Between Hype Cycles and the Present Shock

Texts

Soon available as part of the Macro Asilo Diario series, Between Hype Cycles and the Present Shock is an excerpt from a longer, unpublished essay born out of a conference I had in Rome in March 2019, wondering if, and how, art can exist in the present time. The longer version includes chapters about net.art’s futurism, post internet’s presentism, precorporation, media obsolescence, artificial intelligence and virtual reality. If you want to read the draft or suggest a publisher, please drop me a line. This shorter version suffers a bit in the last part, but it features one of my favorite chapters, about the end of the future. Hoping it could be a good companion in these days of anxiety and loneliness, I shared it on Academia. Enjoy!

“We know we are living an age that is profoundly different from that in which contemporary art was born: an age of acceleration, present shock, distracted gaze and end of the future. And yet, when it comes to art, we still confront it as if nothing had actually changed.
Rather than providing answers, this essay raises questions such as: is it still possible to make art under these conditions, and to experience art as it should? What’s the price we have to pay for engaging today’s media and the crucial issues of our time, in terms of duration and long term appreciation?”

Reality is Overrated. When Media Go Beyond Simulation

Texts

I’m happy to announce that an old – but hopefully still fresh – text of mine has been re-published in the amazing Flatland Reader, a publication from O Fluxo presenting “a collection of art and essays that analyzes today’s post-digital conditions for critical media and artistic practice — the act of blurring the boundaries between the physical and the digital by staking out new paths for understanding and working in the transversal territories bounded by theory, internet, and art.”

The Flatland Reader is available in print on demand on Blurb. “Reality is Overrated. When Media Go Beyond Simulation” can still be read online on Artpulse‘s website, where it was originally published; but I strongly suggest to buy the reader for the great graphic design and the amazing company. The list of participants includes Aaron Graham, Anne de Vries, Brad Troemel, Christopher LG Hill, Constant Dullaart, Couple (Adam Cruces & Louisa Gagliardi), Domenico Quaranta, Ed Fornieles, Harm van den Dorpel, Jon Rafman, Keith J. Varadi, Rafaël Rozendaal, Antoine Donzeaud, Bora Akinciturk, Hotel Art (Loney Abrams & Johnny Stanish), Ilya Smirnov, Jack Self, Jakub Choma, Konstanet (Keiu Krikmann & Epp Olekõrs), Matthew Raviotta, Michael Assiff, Natalya Serkova, New Scenario (Paul Barsch & Tilman Hornig), Nuno Patrício, PANE Project (Lucia Leuci), Ricardo Martins, Something Must Break (Monia Ben Hamouda & Michele Gabriele), Sydney (Conor O’Shea), Timur Si-Qin, The Swan Station (Luca Pozzi), 63rd-77th STEPS (Fabio Santacroce), Vaida Stepanovaite and Zoë De Luca.

In che modo oggi gli artisti usano Internet nelle loro opere?

Texts
DISNOVATION.ORG, Shanzhai Archeology, 2015-2018. Courtesy: the artists. Photo: Seraina Wirz. Installation view, exhibition Escaping the Digital Unease at Kunsthaus Langenthal, 2017

Valentina Tanni. L’uso artistico delle reti telematiche ha una lunga storia, che ha avuto il suo picco con il movimento della Net Art nella seconda metà degli Anni Novanta e primi Anni Zero. Esaurita la spinta avanguardistica, e dissolti movimenti e correnti (compreso il controverso Post-Internet), cosa resta oggi? In che modo oggi gli artisti usano Internet nelle loro opere?

