Panel: The Matter with Media
My paper will explore how a particular subset of contemporary internet-based artworks intentionally operate as “work as assemblage” (after N. Katherine Hayles in My Mother Was a Computer). The examples I will use – Seth Price’s Dispersion (2002-Ongoing), Oliver Laric’s Versions (2009 and 2010), and David Horvitz’s Idea Subscription (2009) – all destabilize the idea of a static, ideal “work” by relying on their diffuse circulation and instantiation through networks for their realization. Notably, they all involve a text in some way – Dispersion and Versions are essays about visual culture and the distribution of content online and both take many forms,Dispersion circulates across various media – sculpture and printed booklets – where Versions is remixed by other artists and curators. Idea Subscription was a year-long tumblr blog disclosing written (often whimsical) ideas for readers to implement, which was recently repackaged in book form as Everything That Can Happen in a Day. In response to what Alan Liu terms “viral aesthetics” in The Laws of Cool, I will argue that these works offer another, alternate aesthetic mode to “viral aesthetics” – one that operates through its immersion within the endless stream of information, where presence results from serendipitous instantiation. Liu emphasizes the “destructive creation” of art by Joseph Nechvatal, Jodi, and William Gibson’s Agrippa (A Book of the Dead) – examples that subvert knowledge work by engaging in a destructive mode of productivity, one that problematically contains the assumption that taking something apart reveals its inner truth. While the art practices I would like to discuss also circulate in a “viral” fashion, they do not engage in corrosive destructivity, e.g. Nechvatal’s computer virus projects. Rather, they offer insight by way of a constructive, symbiotic relation with the information technologies that enable them, becoming powerful through their own momentum and spread, an aspect yielded by their existence as “works as assemblage.” By foregrounding the facets of their own transmission, Dispersion, Versions and Idea Subscription provoke a meditation on the movement of information online.
- Ceci Moss is a writer, musician, DJ, and curator. Prior to her current position as Senior Editor of Rhizome, she managed the Special Projects of the New Museum of Contemporary Art and Rhizome. She presently writes and edits the online contemporary art and music blog A Million Keys. For the past seven years, she’s programmed the weekly radio show Radio Heart on KALX and East Village Radio. She studied Sociology, History and French at UC Berkeley, and Critical Theory in Paris, France at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris III/Centre parisien d’études critiques. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Comparative Literature at NYU, US. amillionkeys.com