Rhea Myers

Circling The Wagons

A debate about net art at Rhizome.org has some of the younger hipsters of the New York internet art scene circling the wagons. I’m not sure what around.

There’s not being careful what you wish for and then there’s not being touched by your own irony. Surf Clubs remind me of the night club events I’ve been to that have been organized by cultural studies lecturers. Empty dancefloors with a few scattered would-be observers around the edges.

Turning the dross of popular media into fine art has a long pedigree, one that I am invested and implicated in. Art may be the superstructure of kitsch. Animated gifs and lolcats are not immune from this, in fact they are a logical progression. Internet time is measured in months, and to ironically act out a group blog a la 2001 in 2006 is no worse temporally speaking than screen-printing Marilyn Monroe in 1962. Or 1984.

But to act out acting out, that is to make a performance of a culture that is already more performative than the artist’s performance, and to regard oneself as terribly clever for doing so misses a layer of irony. Several layers of irony. And to be terribly offended by people mistaking what you are doing for what you are doing shows that you should retain a lawyer before rubbing any lamps.

Yes, I am curmudgeonly about the current state of the internet. But the Jemima Puddleduck economics and reified, servicized social relations of Web 2.0 isn’t a case of be careful what you wish for, it’s a case of don’t pawn the family silver. And even within inauthenticity there can be refinement. Hipsterism is an ethic of consumption masquerading as an aesthetic of flaneurie. Compared to that, the technohippies of the early 1990s were gods.