David Wightman




Jacob Ciocci and I wrote and read this text at the Roulette event to celebrate the culmination of our 5-issue long curation series at Showpaper. In it we breifly discuss the work of the five chosen artists.

FIVE NET ARTISTS by David Wightman and Jacob Ciocci

When we were asked to curate some show paper covers, we decided to make it easy on ourselves and ask 5 "net artists" to contribute because everyone is a net artist. We could have literally asked anyone to contribute something for this.

But at the same time: no one is really a net artist. The concept of "net art", just like the concept of "radical art" is a paradox. The true nature of film, video, the internet, or any revolutionary technology can not be contained within a term like "art," which is far too limiting. Art as we have defined it in our culture works on a model of scarcity--the cult of the object and the cult of the genius. The internet works on a model of vastness--the cult of the infinite and the cult of the anonymous.

By "curating" 5 online identities from the internet, by selecting 5 discrete images and printing them onto physical paper, we introduce limit into a space of limitless-ness. We should always recognize these power dynamics when we discuss "net art". We shouldn't forget that when we "limit" we contradict certain attributes of the REALM.

The REALM proposes a new paradigm for creativity in our culture and should not be evaluated by our old, slow, and puny thought patterns. You shouldn't think of these 5 artists or images as representing any trend or technique or group of people. You should simply think of these images as coming from the future to destroy the past.

It should come as no surprise that 4 out of 5 of these creative practitioners not only make still images but also make videos. That is because the difference between the mediums of video and still imagery is a dragging of an arrow over an icon.

SPENCER LONGO

Spencer Longo's work is about the object or image in "isolation" versus the object or image "on display". Different kinds of objects are placed together to create new meaning, or in other instances, a nihilistic absence of meaning. His curation is of utmost importance as he sifts through the endless visual archives of our time in order to reveal the absurdity of an object devoid of cultural context. The result is sometimes humorous, disgusting, physically evocative, or all of the above: like plugging cables into hair gel.

As with the other artists I will discuss, Spencer investigates the human desire to create surface and texture within a virtual world where nothing can be touched or felt. Virtual renderings of wood and metal are beautifully pathetic as they try yet fail to be real. When a flat surface goes from URL to IRL it immediately reveals it's own idealistic and romantic narrative and also opens up an unintended new psychological terrain for the consumer. This is a narrative that designers such as The Memphis School began to study in the 70s and 80s, of which Spencer has been undoubtedly influenced.

In "Transformers 2011", Spencer's cover for Showpaper, images from one of the most state of the art movies ever made are cut up and transformed using simple photoshop techniques. Similar to Tabor's "Explosions" (which we will be screening later), moments of extreme physical action or technological intensity become flattened, in this case into a seemingly endless 2-D pattern. The cycle is then complete: epic narrative climaxes are reduced to wallpaper ready for Target, and we fall down another mental wormhole.

BRENNA MURPHY

The first time we met Brenna Murphy was in Portland, Oregon watching her group, MSHR perform. They filled the entire rock club in the round with a set from a strange sci-fi movie, complete with costumes, lasers, mirrors, fog, and playable synth-furniture.

Brenna's visual practice is rooted in attempting to comprehend the tenuous relationship between Technology and Nature. Pseudo-"organic" shapes are rendered using digital technology while video-taped natural phenomenon is framed as impenetrably alien. Psychedelic patterns playfully blend into our Natural world using the processing power of digital studio techniques. Her work is at once terrifying and humorous, raw in material yet obsessively organized in arrangement.

Brenna creates patterns that suggest language. They are meticulous orderings that reflect meaning though the any exact message is always unclear. We understand that it is urgent but are always one step behind. Banal moments of humans wandering through public parks are combined with a forbidding incomprehensible alien force.

Like many of the artists you will see tonight, Brenna makes still images, video, and sound, and is thus perfect for a publication like Showpaper, which attempts to bridge these sometimes stratified communities.

TABOR ROBAK

Tabor Robak is a 3D modeling and simulation effects wizard. Pieces with titles such as "Terminator," "Super Multiverse Online", and "Internet Majick" are expertly filled with exaggerated glossy-ness and blinding flare effects. These works are fetishized visions of hyper-reality. Tabor's use of contemporary imaging technology evokes an infinity of mysterious worlds. As his boyband HDboyz states "you should lose your boyfriend he looks photoshopped."

Even in his still images there is an undeniable sense of speed, a futuristic aesthetic of travel honed by Kraftwerk with "Tour de France" or "Autobahn" but updated by Tabor to encompass Gaming and the World Wide Web. In Tabor's work we find ourselves in awe yet struggling to keep up, as we attempt to digest overwhelming interfaces or navigate labyrinths of dimly lit caverns. His interest lies not in trying to create another world but in investigating the motivations that have created this world by fulfilling them to their fullest. Like endless halls of social media, we struggle to find a way to meaningfully "plug in."

Tabor was an obvious choice for the this cover as a frequent collaborator with musicians including Gatekeeper and Fatima Al Qadiri, whose shows have been promoted in Showpaper for years.

BEA FREMDERMAN

Bea Fremderman creates 3D spaces that are intended to simulate the reality of our lived world. Her narratives and still-lifes defy natural physical laws: objects are suspended in air, shadows function on their own logic. We are surprised at our own initial acceptance of these objects as "real" when they are clearly constructed. An inner tension is thus created when a program designed to comfort actually deceives and confuses.

The cleanliness and "sterility" of office and corporate life is mimicked in the coldness of our digital user interfaces. Well-meaning intentions for order and efficiency lead to sad, empty mental states. Her images are peppered with haunting evidence of life: a pencil here or a cable there. She creates worlds that are empty, abandoned, or waiting for re-activation. This deep search for something, anything "real" is peppered with a charming wit--we get through the day at the office with "office humor". This isn't your parent's Dilbert.

KYLE MABSON

Kyle Mabson is a musician and visual artist whose work combines disparate cultural artifacts. Subjects that occupy different cultural spaces (such as reality darling Honey Boo Boo or Norwegian black metal musician Burzum) for a moment take portraits together. In doing this Kyle exposes the fragility of these cultural spaces .A good example can be seen in his Showpaper cover, where Kyle has covered a classic DIY publication with that of a recent multiplatinum rap album. His work is the reflection of a new type of consumer/fan hybrid that is rarely reflected in media discourse: one that was raised on Lizzie Mcguire, listens to bright eyes, knows all the words to Gucci Mane songs and goes to noise shows every weekend. For Kyle all of these things are stupid and beautiful.

But Kyle's work is more appropriation than collage or "remix"-some have argued that it is just plain theft. But these are question Kyle is trying to raise about technology and authorship. Why does "good" art have to show effort when simply combining two different things almost always creates a new, interesting meaning? But then again Kyle probably doesn't want his work to mean anything, which is ultimately the biggest prank in Kyle's work.

This past year Kyle has started a digital label called Mabson enterprises in which anyone can submit a cover/remix version of an assigned top 40 song. The results are a mix of frightful and amazing...classic Mabson.