There Are No Post-Internet Artists

Artie Vierkant writes, in “The Image Object Post-Internet,” that “in the Post-Internet climate, it is assumed that the work of art lies equally in the version of the object one would encounter at a gallery or museum, the images and other representations disseminated through the internet and print publications, bootleg images of the object or its representations, and variations on any of these as edited and recontextualized by any other author.”

The interesting thing about this statement is not that Vierkant believes that the internet is changing our assumptions about art (who wouldn’t believe that?), but rather that he still believes that art has an essence, and he thinks the world at large still believes that too. The “aura” may be distributed, but it is still something we can talk about; there may be no “original copy” for objects after the internet… but apparently we still believe in objects.

It is assumed,” he states, without feeling the need to specify any particular persons. But I would challenge that universal claim. Who are these people, Post-Internet, with their Twitters and their Tumblrs and their infinite binary-coded sequence of appropriations and reappropriations who are thinking at all about “the work of art” to begin with? Where is the "object" in a network of images that have been spliced and photoshoped through a million iterations by a million people on a million different machines?

When net art was a thing, it was still possible to view the internet as a kind of medium, a viscous fluid that one might mold to make “art” just as well as anything else. Marisa Olson’s early works, with all their juvenile enthusiasm, could still be thought of as created by someone particular for some special purpose that was linked to our white cubes, even if only because of how net art positioned itself in opposition to those same cubes.

But in the Post-Internet, where artworks supposedly exist both offline and online—even though “offline” itself no longer exists—the very notion of “artwork” is only a meme, just like everything else, and the idea of a “distributed aura” is not revolutionary, but quaint and naive. Google Images has no filter for “Art Object,” distributed or otherwise. Post-Internet artists seek to make relevant art that embraces our present situation in the “Age of Internet,” but they are already making art about the past. Or rather, if they had existed, the art they would have made would have been about the past. There are no Post-Internet artists.

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