Domenico Quaranta. Da un lato il Post-Internet ha cancellato con un colpo di spugna gli ultimi residui della specificità mediale, facilitando l’emergere di artisti che portano i linguaggi e le culture digitali davanti a un pubblico più ampio, trasversale e globale. Per molti aspetti positivo, questo processo ha però danneggiato la riconoscibilità del fenomeno e la compattezza della comunità che l’ha fatto fiorire, riconducendola alle dinamiche individualiste del mondo dell’arte.
Tuttavia sono restio a vedere in questa transizione un passaggio senza ritorno. Le pratiche di networking e la Rete come piattaforma produttiva e distributiva sfidano ancora i formati e le logiche del mondo dell’arte; e, nonostante i suoi cambiamenti, la Rete non ha ancora smesso di sorprendere: blockchain, browser alternativi, mesh network, bot e intelligenze artificiali, deep web, residui strutturali della vecchia Internet lasciano aperti degli spazi a un uso dal basso, radicale e corrosivo delle reti.

In Valentina Tanni, “Internet e gli artisti. L’opinione di 5 esperti”, Artribune, January 30, 2020.

Talk to Me by Jonas Lund

Texts
Jonas Lund, Talk to Me, 2019. 36 volumes, 740 pages each, available in hardcover and softcover. Produced on the occasion of Hyperemployment. Book Design: Federico Antonini (superness.info); Editorial Advisory: Domenico Quaranta. Available here

On October 21, 2017, at 6:17 PM, Jonas reached out to me with a proposal: to turn his online piece, Talk to Me, launched a few months before, into a book. According to the official text, “Talk to Me is a conversational chatbot, […] trained and modelled on all previous instant message conversations (Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger) as typed by the artist himself to create a smart, machine-learned, automatically talking version of the artist.” But in reality, Jonas told me, “it’s just me typing the answers through a Telegram bot, so each time someone uses the website I get a message on my phone and I answer.”

Hyperemployment

Exhibitions

Exhibition curated by Domenico Quaranta

Venue: MGLC – International Centre of Graphic Arts, Ljubljana

When: November 7, 2019–January 19, 2020

Exhibition opening and guided tour by the curator: Thursday, November 7, 2019 at 6 PM

Featured artists: Danilo Correale, Elisa Giardina Papa, Sanela Jahić, Silvio Lorusso, Jonas Lund, Michael Mandiberg, Sebastian Schmieg, Guido Segni.

Hyperemployment – Post-work, Online Labour and Automation

Exhibitions

Download the program!

In the current phase of late capitalism, we are experiencing a crucial contradiction every day. On the one hand, the increasing automation of productive processes is apparently making John Maynard Keynes’s promise of a post-work society not only more real, but also closer; on the other hand, labour – far from disappearing – is colonising and altering any given moment and aspect of our existence. The rise of precarious labour has freed us from the alienation of a permanent job, but has also made our lives more unstable and anxious, and is producing new social diseases. The increasing automation has made us more unemployed – a condition we are frantically trying to escape with micro-labours, turning us into “entrepreneurs of the self”.

The Link Art Center Closes Down. Interview with the Founders

Debate, Texts
Collect the WWWorld. The Artist as Archivist in the Internet Age at 319 Scholes, New York 2012. Curated by Domenico Quaranta

What follows is the English translation (courtesy Google Translate, with some editing by yours truly) of an interview originally published in Italian on Artribune, about the end of the Link Art Center (here the official announcement). Together with my long time partners Lucio Chiappa, Matteo Cremonesi, Fabio Paris, I discuss with Valentina Tanni about the increasing awareness of digital cultures in mainstream contemporary art, media art institutions, collaboration, curating, publishing, and working on all this from Italy…

Valentina Tanni, in Artribune, September 19, 2019

After eight years of editorial, curatorial and exhibition activity, the Link Art Center, a cultural association engaged in the dissemination of new media art, announced its closure. We spoke with the founders – Domenico Quaranta, Fabio Paris, Lucio Chiappa and Matteo Cremonesi – to take stock of this important experience.

Let’s start with the inevitable question: why do you stop? Why now?

