embracing a global perspective on art post-internet
From Warsaw to New York, two surveys of post-internet art have opened up new perspectives on the global diversity of the scene.
"Kubota. 'You know what I'm talking about?" Natalia Sielewicz is laughing as she mentions a very specific brand of slide sandal; footwear that was less popular than it was a pervasive part of the collective memory of people raised through the 80s and 90s in Poland. "They're not slippers, they're 'klapki plażowe'. You know, for the swimming pool".
Sielewicz has just closed the four-month Private Settings, Art After the Internet she curated at the Modern Art Museum Warsaw and probably the last thing she wants to do is talk about it. She's been doing that for four months straight, at the same time as curating and co-ordinating a programme featuring performances, talks and, of course, art that could easily be a who's who of a generation of artists who've by now been irrevocably labelled 'post-internet'. Jon Rafman, Loretta Fahrenholz and Ed Atkins, Pamela Rosenkranz, Ryan Trecartin and DIS; these are some of the better known names of an expansive survey of art that explores and interrogates life inside the network. "I guess I was trying to approach it as a condition rather than a milieu of artists, or a scene," says Sielewicz about this impressive bookend to a year of exhibitions, books and essays offering their own take on what's become a much-debated art movement that goes well beyond a brand name."I didn't want to label this as post-internet because I invited a broad circle of artists, and I guess I didn't want to trespass on anyone's terrain, but also to be more inclusive."
That brings us back to the flip-flops. There's a reason that Sielewicz mentions these icons of Polish public pools. They're a symbol of a burgeoning commodity culture that followed Poland out of the Soviet era and into global capitalism - a rubber slipper allegedly imported from China, named after a Japanese tractor manufacturer and sold to a Polish consumer. "What could be interesting about post-internet art is when people weren't looking too closely at their peers in the US", she says about this image of a foreign product as sold to a regional consumer; globalisation before it went truly global, "I think there's a heavy nostalgia among people who were born in the late 80s and early 90s for all these items related to their pre-internet childhood, or maybe already internet childhood - all these early commodities that started to become available in Poland."
There's more to post-internet than Fiji water, Red Bull and corporate aesthetics, though. Beyond the Western-centric viewpoint of what Sielewicz describes as "this psychological and tactual relationship with media and what this new media is today", there's a world of people and artists who have their own experiences of networked culture. "When you look at Bunny Rogers, or Pamela Rosenkranz, or Ryan Trecartin, media is no longer the internet. I think it's the core of your subjectivity," Sielewicz says. With that Private Settings extends its focus to artists "performing their identity" beyond the US and Western Europe, offering view points from South Africa's CUSS Group, Saudi Arabia's Sarah Abu Abdallah and Poland's Ada Karczmarczyk. "I think it's just really unfair to throw all these people into one bucket and say, 'yeah, you're all narcissistic tag-lovers'. So this is why I really wanted to give that voice that is strong and opinionated".
With Private Settings comes the sense of a turning point in thinking about art as 'post-internet', a coming of age that is probably even more fully realised in the list of artists announced for the New Museum's third Triennial, called Surround Audience and opening in New York on February 28. It too focuses on a similar thematic thread to Private Settings, where co-curator Lauren Cornell describes "a world in which the effects of technology and late capitalism have been absorbed into our bodies and altered our vision of the world". Programmed alongside one of, if not the most eminent post-internet artists in Ryan Trecartin, the exhibition includes some of the movement's more popular touchstones like DIS, Casey Jane Ellison and 'normcore' creators K-HOLE. But it also broadens its view to Basim Magdy from Egypt and Aslı Çavuşoğlu from Turkey, as well as artists from Nigeria, Qatar, Georgia, Ukraine, Palestine - the list goes on. "You can see how they could have easily included a lot more New York-based artists", Sielewicz says about the impressive line-up numbering 51 artists and collectives from 25 countries, "I think they must have done amazing research when it comes to artists who deal with technology and identity. And none of them deals specifically with what we used to define as New Aesthetic, or even corporate aesthetics apart from DIS and a few others."
All this comes as the logical evolution of an unevenly networked world. Going beyond the lazily insular perspective of internet culture's focus on the English-speaking, Private Settings perhaps represents a tipping point to a newer, more mature motion towards the multiple perspectives that are geographically dispersed along the global online: "The internet is not quantifiable. This is a cliché, but it's unlimited. So probably there are many post-internets."
Text Steph Kretowicz
Photography courtesy Warsaw Museum of Modern Art