Inside the Internet Art Bubble

08/17/2011 4:00 AM |

Of course, his early lectures and collaborations also created a lot of word-of-mouth hype. Arcangel’s 8-Bit Construction Set, a DJ battle record filled with tracks made with the Atari 800 XL on one side, and the Commodore 64 on the other, made with BEIGE [programming ensemble] (Paul B. Davis, Joe Beuckman, and Joe Bonn), was a clear hit, garnering a large amount of press (and “dopes” from DJ Spooky). So, too, was The Infinite Fill Show at Foxy Production, a brilliantly conceived exhibition inspired by Mac Paint software that culled patterned works in black and white. The exhibition included over 80 artists and was curated by Arcangel along with his sister Jamie Arcangel.

Given the strength of the work and number of people Arcangel worked with, it’s not surprising his career took off. Indeed, Times critic Holland Cotter, noting this and other collaborative efforts, declared “artist collectives” hot in 2002. Whether or not that was actually the case is debatable—art practice is so diverse I sometimes think any notion of trends is ludicrous—but it did, at least, make people a little more responsive to the fad in question.

In any event, Arcangel was labeled early on as “a talented artist who works with technology.” He’s since become disconnected from the internet community that once inspired him (the reasons for this shift are unclear—the most anyone can say is that this change began roughly after he joined Team Gallery in 2005), an unfortunate turn of events as this, in combination with his recurring struggles with thyroid cancer, has negatively affected his work. His career opportunities, however, remain intact. Part of this, I suspect, has to do with museums that now see artists working with the internet and social media as an easy way to bring in foot traffic. As an established name, Arcangel might appear, from the outside at least, an easy sell to museums wishing to capitalize on the ubiquity of internet culture.

So who’s going to replace Arcangel as the art world’s most prophetic voice engaging youth culture and the net? At present, it looks like Ryan Trecartin has received this title, though the relationship his long-form videos have to the internet is much less about technical fluency—Arcangel’s strength—than it is about creating a dystopic vision of the present. Put simply, Trecartin doesn’t code.

Trecartin’s career took off almost immediately after he graduated from RISD, though Peter Schjeldahl cites the New Museum’s 2009 Younger Than Jesus show as his tipping point. That juncture seems as good a breakout point as any for an artist whose whole career has basically been one giant tipping point. As told by ArtForum‘s Dennis Cooper, he was “discovered” when a student at the Cleveland Institute of Art showed a clip of Trecartin’s movie “A Family Finds Entertainment” to visiting artist Sue De Beer. He’d found it on Friendster. De Beer then told writer, art advisor, and former New Museum curator Rachel Greene; one thing led to another, and later that year he had a solo show at the Los Angeles’s Gallery QED.

10 Comment

  • Your final point about the work doesn’t make for bad art. It’s not about the content of the responses. I admire both of these artist’s work, and don’t think it’s as internet-centric in the end as how you make it out to be. This is why it’s good.

  • I’m not saying it’s bad – though of course Trecartin is overhyped. It’s really just sad that a message as bleak as Trecartin’s is celebrated as though he’s just told us some great news.

  • The headline could also be “Good Art Recognized as Good.” How are these story of discovery, recognition, and good timing any different from that of a hot painter like Dana Schutz or Laura Owens? Is their technique “gimmicky” because it brings something new to the discourse about painting?

    Also I want to voice dissent with your conclusion that Trecartin’s work is bleak. Yes, there are plenty of dark and frightening moments, but there are joyous moments too, and the artist wouldn’t use YouTube and Twitter if he despised them (in fact, he’s expressed a positive attitude toward them in interviews and public appearances many times). People are still arguing over whether Warhol critiqued or celebrated consumer culture; Trecartin’s work, like any important art, is ambiguous, and that’s what makes it a rich experience that people enjoy.

    Finally, before you ever again describe an artist’s work as “overhyped” (especially when you have been a major contributor to that hype) read what Nico Muhly says about hype:

  • Apropos of nothing, or perhaps of extreme relevance, I think people should check this guy out. He’s a contemporary of both these dudes ( interesting work on both counts ) but hardly “known”…to the extent that I’m not sure if “known” is his goal. The things he does with technology are challenging, fucked up, and often beautiful:

    I think some of the mess in the art world has been the result of laziness from all sides, maybe it’s time for curators and critics to go beyond trawling the web, or waiting for large envelopes from the next graduating class. Never trust anyone under 30?

