Forced Exposure

Yesterday evening, I received the news that I my proposal for Networked (a networked_book) about (networked_art) was accepted. The other finalists who will be writing essays will be Anne Helmond, Patrick Lichty, Anna Munster, and Marisa Olsen. This is really exciting for me. I’m fascinated by the opportunity to let one of my essays loose to be rewritten by the networked art public. This chapter will also feed the work I’m doing for my book on network culture, so it’s a good kick in the pants for me too. Thanks so much to Jo-Ann Green and Helen Turlington of, all of the members of the advisory committee, and the NEA for their support of the project.

Below is my (very slightly edited) proposal. I’m thinking that I’d like to put the project on the net early on, to solicit all your input even as its being sketched out, so you’re likely to hear a lot more about it soon.  


Forced Exposure:[1] Networks and The Poetics of Reality


The real has come to dominate cultural production, both high and low (those categories are more blurred than ever, if not nonexistent)—from reality television to blogs to MySpace to YouTube to the art gallery. But the new poetics of reality is not the same as the old model of realism. First emerging in the eighteenth century—especially in the form of the novel—realism was part of a new fascination with everyday—as opposed to courtly or idealized—life that also manifested itself in the newspaper. Associated with this was the rise of the authorial voice, the seemingly objective narration of the novelist or journalist. Authors constructed a reality assembled according to codes of “realism” for the public. Today, however, both novel and newspaper are in rapid decline, losing sales dramatically. So, too visual art now turns to reality-based forms of production. The codes of realism are being replaced by new codes of reality, constructed around immediacy, self-exposure, performance, and the remix of existing and self-generated content, using readily-available technology to directly engage the audience. But when I discuss realism as coded, I do not mean to say that “reality” media is not coded. Throughout the essay I will identify the codes deployed in “reality” media, be it reality TV, amateur-generated content, or professional “art.”

It is crucial to expand the boundaries of this investigation to go beyond just art that is produced for a small community to cultural production as a whole, high and low, online and not (if anything is not online today in some form). Thus, I am interested not only in what is on but also what is on television, on YouTube, or in the gallery. Looking only to cultural production found on the Internet ghettoizes that cultural production, isolating and thereby limiting our understanding of the impact of networks and easily accessible, powerful digital technology on culture as a whole. Network culture is not limited to technological developments or to “new media” but rather is a broad sociocultural shift much like postmodernity was in its day. Writing merely about the impact of these technologies by looking only at networked art today would be like looking only at video art to understand the impact of the television. In other words, although maturing digital and networking technologies are inseparable from contemporary culture—as the spectacle of the television was from postmodernity—they must be read within a larger context.

Along with the broadening of the influence of networks and digital means of cultural production past the scene, the turn to realism is very different from the sort of work done by the first generation. Artists such as Vuk Cosic, Jodi, Alexei Sholgun, and Heath Bunting made art that (often deliberately) resembled the graphic and programming demos found on cassette tapes and in computer magazines of the 1980, before computers left the realm of user groups and became broadly useful in society. Instead, the impact of digital technology and networks is much more pervasive and diffuse. Mark Leckey, to take one example, would not normally be seen as a net artist, but his work is thoroughly informed by the cultural turn I am looking at. His goal, as expressed in the video for his Tate prize nomination, describes the poetics of network culture in a nutshell: “to transform my world and make it more so, make it more of what it is.” Over the last few years, amateur-generated content has proliferated on the Internet, particularly in video sharing site YouTube and photo sharing sites like Flickr as well as on blogs. This essay will examine the rise of amateur-generated content as a form of cultural production while reflecting on its use by artists like Oliver Laric, who treats amateur videos as found media loops, or Daniel Eatock, who directly solicits contributions from his audience and posts them to his site. In this genre, as in network culture as a whole, we can see a key difference from postmodernist art: instead of the postmodernist promotion of a populist projection of the audience’s desires, today we have the production of art by the audience, a further blurring of boundaries between artist and public. 

[1] The title is an oblique reference to Forced Exposure magazine and the earlier DIY ethic and informal networks of subcultures, which would be covered as “prehistory” of this piece. I’d be delighted if people recognized it, but since they probably won’t, this should alleviate the mystery:


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I contributed a version of my essay on network culture to the catalog for Dispersion, a show currently on view at the ICA. I’m hoping to make it there before it closes, but do check it out if you’re in London.

    Anne Collier, Folded Madonna Poster (Steven Meisel), 2007. Courtesy the artist and Corvi-Mora, London.

    Anne Collier, Folded Madonna Poster (Steven Meisel), 2007. Courtesy the artist and Corvi-Mora, London.

    3 – 23, 27 – 30 Dec 2008, 2 Jan – 1 Feb 2009

    Henrik Olesen, Hito Steyerl, Seth Price, Anne Collier, Hilary Lloyd, Maria Eichhorn and Mark Leckey.

    Dispersion presents seven international artists who work with photography, film, video and performance. All of these artists explore the appropriation and circulation of images in contemporary society, examining the role of money, desire and power in our accelerated image economy – from the art market to the internet and art historical icons to pornography.

    The works in Dispersion often take the form of archives, histories or collections, sometimes adopting an anthropological approach. In many cases, they are characterised by an interest in feminism and gender politics in the realm of sexuality and sub-culture. All the works however are informed by personal or idiosyncratic narratives, exploring the role of subjectivity in the contemporary flow of imagery and capital.

