By Liz Trosper
Producing artwork in a physical display space is one of the most critical skills for a professional artist to nail down. As a painter, certain presentation variables are traditionally assumed to be given - format (2-dimensions), materials (e.g., canvas, linen, panel, paper, etc.) and hardware (D-rings, pins, frames, etc.). Within those assumed constraints, one may undertake any number of variations on subject matter, style, medium, etc.
The matrix of considerations is more complex for digital works. In a way, the pathway to making has become more accessible with open-source programs which easily facilitate drawing, photographic processes and algorithmic making. While making digital works has become cheaper, the means of display (e.g., high-quality projectors, flatscreens, etc.) have become more expensive, limiting the ability of students or emerging artists to truly experiment with physical display of their work.
In a recent Art in America article titled “The Perils of Post-Internet Art,” Brian Droitcour terms Post-Internet “a hazy contemporary condition and the idea of art being made in the context of digital technology.” He goes on, “The Post-Internet art object looks good in a browser just as laundry detergent looks good in a commercial. Detergent isn't as stunning at a laundromat, and neither does Post-Internet art shine in the gallery. It's boring to be around. It's not really sculpture. It doesn't activate space. It's often frontal, designed to preen for the camera's lens. It's an assemblage of some sort, and there's little excitement in the way objects are placed together, and nothing is well made except for the mass-market products in it.”
Droitcour’s statement reinforces the idea that an important part of getting an artwork right is creating an electrifying in-person viewing experience. The main critique that Droitcour has for Post-Internet art is that it is boring when experienced in person, and perhaps its better left online. I believe that he’s really just begging Post-Internet artist’s to think more about the in-person viewer experience. For example, former CentralTrak resident Shawn Mayer makes work that is meant to be experienced digitally. His installations, however, are all about in-person experience -- with people sitting in specific chairs or laying on a mattress on the gallery floor, inviting them into a new place between his personal world and the digital world.
Images of an installation on the net or in print are only surrogates for real experience as intended by the artist. Recently, artist Alison Jardine and I undertook an experimental installation at CentralTrak called Empires of Dirt. The piece combined video and installation to create a room within a room. From this experience, I realized that creating an interesting viewing experience is one of the most important, and the most imperiled, part of realizing the artwork, legitimizing Droitcour’s criticisms.