  • How can you make the claim that Arcangel’s work is in any way affected by his “recurring struggles with thyroid cancer”? What grounds do you have for that? It’s a cheap statement that does nothing for your argument but make evident that you’re inclined to go for an easy, sensational statement over a more nuanced analysis of the work.

  • I agree with your tracing of their respective paths to museum-art careers.

    With the title, I guess you actually mean “inside the internet-art-that-has-been-suddenly-reclaimed-by-museums” bubble. (I’m taking into consideration that there was probably a period in 1998 and 2000 when museums tried to incorporate/commission internet art) If it is about the growing trends of featuring current internet work in galleries, I’m wondering why it’s not constant dullaart (for being a big internet formalist) or JODI instead. Maybe their work is not as easily adapted to spatial presentation and would be confined to the browser and computing device.

    I also can’t help but compare the two in terms of various kinds of Caucasian male art-master persona. Cory Archangel does high concept nerdy/nostalgic things with technology (processual with lots of verbal puns like Nauman). Meanwhile Ryan Trecartin rides the high camp, intensified low-tech video aesthetic (closer to Warhol). Both make work that is sort of irreverent, but relatable in a specific cultural context. I know I’m overgeneralizing when I say all this, but while CA and RT’s work’s entry into the canons might change the game in terms of content, the “brand” of artist that these museums are choosing don’t differ too much from the types of postmodern masters featured in my “Art since 1945” textbook.

    While Trecartin’s work became popular on the internet at the beginning of his career, I feel that “the internet” is a theme that dominates readings of Trecartin’s work when there are so many other ways to analyze it. But I’m sure his appeal isn’t limited to the fact it is distributed on a social medium…

  • Well done for writing a sniffy article that just seems to resent good art getting recognition (good alternate title, Brian). You gesture towards possibly making some kind of critique, making little digs (mainly based on amount of “hype” they’ve generated though what they have actually generated seems closer to interesting dialogue, to me) but then trip up when it seems like you haven’t really got a point at all?

  • I’ll never understand why some commenters feel so compelled to belittle others as they make their points. It’s not like the comment would be any less valid were the comments phrased just a little more conversationally.

    I don’t know that anyone here would actually title the article “good art recognized as good”, when I’ve made it quite clear that I think Cory’s show was not good and the hype is the result of a larger public interest in the internet and social media. Ryan’s work isn’t bad, but it’s receiving more attention because the internet is a public interest museums wish to capitalize on. This is stated pretty clearly in the piece (and I don’t think it’s any different than Schutz other than a medium that is particularly topical) but I realize that there are a fair number of people who find this whole line of thinking an utter waste of time.

    Nico Muhly makes some good points in this regard and so do the commenters. Of course, they too are part of an ecosystem whereby commenters similarly patronize writers for playing into the system. We’re all guilty of that from time to time I think (playing into the system, not patronizing), but since I’ve always enjoyed thinking discussing hype (for me it usually helps me figure out what I think about the work) neither Muhly nor the commenters here are likely to curtail future pieces on the subject.

    For what it’s worth, I don’t think the piece is without flaws. David Edgar says the point’s not clear enough and I think he’s right. He’s not right however to conclude there wasn’t one. (This statement that reads as though it were drawn primarily towards the end of making a dig.)

    As I mentioned earlier, I wanted to identify hype these artists were receiving and examine how it was generated and whether it was warranted. I think I did a fairly good job with Arcangel, but Trecartin could have been tightened. Had I done that, I’d probably still be dodging the mud slinging — I have the feeling that virtually everything I pen is a hate-read for Droitcour — but I would likely feel a little better doing it.

  • I think you are totally right. Trecartin is 16th century kitsch and arcangel is sentimental victim of the 70’s. I don’t trust the defensive comments here. People are just afraid to think differently especially after promoting these artists in every kitschen – ha ha – and possible blog.

    I promise you, as super stupid woman I can recognize my kind from a far. The works these artists produce are simply not intelligent.

    Ta ta,

    Tina Fey