    The title Dispersion is drawn from an essay written by participating artist Seth Price, which reflects on the role of ‘distributed media’ in avant-garde practice, from Duchamp to Conceptual Art. The exhibition has been curated for the ICA by Polly Staple, the recently appointed director of the Chisenhale, London and includes six gallery-based presentations as well as a special performance in the ICA Theatre.

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    for image disembodiment

    In my post on Lebbeus Woods, I suggested that architects might one day find themselves no longer making buildings. This may seem surprising, but we’re only at the dawn of network culture. We were under Fordism from the 1920s to the mid-1960s and under post-Fordism from the mid-1960s until about 2000. So no surprise that we have yet to see the full effects of this era. This essay from the photo blog "the Luminous Landscape" (must reading for photographers) suggests that just as film has faded into history, the print will too. As high definition screens exceed anything that print can do (this will come one day soon), why continue to valorize an outdated technology? 

    And why not? I already barely use my printer for my photographic work. It’s either printed in books and magazines or viewed on the Web. Can any gallery deliver the kind of recognition that Flickr can? Why own? Of course unless things go awry, high definition screens for viewing art will be open and works will soon be pirated and traded openly. You’ll be going to rapidshare to download the newest Gursky. Artists may protest that this is awful. But it isn’t, really, it’s just a different model of property that other fields, like music, have to deal with. 

    Property, it seems, is the last thing to invest in. 

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    here for alba

    I had the privilege of seeing Anish Kapoor’s work again today at the Gladstone Gallery in Chelsea.

    I was swept away by "Here for Alba," a convex shape a little reminiscent of a Richard Serra except in fiberglass. Entering into the shape, you are surrounded by a curved, reflective fiberglass surface (see above). The result, as at some of the best works I saw at Haus der Kunst in January, confounds your ability to focus, undoing your sense of vision completely. Again, as in my previous post on the his work, Kapoor intrigues me because of his ability to directly effect bodily reality. I highly recommend the show, now at both the 24th and 21st street Gladstone Galleries (I have not seen the latter).   



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    the creative class

    If the creative class is now the dominant target for advocates of urban growth who argue that it is the engine of future economic growth, where does that leave the avant-garde? I’m such a Hegelian, but doesn’t this mean we’re done with the avant-garde once and for all? 


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    I’m in Munich for the DLD-Conference, moderating a panel with Richard Saul Wurman, Patrik Schumacher, Charles Renfro and Bjarke Ingels. Yesterday we had the opportunity to visit the Anish Kapoor show at the Haus der Kunst. The intensity of works like his 1999 Yellow struck me. I had never seen these in person before and I was utterly overwhelmed by the power of color. I don’t mean this metaphorically, I mean this literally. The color was so intensely saturated that I couldn’t look at it for too long and when I looked away, I was still left with the after-effects of the color. It was like staring into the sun

    yellow anish kapoor

    This led me to thinking how the Kapoor relates to Network Culture. I am spending more time expanding on the argument in that essay this year and, if I had earlier pointed to a fascination with reality, in the form of remix and documentary, as the defining factor of art under Network Culture, how could Kapoor’s Yellow fit into my framework? 

    Kapoor's Yellow, installed

    First, to mark off certain works as "art", artists under Network Culture are more obsessed than ever with technique. The idea that "I could have done that" is implausible in the best work, such as the salon-painting sized photographs in the incredible "On the Beach" exhibit by Richard Misrach or Kapoor. But more than that, in Kapoor (and indeed, in the abstract photos of that exhibit by Misrach), there is another level of reality introduced: a bodily reality that harkens back to the days of Op Art.

    Kapoor is not representing reality, he sets out to control it. You are no longer a viewer looking at a discreet work in this space. In Deleuzean terms, this is affect, beyond representation or subjectivity. Instead, the work’s impact is total as it delivers a knock-out punch. Saturation, it seems, is reality.

    Should you be at DLD while you are reading this, go see the show which ends tonight. I hope to make it back at 6.30 for a special walk-through. Drop me a line if you intend to see it.   

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    bas jan ader

    Artist Bas Jan Ader has always been important to AUDC. Thus, we noted with delight the Web site dedicated to his work, with an impressive video-driven interface (hard to imagine I would ever say that I like a video-driven Web interface, but that reminds me that I do need to revisit the interface to this site over winter break even as the lack of comment to my earlier post suggested that most of my dear readers do what I do and use RSS to browse blogs, avoiding visiting them entirely…).

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    miltos manetas paints cables

    Yes, I am a decade late with this post. Nevertheless, check out the work of Miltos Manetas, in particular his classic paintings of cables. Manetas’s still lives of network culture underscore the physicality of our virtual world.

    manetas cables

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    little people

    Slinkachu's Little People – A Tiny Street Art Project, is immediately captivating. But it also has a deeper resonance for me. Left out in the streets of London, these people are, quite literally doomed, unless brought home by a caring stranger. But this isn't a project about alienation to me as much as about self-sacrifice. The sacrifice these little people make leads me to think of our own desire to lose ourselves in the world (see my previous post about Jordan Crandall's showing). This makes me think a bit about Internet spammers too, blindly casting out their emails into a world that doesn't care, that ignores them as much as possible. I've noticed that over the course of the last year, more and more spam is utter nonsense, even verging on dadaist poetry. What drives us to lose ourselves in a larger whole?

    tiny street art

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