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Exceeding & Extending: The input/output of today’s artist


4. The Black Stack  © Benjamin Bratton – from his website & attributed to The Black Stack section


In relation to the digital network or Stack, Benjamin Bratton observes that the ‘plural User subject’, who is ‘conjoined by a proxy link or other means’ and ‘could be composed of different types of addressable subjects: two humans in different countries, or a human and a sensor, a sensor and a bot, a human and a robot and a sensor, a whatever and a whatever’[1] ­­– therefore how does the artist operate within the type of inexhaustible network of connections and sensory inputs that Bratton describes here? As he asserts, it is conceivable that in an online exchange, any of the correspondents involved might not be human, even if posing as such. The wide-spread introduction of Captcha (software developed in order to identify non-human sensors, generally inputting spam) is testament to this relatively recent online trend. This is a situation indicative of what is, and will continue to become more common and less questioned all the time. Therefore, in this sense the human user also becomes a type of sophisticated sensory constituent, in a vast open interconnected multi-directional system. The artist and their relationship with the Internet, allows them the potential to become an active sensor par excellence. I consider that today’s artist – those vigorously engaged with the communicatory digital sphere – generally function in three fundamental ways. One, consuming vast amounts of information; secondly, (in)directly ‘creating’ from this material and knowledge; and lastly, distributing these creations and communicatory data, back into the ‘network’. By way of a connection here, Vilém Flusser writes in 1989: ‘Owing to the manner in which images are currently transported, they must serve the same function as’, ‘codes of conduct’. ‘They must transform their addressees into objects. This is the intention of portability.’ (…) ‘In our contemporary society, the new media are currently geared toward making images into models of behaviour and people into objects.’[2] His descriptions in this text could be describing what we have come to know as the World Wide Web, two years before it was properly developed. Crucially in this context though, his idea of ‘people as objects’, relates to my suggestion of the human as, with and occupying the position of a type of complex inhuman computational sensor. The artist’s role here, within the contemporary Post-Internet environment, continues to become a most active, committed, adaptive and multi-faceted, participatory one.

Art is a visionary engagement that exceeds and extends beyond quantification.[3]

The assumption that Capitalism needs to subsume everything in order to continually reproduce itself and in the process, create the general artist - one that is able to exceed capitalist subsumption through an abstraction of capital and by negating use value and creating their own self-valorisation[4] - is worth considering in relation to Post-Internet and the artist. As Brad Troemel points out, ‘Modes of production employed by artists are often a reflection of the larger cultural Zeitgeist.’ (…)  ‘And for the generation of artists coming of age today, it is the high-volume, fast-paced endeavour of social media's attention economy that mimics the digital economy of stock trading, a market increasingly dominated by computer-automated algorithmic trades. For these artists, art is no longer merely traded like ‘stock’; it's created like one, too.’ [5] Presently, the artist uses the Internet as a primary source material for their work. Regardless of the form the work takes or materials used; often these are acquired through, and then from Internet sources. This constant form of mediation has now become subliminal and isn’t even a consideration for most - hence this is when the Internet becomes ‘Post’. Comparable to ‘stock’ in Troemel’s description, this continuous stream of data extractions & then insertions by the artist, is steadily becoming the standard means in which they research, develop, reflect, interpret their experiences, and in turn, facilitate their role as an artist within capitalism’s reproductive system – a system, where ‘value’, in all its forms, is the overriding principle.

The artwork is a socially mediated commodity that transcends the standard value form, as it adheres to a different set of ideas in this regard. It is a commodity absolute, because it is aware that it is one. Therefore it can and often does reflect upon this reality, unlike other commodified objects. A claim made by Benjamin Noys when discussing ‘the realism of the Abstract’ and where art’s critical engagement with the paradox of valorisation is established. He suggests that, because of its ‘functionlessness’ and lack of any real and actual necessity, art is therefore ‘rooted in the paradox of abstract labour’.[6] But moreover, it has the capacity to embrace and communicate such ideas, where labour (deemed abstract or otherwise) never does.

