Paul Kneale is one of the most interesting artists dealing with the the impact of the web on our everyday lives at the moment. This weekend he's presenting a new exhibition at the pan-European arts event, Lunch Bytes, at the Berlin House of World Cultures. We spoke to the artist about post-internet, the new abject, and what to expect from his multi-layered performance.
How important are digital structures in your work?
For a few years now I've been using Twitter as a public notebook — posting small text works that often remerge as titles for pieces, or get developed into longer writings. I like that they start out on Twitter as a kind of excess capacity or trash. I'm also really involved with the base materialism of many of our devices and spaces. I made a series of works with very cheap printer/scanners that can be bought at the supermarket. I always break them after a few weeks, but each one has its own visual personality, and I've been using this to make a series of time portraits called Post-post-post production. The fact that you can buy this incredible imaging device for £30 as a disposable item is a microcosm of the whole global economy and desire system. I've also recently published an essay that was 'pirate hosted' on craigslist.org's servers. These infrastructures that produce our network experiences in everyday life are increasingly important as backgrounds for moods and mindsets. These experiences are such a part of our environment now. Instantaneity, simultaneity and layering, omniscience, linking, reposting.
Did the way in which art deals with digitalisation change in the last years?
I think the greater change in the past few years is how the art establishment approaches it, engages with it, and gives it greater visibility. This is part of the establishment's late-to-the-game realisation that young artists today have a new way of thinking and working that's not properly described by the preexisting postmodern explanations.
What do you think about the term post internet?
I know these labels have been popular and controversial for the past few years, and I think that's because they try to describe something new, something that really is happening. My way of phrasing it is 'Post-Art Internet'. The thing we call 'art' is a historical period, like ancient art — it has a vague beginning point that makes it a period, and also an end, which is usually marked by a major changes in other areas of life. Quite possibly we've just witnessed this end. The thing that we call 'Internet' is a whole way of being in the world. It's the Internet you know from your browser window, but also the Internet of things and materials, and also the internet of minds, of tastes and feelings. After this passing historical period 'Art', you have this new period 'Internet'. So it makes sense to ask, what does that change mean for aesthetics? How do we present and represent in this new period?
In your show 4 or 5 self portraits for free-form natural language descriptions of image regions at Evelyn Yard and in your more recent essays you talk about "New Abject". Can you explain what you mean?
The new abject is the feeling of revulsion, normally in response to corpses, faeces etc, that has been evolutionarily programmed into us to avoid disease, only provoked by things that are materially new, or not bodily at all. These are experiences we have created for ourselves, that essentially short-circuit our ancient brain.
What did you prepare for Lunch Bytes in Berlin?
The work is an experiment really. It's seeing how language and discussions can circulate and cycle through different variations, different places, different logics, and also different images. The work began with a talk I participated in at ICA in London, also organised by Lunch Bytes. The video of this talk when uploaded to YouTube generated an automated script, in order for Google to turn the talk into advertising keywords, and I reappropriated this script to become the basis for a screenplay, and then a 5-channel video installation called SEO and Co. produced by Evelyn Yard at Tank.tv. The work I present in Berlin takes this screenplay and repurposes it in relation to this specific context.
Text and interview Franziska Wildförster
Images courtesy Paul Kneale