Domenico Quaranta: The Link Art Center was founded as a cultural association in 2011, with the mission to foster, at national and international level, a greater diffusion and awareness of the “arts of the information age”. At the time we perceived this mission as a burning necessity. We were spectators of a dynamism of the artists that did not find an adequate response in the institutions, in the magazines, in the market. We had to do something, and we did it. But on this front, from 2011 to 2019, there have been enormous changes, both at the artistic level and at a more general level of society, in Italy and in the rest of the world. Just visit a mainstream contemporary art event such as this year’s Venice Biennale to perceive the scale of this change. Themes that once would have been defined as “digital culture”, such as artificial intelligence, are now on the agenda, and not just in a discursive niche; languages ​​that once would have been defined as “new media”, such as virtual reality, are placed in the hands of contemporary art veterans such as Marina Abramovič or Anish Kapoor.

Net Art Anthology

Texts

Michael Connor, Aria Dean, Dragan Espenschied (eds), The Art Happens Here: Net Art Anthology, Rhizome, New York 2019. Image courtesy Rhizome

A long review I wrote about Rhizome’s Net Art Anthology, that takes off from the online initiative to consider the New Museum exhibition and the publication as well, is out in Camera Austria: Domenico Quaranta, “Net Art Anthology”, in Camera Austria International, Issue 146, pp. 81 – 82. Download pdf

In a recent comment about his ten years old project Post Internet, Los Angeles based author Gene McHugh says: “What was so vital then, often appears dated now. That fact, it’s becoming more and more clear, is the ontological condition of post-internet art. Most of it is an art of the right now and quickly becomes dead, at best a historical example. That sounds disparaging, but I don’t exactly mean it that way. At the time it mattered more than anything.” [1] Post Internet was a blog project started on December 2009, thanks to a grant of the Creative Capital | Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant Program. Using one of WordPress’ default templates, from December 29, 2009 to September 5, 2010, McHugh posted – sometimes on a daily basis, sometimes less frequently – his notes about the online practices of a generation of artists he felt akin to, often gathering around online communities they called “surfing clubs”, that – following the definition suggested by artist and Rhizome’s curator Marisa Olson [2] – he described as Post Internet artists (a definition that would later become viral).

2019

Works

2019 is a documentary about 2019 made in 2019 by the students of the Master in Net Art and Digital Cultures, Accademia di Belle Arti di Carrara. The video is based on chapter “2019” from Ray Kurzweil’s book “The Age of Spiritual Machines” (1999), an attempt to predict the future in detail, decade after decade.

The eerie quality of this text depends upon the fact that it is, not differently from our current 2019, the output of the way the future (our present) was predicted and designed at the end of the last century; as such, it’s very similar, yet very different from our current 2019. It’s the output of imagination, without the recombinant effect of reality. It’s a prediction, but the use of the present form makes it sound like the description of an actual development, along a different time line. 

Exhibition Strategies For Digital Art: Examples And Considerations

Texts
Written in Stone. A net.art archaeology as partially re-enacted for net.art Painters and Poets, Mestna galerija Ljubljana 2014 (curated by Vuk Ćosić & Alenka Gregorič)

Published in: Lorenzo Giusti, Nicola Ricciardi (Eds.), Museums At The Post-Digital Turn, Amaci — OGR — Mousse Publishing, Milan 2019, pp. 177–198. Buy the book here

The aim of this contribution is to contest itself — or, rather, its title. It is to demonstrate that, at the end of the second decade of the twenty-first century, we have reached an evolutionary phase in the so-called digital arts in which there is no longer any point hypothesizing about whether it is necessary to develop specific exhibition strategies that may facilitate public presentation in the display spaces of contemporary art of works that make use of digital media in their production or distribution, and/or make reference to the themes, aesthetics, and procedures that have emerged alongside digital media. [1] Further radicalizing the matter, this text sets out to show that today, the “problem” with digital art lies in the very use of this term, and in the artificial logics of merging (of works and artists that have little or nothing in common) and of segregation (from the rest of contemporary art) that its use reflects, and at the same time contributes to maintaining and consolidating. [2]