The art object is the same as the image or ‘art image’ in this way: ‘All objects create another’[7], since they prompt or pre-empt a certain cognitive or even biological process, that introduces or leads to another thought, image or object. This sequential process is potentially inexhaustible. ‘The meaning of an image can be changed according to what you see beside it or what comes after it’[8]. This quote from John Berger is a simple description of a fundamental process within human cognition. And from an image or object, for the artist, many more are devised, literally and symbolically. The morphing and merging of ideas into new ones, then fed back into the system, defines the Post-Internet experience. Think of the artist working from online material today; the abundance and accessibility of which, is beyond comprehension and unparalleled. In reference to Flusser again and echoing Berger’s previous comments on images, their successions, ‘objects’ and their aftermath, he writes that, the representations in representational images, ‘form a circle, that is, one draws its meaning from the other, which in turn lends its meaning to the next.’[9] What does this mean then for the artist saturated by images and objects; making work from all manner of ‘texts’ and cultural sources? The banal, trivial and even mistakes (in the ‘Freudian slipped’ sense) make for interesting and often profound statements on class, capital, society, culture (the high, low & in-between varieties) etc. And clearly, the opposite can also be true, where this comment is concerned.

If social capital comes from the practice of taste-making (compiling images instead of making them), artists who have been called ‘post-internet artists’ can be considered alchemists. They take stock of the rubbish heap of net history. They turn shit into gold by compressing and decompressing digital artefacts, rehashing them into something informative, intellectually abstract, and visually elegant.[10]

Chan’s remarks on the artist here emphasise the hybrid nature of this method of ‘tactical web surfing’ and the ‘hyper-mediation of existing genres’ that help categorise the modes in which the artist uses the digital network. If, as Gene McHugh suggests, ‘new media’ becomes art by mutating ‘itself to become more like the art world art, the work mutates art world art to become more like the internet.’ This creates ‘work that has one foot in the history of art and another foot in the experience of network culture.’[11]

To conclude for now, if one considers the unbounded potential (constructive and otherwise) of the digitalised, tele-networked, global society we now exist in and are (pre-)determined by – there seems no rational arguments for accepting the world in any pre-determined form. I judge the practice of individualised questioning and analysing, potentially all images, objects or matters of attention, has now become standard practice. This is the way in which most artists now function. The idea that what we experience, or ‘the/our world’, was made a certain way ‘and that we should not presume to ask why it was made this way and not some other way’ is an argument that has no reasonable legitimacy anymore in my view. Consequently, as we observe in today’s heightened acts of formulation and research by artists, through mediation with the Internet, they simply are not accepting ‘the world as they find it’.[12] And are subsequently creating anew by challenging what they find.


This text was written for the IASPIS Open House, Spring 2016 (Friday, 18th of March, 2016), Stockholm. These are initial comments on specific artistic research methodologies and aims to examine certain contemporary debates around the Artist, (Post-) Internet and Capitalism. The ideas derive from interpretations on working methods perceived in particular artist’s practices.




1 Bratton, Benjamin: The Black Stack (, 2014)

2 Flusser, Vilém: Writings, ed. Andreas Ströhl (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002) 73-4.
3 Essoglou, Tracy Ann:  Lets Talk About The Debt Do For… Responses (, 2015)
4 Noys, Benjamin: The Art of Capital: Artistic Identity and the Paradox of Valorisation, ( ,, 2011)5 Troemel, Brad: Art After Social Media, ‘You Are Here - Art After the Internet’ ed. Omar Kholeif (Manchester/London: Conrner House /Space, 2014) 42.
6 Noys
7 Harman, Graham: Art & Paradox (, 2012)
8 Berger, John: Ways of Seeing (, BBC, 1972)9 Flusser, Vilém: Into the Universe of Technical Images (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002) 8-9.
10 Chan, Jennifer: Notes on Post-Internet, ‘You Are Here - Art After the Internet’ ed. Omar Kholeif (Manchester/London: Conrner House /Space, 2014) 110.
11 McHugh, Gene: Post Internet: notes on the Internet & Art (Brescia: Link Editions, 2011) 16.
12 Brassier, Ray: Prometheanism, ‘Accelerate: the Accelerationist Reader’ ed. Robin Mackay & Armen Avanessian (Falmouth: Urbanomic Media, 2014) 485.

Photos from recent Stockholm shows we have visited


Here is a collection of photographs from a number of exhibitions which we have enjoyed seeing in Stockholm over approximately the last month. If those who see this can, they should try and see these shows before they end. If not, one might still perhaps look out for some of these artists in the future.


VillarRojas2Adrián Villar Rojas at the Moderna Museet – a man inspects the side room installation of the exhibition during the opening


VillarRojas1The ‘transformed’ artefacts on the brightly lit staging of the main room


The Argentine artist Adrián Villar Rojas’s show Fantasma at the Moderna Museet appears like a new surreal, futuristic museum environment. The high-key lighting in the large square space has echoes of a set from Kubrick's 2001. Central to the space, raised to roughly eye-level on a large platform, are a collection of familiar and strange objects which appear to be in a state of flux. This work, and particularly the presentation of it, is both fascinating and appears to pose questions about ‘art’ itself, ownership, human progress and memory.


