The US army has updated their dancing choreographies.
The internet was embraced by avant-garde artists seeking alternatives to capitalism and hierarchical institutions. They searched for new ways to facilitate transformative collaborations and attempted to establish horizontal organizations. Early net-art made the fetisation of art objects difficult, hence threatening the rationality of old art-institutions and art markets.
After the launch of facebook (2004), youtube (2005) and the chrome browser (2008), the internet was commercialized and netizens converted into data-cattle. Radical organizations were quantized, free technologies for collaboration forked into commercial products and netizens made into users by forcing them to comply with technical standards controlled by big-business. Avant-garde artists attempted to tackle such developments by emphasizing the tangible, the event and by developing unique homebrew technologies. Between 2000-2010 the best art was made with cheap materials (cardboard, breadboards and tape) and it didn’t work.
Avant-garde art was unstable and it lacked style, which made it impossible to appropriate. Electronics were taped on gallery walls, things were called site-specific but it only meant that they couldn’t be bought and moved. Software developers didn’t even know how their interactive installations worked, so they couldn’t be bribed. Instead of the art reaching out to the audiences – Audiences had to go out and look for to the art. The focus was on the social gathering, which often took the form of a festival or a party. In this setting artworks served as a party-decorations. This movement strengthened grassroot organizations.
Artist maturing in the post-internet age aligned with the dream of building self-organizing organizations. They want to have the same freedom. They acknowledged that the movement of the audiences could be made more efficient through marketing, by embracing the commercialization of the internet. Through surrender they could emerge liberated. As a side quest they learned stylistical skills which made them better marketeers then past institutions. They learned to convey honesty in market driven environments and their parties got big.
A big part of the marketing strategy was the re-fetisation of the art object. Instead of making objects from cardboard which would break after use, art was made from stylish but still cheap portable materials (plexiglass, color prints, fabrics). These were more inviting and served as evidence of the artist’s commitment (real diamonds would reveal their class, so fake diamonds are used). Artworks made for gilded usb-sticks worked like passports which could be used to swap parties on the fly. By using unified styles, techniques and materials artist across the globe could alling behind the same movement.
Beer was free (as it was bought from tax-havens) and the music only mildly disturbing. Audiences had to be there because they were afraid they’d miss the moment when things would suddenly start to make sense. The party became a global institution and it’s visual cues were formalized. People started wearing caps and old institutions lost their audiences. Their marketing strategies failed to touch people and they lost their significance. The party stole their sponsors.
This is why Ars17 looks cheap. The artists features in the exhibition are stronger than the old institution. The exhibition shows that artist are winning the battle for personal emancipation and old institutions have failed to grasp the movement.
But we are left stranded (The av-gear rental companies the only real winners). In the institutional setting, stylish but cheap materials came of as true-cheap (as in stagnating poor) and clever-low-cost-solutions look like trickery (as in faux-grunge). You can’t keep your cake and eat it.
Want more Guggenheim’s for Helsinki? Vote the Green party. Wall of shame.