Turning to art, ”Post-internet” is another overextended term that now appears to have been a poorly-conceived set of loose principles. After having a brief rise, those ideas about art seem to be in various stages of backlash or re-organization. In one sense, post-internet work increasingly appears as an art of user subjectification. BB: An art of/on/for user subjectifcation would actually be quite interesting if it were to take its own provocations seriously. The problem with much Post-Internet Art, perhaps, is that for varying reasons it seems obligated to not complicate its effects nearly enough. To start, it’s not possible to make sturdy generalizations about the quite different artistic practices that get categorized by this term. For example, both Artie Vierkant and Zach Blas were students in Art programs where I have taught, and it would not occur to me to say that their goals or programs are of a kind. With that caveat, it might, however, be worth first exorcizing what we think we see when we look at Post-Internet Art (which is so clearly about being looked at). One may think that one sees something like a sociopathic Pokemon-inspired smirking in-joke easily downloadable for the Koonsian after-party, one that leveraged an uncertain ratio of ketamine and juice-boxes to circumvent Clare Bishop’s “Digital Divide” by acceding to the White Cube economy’s most transactional 2D wall-friendly file formats. One may think that one sees the inevitable reaction to transposing museum holdings into Big Data image archives in the preeminence of .JPG as a universal visual culture protocol, now extruded and fabricated twelve feet tall for shits and giggles. But maybe that’s not all there is. First, the user as ocular subject is what a lot of this art either problematizes or resists problematizing. In deciding between the two, it is important to insist that is not really post-internet art. It is, as others have said, more accurately art of WWW, social media profiles, banner ads, MMOG, and stock photography psychodramas, etc. It is about what the web looks like on screens for people who look at screens, as well as the figural contradictions of a screen-based aesthetic that is staged in relation to screens that are at once in and on our physical world. Yes, “hyperreality” and all that, but also making the optical physics and cognitive science of clickbait into an anthropological scenario requiring mimetic reflection. Good, but that is still not the Internet. The Internet is mostly logistical & scan-search morlock algos keeping things running for the binocular-visioned hominids aboveground who look at images on screens. One of the chapters in the book I am writing now is on machine vision. Depending on how you count, weigh or measure them, there are already far more “images” made by machines and for machines than by humans and for humans. Machine vision is arguably the ascendant ‘ocular user subject’, not the human. At the very least, the human visual subject—especially that user subject construed for mainstream social media—should be situated adjacent to machinic user subjects, instead of above them or before them. This is not part of some OOO wordgame maneuver but a simple fact. Given that, who/what is the user/viewer of the Post-Internet Art’s combined ‘.JPG-Object‘ format? On the one hand, the oscillation between image-as-object and object-as-image is a way to mimic the movement between virtual and physical screen spaces, and so could be seen as a return to conceptual and perceptual importance by certain Modern “techniques of the observer” that we thought were already well into retirement. On the other hand, one may conclude that in the conflation of social media screen aesthetics with “the Internet” as a whole, Post-Internet Art feeds on a conservative art world’s validation of collective technical ignorance about the actual workings of an occluded infrastructure—and so guaranteeing its appeal for certain curators and collectors for whom the occlusion of morlocks is core to their business model or personal psychological make-up. This may also easily include the collaborative alibi offered by the individual artist’s claim that the work’s re-performance of that occlusion constitutes a “critique of capitalism,” which is all the better for everyone. On the other other hand (there is always a third hand), perhaps even while Post-Internet’s observer may impersonate a stupid postmodern blank stare, couldn’t it also be read instead as a pantomime of the machinic visual subject with whom we already co-inhabit the wider subject position the user? Maybe, maybe not. For example, Blas’ anti-facial recognition masks —which I think are great— may be understood as a gesture of refusal to engage with machinic visual subjects, maintaining the human privilege to remain unrecognized by the subaltern machine’s gaze. Or instead it may be taken as a way of exploring how that machine does see, who we are through its “eyes”, and how its gaze can be a site of reflection (literally and conceptually) for the recomposition of our own vision in relation to theirs. Clearly the latter is the more interesting project (and not the only one to derive from Blas’ work). The limited range—from dumb stare to “refusing the panopticon”—is a bad spectrum on which to be stuck, and I wouldn’t wish it on these practices. If they choose to adhere to it, however, that’s their problem.

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