MAshow3A view from one of the exhibition rooms of The Royal Institute of Art’s (Kungl. Konsthögskolan) MA Graduation Exhibition 2015


MAshow2Hedda Viå comments on contemporary western ideology through adapting images and objects associated with advertising and consumerism


MAshow1Anna Taina-Nielsen – this image shows the artist as ‘worker’ in her performative work


The Royal Institute of Art’s (Kungl. Konsthögskolan) MA Graduation Exhibition, at Konstakademien on Fredsgatan (12), contains the work of 23 of their graduating students. The array of materials and techniques used in the show is in keeping with this institutions tradition for encouraging experimental, explorative practices. Works here utilise installation, performance, sculpture, video, painting, and photography. Much of the artworks have been devised in response to the exhibition and the historical associations of the venue used in staging it. Works question, embrace, critique and poke fun in equal measure, at much of art’s traditions and our modern society as a whole. All the works had their merits and areas of intrigue, but Hedda Viå, Éva Mag and Anna Taina-Nielsen caught our attention particularly. These practitioners artworks, all very different, either have a strong sociocritical dimension, in the case of Viå & Taina-Nielsen, or were visually arresting and presented to convey some interesting connotations about our western history, as Mag has done. However, overall this is a strong show and for those involved, I am sure we will see much more of their work again in the near future. 


Dono2The mechanical Oxymoronia by Heri Dono, from the show at Färgfabriken


Dono1Dono’s The Three Donosaurus at Färgfabriken


Heri Dono is probably Indonesia’s most renown contemporary artist and his exhibition Animachines, at Färgfabriken is a large scale showcase of his work. In the show, Dono gives a magnificently individual insight into the social and political history of his native country, through adapting some of their cultural traditions and imagery. Linking traditional Indonesian culture and animism with inspirations from cartoons and western art, Dono manages to create some unique imagery. Humour, colour, oddities, mechanics and interactive works (there are lots of buttons to press), make this show an entirely new and joyous experience. Absolutely not like anything you have seen before.


Dine1Jim Dine’s sculpture Lopper's Blue Dream, 2013, oil enamel on cast bronze; with the painting Pinocchio's Unhappiness About Those He Cares About, 2013, acrylic and sand on canvas; both at the Wetterling Gallery


An old favourite of ours is Jim Dine. This new work, Heart of Stone at the Wetterling Gallery focuses on the well known story of Pinocchio, with a collection of paintings and sculptures of the well-known ‘little wooden boy’, together with adjoining, found objects. In sticking with his ‘pop’ traditions, alongside this subject is a series of heart paintings, which give more than a slight nod to abstract expressionism and his 60’s contemporaries, Messrs Johns & Rauschenberg. This work is colourful, fun and continues to look at themes relating to reality, and of course it’s opposite(s), which have been a constant point of reference during Dine’s more than 5 decades as an exhibiting artist.


A link to Hasse Persson’s (Artistic Director) fine text for Heart of Stone can be found here



A Brief Introduction to Keith Harrison


Having been banned from the ceramics room on his first day of an Art Foundation course at Bournville, Keith Harrison understandably had no aspirations of becoming a ceramicist in his fledgling stages as a visual artist. However, it seems that this authoritarian experience probably challenged his innate perceptions of what this sort of practitioner could be and therefore led him to confront the conventional notions of fine art ceramics. As a result, this has become the key factor which underlies his work as an artist.


Harrison-3Keith Harrison standing on top of his work ‘Float’, 2011


Harrison was born in West Bromwich but grew up in Birmingham. He studied on a BA Industrial Design course in Cardiff; later switching to Ceramics, largely due to a course he completed during his initial BA. Following this, he undertook an MA in Ceramics and Glass at the RCA, where he graduated in 2002.

I am interested in the opportunities that clay offers in its different states; as a liquid, plastic and solid, and ultimately, the potential for the direct physical transformation of clay from a raw state utilising industrial and domestic electrical systems in a series of time-based public experiments.

The merging of ceramics with performance, ‘action’ and other forms of sculpture and installation, has allowed Harrison’s work to create and occupy a largely distinctive position within contemporary visual art. A vital attention of the work, which is referred to in the previous quote, is a temporal dimension that enables it to be structured and culminate around the delivery of an event, which is integral to the artist’s foremost sensibilities.

