forces beyond our mortal control. Magical thinking and tech go together like ham and cheese (or tofu and soy sauce) even at the base level of vaporwave aesthetics where classical sculptures sit alongside pepsi logos and neon grids. Erik Davies 1998 book TechGnosis goes well with A Prehistory of the Cloud by Tung-Hui Hu, published 17 years later. The inherent critique that dwells within most net art is deeply rooted in 90s media studies, despite how hyper-contemporaneous it peacocks itself to be as — and that peacocking itself was often to get into the pockets of art sugar daddies like Simchowitz. The avant-garde and modernist movements in Europe also loved the occult (Le Corbusier example par excellence), tho over time that aspect has proved unsavoury the digital natives who have not lost faith in representation. This isn’t to say that net art is basically a complicit replaying of the 1930s, as the appearance of POST-MODERN IRONY is one key difference as Larne points out, and the post-2008 crisis of neoliberal financing. Boring personal anecdote: I was halfway thru a BA when the 2008 banking crisis hit the west and the effects on it within the art institution were pretty visible. The amount of visiting lecturers decreased, elective study modules diminished in variety, tutor time decreased and long standing technicians were shitcanned. Despite the microcosmic bacterial bubble playground that is art school, the bite of precarity was felt and even though our fees were significantly less at that time + also covered by the benign predator Student Loans Company Repayment Plan 1. Many art students cynically pivoted to net art because the tutors didn’t really understand it (so they thought it was amazing), the art market was aching for something to fetishise as internet saturation and social media digged it’s ever lengthening claws into society +++it was often v cheap to make with a early macbook, cracked copy of final cut and the college projector. Far from the big budget Ed Atkins x Richer Sounds LED screen blowouts, 80% of the shows at now deceased hi-spec central london net art gallery Carroll/Fletcher or adult playground Jon Rafman installations sucking electricity like it was a complimentary espresso martini at a Hauser & Wirth princess eugenie ass kiss-i mean trustee socialising dinner. Before Autodesk and Adobe had cloud subscription plans and macbooks bought on student finance deals could handle anything like mentalray, houdini or maxwell renders. Using domestic technology like webcams to rehash 70s performance art tropes, splicing found footage or constructing a hypebeast/fuccboi/art bro persona with alt-narcissism making 2D contrived shock-jock wankwork like Parker Ito or if Richard Long did a Carhartt WIP capsule collection it would be Lucien Smith. The time of net art germination was also the time art and fashion started to like eachother again. Artists started treating themselves as brands and started to embrace everything art-wise that Tom Wolfe used to take the piss out of in The Painted Word, except ironically, and they’d all profess how much Tom Wolfe sucked. You probably know the rest of the narrative. Larne’s lecture proves with the receipts that it should come as no surprise as to why net art accelerated into the realm of apolitical complicity and far-right flirtation. Similarly, Morgan Quaintance’s essay The New Conservatism also charts the rightward drift of art institutional bodies in the UK after Cameronian imposed austerity.
Right now, most people involved in whatever project no matter how shit, or dubious, is buoyed by the glittering funded situations, sub-national bodies who can get a namecheck in the “supported by” PR mucus trail or private west london philanthro-gallerists dodging their taxes with cultural outreach, they all have a vested interest in positive reception, or failing that, a controversy (Dana Shutz at Whitney, Luke Wily Tomspon Turner Prize, Omer Fast in Chinatown etc). The journalists want it to be tasty so they can get keep getting invited to dinners and tow the normal lines. Regardless of what anybody really thinks, the audience is like a prop for install shots or some light jazz music for background ambient presentations of the best shit-eating grin faux humbled class apologisms. You’ll be propped up by the sycophantic system, a multi-way centipede fuckfest by the mythical nepotism algorithm, juiced by drawing in new orbit jerkers in the many guises of curatorial student chancer or self-styled culturati oaf who is only given credence by anyone because he/she has some “project space” real estate gained thru inherent privilege. If not, then a panel featuring credibility desperate charlatan who likes excl dinners, someone who runs a website you’ve never heard of, writer for overdesigned and behind-the-times magazine. I leave you unceremoniously with these screencaps from Mississippi Burning.
It’s funny because Willem Dafoe here looks nearly exactly like a western art curator lol.
overidenfitication is a dead strategy! irony has been a hiding place for reactionary politics since South Park but just now the art bros have found the best appropriative use for it. lastly, just because you’re some old analogue anarchist who might have had to survive alongside a more pernicious or unique strain of fascism than the one commonly understood in the anglosphere, this doesn’t give you a free pass to conflate left-wing and right-wing extremism with each other, because they’re not the same? both-sidesing, third waying, centrism, becoming disillusioned with the left, if you just want to bat for authoritiarian socio-cultural positions then just fuckin own it.
it’s also very transparent when u conveniently think online and offline are separate for culture wars/trolling/art beef but not separate for things like anti-democratic engineering, fake news and data surveillance. fudging values is fine when your brand relies on riding out trends until the heat death of the universe.
SOME OTHER READING: