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A nearby video of Saddam Hussein's death—Martijn Hendriks
's "Untitled Black Video" (2008)—with the image reduced to perpetual black in the uploading process, only shows internet commenters' reactions to the footage, from the celebratory to the skeptical: "This video didn't show anything. He's probably still alive." David Karp
and Ryan Trecartin
take the opposite approach to internet video with their website project "riverthe.net
" (2010), streamed live onto a gallery wall. Anyone can upload clips ten seconds or shorter to the site, resulting in exactly the cross-section of footage you'd expect: porn, cats, babies, fights, homemade music videos, etc. As a deadpan comment on the uses we make of free webspace and content, it's extremely entertaining.
Even more enjoyable, but much easier to miss as it's tucked into a hallway, "Refresh" (2007) consists of a series of court documents and sketches that chronicle the artist's attempt to change her legal name from Kristin Sue Lucas to Kristin Sue Lucas
, or to "refresh" her identity as one would a website. The transcript of her conversation with the confused judge demonstrates how a concept borrowed from a browser interface might be invaluable elsewhere. The hall wall it adorns leads into Alexandre Singh
's hilarious "The School of Objects Criticized" (2010), ostensibly a self-reflexive critique of the exhibition's zeitgeisty mode of address. A set of objects—a bottle of bleach, a taxidermy skunk, a slinky, tape recorders, an abstract sculpture voiced by L Mag
-favorite Michi Barall
—exchange snarky, soap opera-caliber comments, including a dig at Times
art critic Roberta Smith for her attack
on the prevalence of such conceptual objects in New York City museums. Though less explicitly related to the internet, it made me think of the many Twitter accounts created for inanimate objects
. If only those were as clever or funny as Singh's Wildean comedy.
Outside that conversation room, four pieces from Jon Rafman
's "9 Eyes of Google Street View
" provide a fitting bookend to Oppenheim's Flickr-sourced sunsets. Rafman's images, another kind of found photography freely available on the internet, are scenes captured by Google Street View cars, a contemporary corollary to Brassaï's Parisian street photography and the concept of the flaneur. Rather than the bustle of the modern metropolis, Rafman finds moments of eerie, surreal tranquility, like a suburban house on fire in "Eagle Point Dr, Sherwood, Pulaski, Arkansas
" (2010), or a pale woman, seemingly afternoon in the sunlight, looking out to sea from a rocky beach in "58 Lungomare 9 Maggio, Bari Puglia, Italia
" (2010). In this series, as with many of the pieces in the show, the roles of artist and curator are blurred, creativity located as much in the act parsing through the internet's informational flotsam as it is in contributing to it. The striking visual and aural variations artists in Free
come up with offer a compelling antidote to the repetitive newsprint motif in The Last Newspaper
on the floors above. In fact it's telling that with only one gallery to Newspaper
's three, Free
feels far fuller, featuring works that stick with the viewer much longer than the conventional internet attention span would lead one to expect (of course, also counter-intuitively, it lacks the old media exhibition's interactivity). If you do feel moved to contribute to "riverthe.net," though, please, keep it SFM—safe for museum.
(images courtesy the artists, the New Museum)