After his graduation in 2002, Keith developed various processes and ideas for a number of live public art events. These experimentations have utilised portable household appliances, audio equipment, materials, objects and systems associated with an industrial and domestic base, and the staging of live firings of his ceramic works. These have taken place in various venues such as a living room, science laboratory, café and not-for-profit artist run spaces in Brighton and London. ‘The physical transformation of clay from a raw state’ into something fixed and synthesised, is central to Harrison’s very intentionally somatic process of presentation.

Many large scale works have been produced for public galleries by using the given space to produce these site specific, time based works. Over recent years he has exhibited in venues such as the V&A, Jerwood Space, Camden Arts Centre and mima in Middlesbrough.


keith_harrison_grand‘Grand’ 2008, at the V&A, for his V&A Ceramics Artist in Residence, October 2012 – March 2013


His scrutinising of different conceptions of the firing process, led him to use unconventional heat generators, which began in 2007. In his work ‘20 Whittington Street’ at the Camden Arts Centre, A living room carpet made from chapatti bread dough and spices heated underneath until the smell became unbearable for the audience in the gallery space, was devised for the show. Another exhibit ‘Float’, commissioned for Jerwood Open Makers in 2011; a large piece that was the result of a sequence of smaller scale works and experiments involving sound, combined clay and electricity and included his works ‘Blue Monday/White Label’ (Landmark, Bergen, 2010), ‘Brother’ (mima, Middlesbrough, 2009) and ‘Grand’ (Permanent Gallery, Brighton, 2008).

The post-war, Brutalist architectural designs of 1950’s & 60’s are a major influence on Keith’s work. He has been especially intrigued by the colourful tower blocks found at the Bustleholme Estate in West Bromwich, near where he was born. Their tiled exteriors of bright blue and yellow make these large angular structures disconcerting. Connected to this is his interest in the architecture of Berthold Lubetkin and the Tecton group. Their design’s for animal enclosures at London, Whipsnade and Dudley Zoo tap into Harrison’s curiosity at the notion of ‘social observation of captive animals as a recreational pursuit’ and how this can be aligned with the performative nature of his own work.


Tower-BlocksThe buildings of the Bustleholme estate in West Bromwich, outside Birmingham, that Harrison's work has been informed by


On these sorts of post-war ‘social experiments’, as they are often labelled, and their architectural embodiments, Harrison comments: ‘I am interested in these buildings and more generally the radical social agenda for state architecture of the 1960's relating to comprehensive schools and housing.’ The political/social agenda within the work, which is unquestionably subtle, is still a central issue. An attention on the social arrangement of predominantly working class communities, the controlling, observing and monitoring of them, is a significant focus for the artist when placing some of the work’s subjects.

Harrison states that he wants his work to have a kind of ‘monumentality’ to it. The idea of destruction is always a part of this awareness too and how such seemingly permanent object and forms are actually temporal and can often be perceived archaic relatively quickly. His work ‘Float’ is a fitting example of these principles.


keith harrison & napalm deathThe speaker towers of the 'Bustleholme Project' and Napalm Death during their performance 


Perhaps Keith's now most infamous work was the 'Bustleholme Project'. This was the final proclamation of his residency at the V&A and a continuation of his work with the band Napalm Death, who also originate from the Birmingham area. Using the band's ferocious performance, Harrison had their audio blaze out from a speaker system built and designed by him. This system, the design of which was based on the towers at the Bustleholme estate, were mass rectangular objects with a large speaker system installed inside them; their exteriors tiled in the appropriate colours and placed in the middle of the De La Warr Pavilion auditorium. Naturally the objective was to see these objects begin to fall apart during the performance, largely due to the sheer force of the music emanating from them. However, this process was also helped by an individual who managed to enter the central space where the system was situated and begin to physically attack these structures. Although made for his V&A residency, the eventual Bexhill on Sea venue used for this live performance seemed highly fitting for both Harrison and the band. The stark post-modern design of the building and the bleak seaside landscape made this a decent match for both sound and vision.

What makes Keith Harrison’s work so intriguing and refreshing is that he is using and experimenting with clay in an ostensibly different way. He wants to investigate the potential responsiveness that this material has in different situations and states, and then allow people the chance to experience first-hand the processes and results of these events. The opposing concepts of creation and destruction is crucial to these projects and his inclusion of other objects and material established factors such as sound, heat, movement, smell etc., makes Harrison’s work brave, unpredictable and overtly multifaceted.

Keith Harrison and Napalm Death: 'Bustleholme' by Jared Schiller.