“Netmares” was like a surfing club but focused on the more mystical and darker side of the net. Though not, like the dark web – more like if you were a 15 year old goth and collecting images, but in a good way.
Once a thriving and highly distributed metropolis of citizens and users from all ages and backgrounds, Geocities found itself in the space of less than a decade outdated, accused of nostalgia and of an infantile history better forgotten. The aesthetics and customs that had evolved in parallel were no longer capable of tolerating its presence.
In April 2009 an announcement was posted online. Yahoo! a once benevolent landowner of this kingdom had chosen to purge every settlement without exception – eradicating without a moment of thought for preservation an entire culture. Leaving in its wake but a few caring and diligent librarians with the task of urgent preservation.
Efforts still continue to this day to restore and maintain the fragments of this once thriving civilisation most notably ArchiveTeam, Olia Lialina and Dragan Espenschied and InternetArchaeology.org.
Ryan Trecartin’s work might strike many as passé – so 2009! – given that a new ‘generation’ of artists has emerged in the last few years, expanded the space for ‘digital’ work within the main channels of contemporary art, where Trecatin was a more lonely figure a half-decade ago. Indeed, he is now something of an establishment figure in the field, as far as such a thing exists, acting as co-curator of The New Museum’s 2015 Triennial. Indeed, some are already likely to see his work as being principally of ‘historical’ significance rather than as an active creative concern. Yet, this might in itself be symptomatic of the accelerated tempo of social media trends, where the rise and fall of critical currency mirrors the lifecycle of memes; something from which the art world is hardly insulated in an era of Contemporary Art Daily, e-flux newsfeeds, Facebook pages for exhibition openings and YouTube trailers for museum shows. Indeed, Trecartin’s work arguably has relevance beyond the half-life of fashion precisely because it directly engages – or rather over-performs – the manic, non-stop, media-stacked, multi-channeled, attention-deficient-inducing temporalities of the contemporary social-media landscape, and the patterns of subjective breakdown, proliferation and vicarious ‘rebirths’ which it demands/allows. Trecartin seems to approach the contemporary psycho-media complex by way of a sort of immanent overload – an over-identification with media-saturated modes of online subjectification, one marked by an exponential intensification of the strategies of ‘mimetic exacerbation’ familiar from Dada. His films cast the cacophonous simultaneity of images and voices familiar from early twentieth century avant-garde strategies of collage and montage in to the screen-space of pop-up windows, chat boxes, messages alerts and break-ups via Skype, in order to more intensely inhabit the emo world of online self-realization narratives, wish-fulfillment avatars and webcam cosplay. Whilst his films seem to push certain tendencies within online self-presentation and social-media relations in the direction of a claustrophobic web dystopia – a Hieronymus Bosch-like digital clusterfuck – Trecartin also importantly presents these media platforms as sites for the intensification of subjective experimentation, his films dissolving and remodeling gender and sexual identities in a way that hollows out any remnants of essentialism without evacuating power from (often traumatic) processes of subjectification.
I can still remember my first, visceral encounters with his films in 2009, fittingly experienced hunched over a laptop in bed, rather than in the more spacious confines of a gallery or museum. Even then UbuWeb (perhaps problematically) granted Trecartin a place within its archival canon as a sort of ‘instant classic’, but his work remains prescient in its hyperbolic embodiment of the relationship between contemporary digital technologies and subjectivity.
I never thought this day would come: Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg responds to the cringeworthy representations of women in stock photography (also see Women Laughing Alone with Salad http://womenlaughingalonewithsalad.tumblr.com/) and commissions her own series of stock photos depicting women via her philanthropic organization Lean In. While the Lean In stock photos improve characterizations of women to some extent, Michael Connor of Rhizome has written a balanced critique of the project, noting how class privilege has replaced sexism in the Lean In series. http://rhizome.org/editorial/2014/feb/11/getty-images-still-kinda-sexist/