A postnet folk fanfiction fairytalemythology: Part 2
With a text by Cam Hurst & Babs Rapeport and works by
Chris De Sira
Jeff Egner & Tess Wagman
Curated by Underground Flower & Rhizome Parking Garage
Part II. Present Questions
COVID-19 has accelerated the material conditions which first motivated us to form our inchoate and organised networks online. The slowly boiling water is no longer burning just the frogs on the peripheries.
There is a tendency in ‘switched on’ online networks to fit within a paradigm
which distinguishes ‘us’ (disempowered peasant class) against ‘them’ (vaguely defined elites) by a mode of resistance
which means not doing things. Log-off, unsubscribe, do not click *here*. To frame inaction as our only choice for ‘resistance’ is a means of relinquishing our agency
as artists and surfers. These paradigms of ‘resistance’ expect only holding-against, not creating-alternate. Solo Show takes on the latter.
We feel an incumbent pressure to speculate on life and art ‘post-COVID’. This feeling comes from fear, from uncertainty, and liberal traditions of thought which have taught us to emphasise progress and the future over all else. Giving in to this preoccupation with what’s next leaves us vulnerable to forgetting that the shape of the future(s) will be determined by our actions in the present, a cumulation of events in the past.
Perhaps instead, we may take account of the art history of our communities and of post-internet art at large to gain understandings of the present and its challenges.
Solo Show's Chapter 2 operates as a renegade flowering of folk community
that defies the commodified and exclusionary tactics of the Basels and Bienales, and the totality of the ‘Berg and his boys in the Valley. This is a folk community who take hold of algorithmic ambiguity and manage to concretely invest in online transmission and connection as artistic traditions of cultural communication
It feels counter to the politics of this collection to try suck stiff, legible narratives out of the works together. Some artists scream a spiky confidence, others use their allocated web space to open up an extreme loneliness. Many use identity-obfuscating pseudonyms. There’s a tender cobbled-togetherness about the whole thing: the art is handmade and intimate. There are lots of drawings and small paintings, and wiggly, twisted sculptures. Viewed together, they’re a system of runes and symbols that confound institutional demands for legibility. Food appears a lot. Hocks of ham, ice tortured broccoli. Also bedsheets. Functional objects
re-presented for ritual and aesthetic purposes come from the day to day - their ordinariness made stark with the glaring white flash of smartphones shadowing dull backdrops of bedside tables, bathroom mirrors and suburban yards in a corporeal, milky haze. Obstinately amateur, these artists revel in exposing their self-conscious abjection to surgical light and public domains. It’s shitgood.
The show might be framed in the vein of that universally derided moniker of the ‘post-internet.’ US-based
artists created the term
in the mid-2000s to historicise their perception of a new material age, expressing the saturation of all IRL, URL and other liminal, post-acronym spaces by the internet. The artists in Solo Show aren’t necessarily making work about the internet, rather, their communities and traditions of expression are bound to and informed
by the frameworks of net communication itself.
These artists profess a much more specific relationship with their networks than the post-net ethos would allow. The material conditions of the Solo Show Instagram network illuminate the hopeless naivety of ‘post-internet’ as a totalizing framework
which idealises a power-evasive conception of the net in singularity. For these artists, the internet is neither a ‘novelty’ or a ‘banality,’
but both and more. As a base, their online personae and content are grounded in various manifestations of internets, plural.
These post-internet agnostics are unified by participatory practices
that reject normative capital oriented uses of platforms like Instagram. They connect in one net space and express themselves on another altogether. Their movements highlight the creative potential
which comes from prioritising the particularity/peculiarity of a network over the totalisation of any one platform.
Holding Solo Show on an autonomous website turns the implicit, informal flows of artmaking and sociality we experience alone on our phones each day into a Real Thing. Drawing these works out of the nebulous settings of account-based Instafeeds and situating them together provides us a generous moment of focus. Here, we might consider who and where these people are, to wonder what we should do now that we’ve been corralled together into this somewhat hermetic space, without distraction. Against the mythology of the commons and purportedly benign flows of data, this show gives credence to the folk logic of the internet which is about moving content intentionally, together.
In emphasising particularity, this collection of work refuses to be fooled by the scare-tactics which prop up platforms as totalising dominions. By these same critical logics they have resisted the neat boxes of conventional art curatorship
and its hierarchies of exposure.
‘Post-internet’ is a mode of surveillance criticism which seeks to both retroactively and presumptuously categorise everything in the ‘future-past’. Its calcifying imperative
cannot account for the fluctuating, coincident practices of "genuine sociality”
emphasised by the artists in Solo Show, thriving in spite of “the intentions of developers and CEOs.” It stops short of servicing the present challenges of COVID-19.
COVID-19 and its attendant conditions confront folk art communities with new questions for addressing ongoing structural dilemmas.
Solo Show is an answer for one network, for now.