“Real Live Online” is a web-based exhibition that brings together new works of live and documented net performance by eight artists and collectives. The exhibition begins at 10 a.m. on Monday, December 21, 2015, with IDPW’s twenty-four-hour live-streamed participatory sleepover Internet Bedroom. New works will be presented on an ongoing basis through January 21, 2016.
The exhibition considers performance as an expansive category that includes many aspects of everyday internet usage, from live-streaming gameplay to online relationships. In some cases, the featured works highlight the political and economic inequalities at play in these practices, such as João Enxuto and Erica Love’s Waiting for the Internet (2015), which surveys the waiting room of an overcrowded public library Atlanta where basic internet access requires a long wait. In other cases, the artists propose new forms of online performance, from a live stream of sleeping participants in IDPW’s Internet Bedroom (2015) to the networked ancestral rituals of Manuel Arturo Abreu’s Servicio Digital a Papá Legba (2015).
In the words of the curators, Lucas G. Pinheiro and Devin Kenny, the exhibition as a whole portrays the internet “as a performative, malleable, and contradictory platform for political and artistic experimentation.” Though it is characterized by unequal power relationships, the internet can still be mobilized by its users for performative aesthetic, political, and social projects, and, through these processes, it can ultimately be reimagined.
The Internet Bedroom
December 21, 2015
A live stream in which participants, spread across the globe, sleep in shifts over twenty-four hours. According to the artists, this project creates a community that is connected through sleep, and functions outside of language, with the playful hope of seeing “a dream of electric sheep grazing with bots.”
Technical assistance for this project is provided by Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media [YCAM]
Waiting For The Internet
This video observes patrons waiting to access the internet at the Central Public Library in downtown Atlanta. This Central Library, designed in 1969 and finally completed in 1980, was the last built project by Bauhaus-trained architect Marcel Breuer. On the morning of November 25, 2015, the wait for a free computer station at the Central Library was 40 minutes. This video documents that wait.
Contra-Internet Inversion Practice #1: Constituting an Outside (Utopian Plagiarism)
This video begins with the familiar interface of the Macintosh OS X desktop, with only one folder shown, labeled "contra-internet." The user clicks over to iTunes, plays the song "Get Off the Internet" by Le Tigre, and then opens a series of PDFs of theoretical and political treatises, copying and pasting selected passages into a new text document and then using the find and replace feature to rewrite their meaning. Texts by J.K. Gibson-Graham, Fredric Jameson, Paul B. Preciado, and Subcomandante Marcos that originally opposed economic and sexual hegemony are repurposed as part of a manifesto against the internet itself, critiquing its logic and suggesting possible alternatives.
Antonym of Direction in the Curiosity Gap
Text from the artist's everyday online conversations were repurposed as the script for this absurdist play. The play was read aloud for the first time, on camera, by Real Live Online curators Lucas G. Pinheiro and Devin Kenny. Throughout the performance, Ahmed stood with her back to the camera, conducting internet searches based on words in the script. A screen recording of this online activity is embedded within the video documentation of their cold reading. The video documentation and hyperlinked script can be viewed at antonymofdirectioninthecuriositygapaoneactplaybyshireenahmed.com.
The artist notes that "Language spoken through and from the web becomes full of ambiguous possibility, but also sterile, a sad sort of neutral, the kind of contentment that traps."
Live performances at noon on January 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14.
Since 2013, Chang has documented himself playing Tetris on the Nintendo Game Boy 1,555 times in an effort to become the world's number one player. (Chang is currently in second place, while Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak is in sixth). Chang archives each gameplay video on his site, gameboytetris.com. From January 10-14, Chang will livestream his efforts to earn the world record each day at noon on the front page of Rhizome.org.
The Annals of Private History
Amalia Ulman's The Annals of Private History takes the form of an illustrated, subtitled lecture outlining a liberally fictionalized history of the diary for a viewer who is issued occasional instructions: "Lift your right leg. Lift your left arm straight to the sky."
In Ulman's telling, diary-keeping is historically demarcated as a feminine practice. Held under lock and key, the contents of the diary (which might include discussions of rape and complex social and emotional issues) were kept safely out of public discourse, out of the sight of patriarchs who felt vexed by the thoughts and ideas of young women. "Diaries," according to the video's narrator, "are swallowed by the beds girls write their journals from."
The lecture goes on to consider the practice of the diary in the age of Tumblrs and vlogs, which partly threaten the diary's enclosure from public discourse, even if practitioners sometimes continue to think of their blog as a private context. Following a collage of voices culled from vlogs about plastic surgery and pregnancy, the narrator concludes,
The least documented thing is the most interesting, but it is gone faster, forgotten and erased forever, like it never happened. And mistakes, same mistakes again, always the same mistakes for ever.
The cover of shawné michaelain holloway's just-released album "BROWSER COMPOSITIONS: 3 UNRELEASED SELECTIONS is a gradient that fades, top to bottom, from white to black, an image that suits the music's dark tone. Discordant synth is layered with rhythmically looping samples and keyboard noodling; Solaris-style soundscapes give way to feedback loops that reach eardrum-blowing crescendos.
Though they draw on the highly fetishized sound of the synthesizer, these works were primarily made using the most accessible of instruments, a web browser. Holloway makes use of tools such as WebSID, a Commodore 64 synthesizer reimagined for Google Chrome, and Audio Sauna, a web-based production system that includes adaptations of several analog synthesizers. Source material was drawn from repositories such as freesound.org, the massive online archive of Creative Commons-licensed audio samples.
Tracks are titled after the default filename assigned to each audio capture by holloway's operating system, which highlights their status as unedited, on-the-fly recordings. And while listening to compositions like System Audio 20151130 1439.wav, it is easy to feel connected to a human performer on the other side of the recording, as they browse, listen, improvise, and tickle the onscreen ivories.
January 21, 2016.
Devin Kenny & Lucas G. Pinheiro
Writing in the late 1970s, Michel Benamou identified performance as the dominant characteristic of postmodern society—a cultural landscape where everything performs. Technology performs, the news performs, art objects perform, poetry performs, politics performs, and, most critically, we all perform, be it gender, race, sexuality, class, or any other expression of politicized identity that we enact.
Today, the internet has transformed capital’s age-old demand for ubiquitous performance into a twenty-four-seven reality. Users are constantly asked to produce and consume content, update software, respond to notifications, earn ratings, click, share, like. And yet our capacity to imagine and perform possible alternatives—to pursue love, political projects, social connection, community, and self-determination—has not been exhausted.
“Real Live Online” brings together eight new works of internet performance by artists who explore the form’s social, aesthetic, and political deployment within contemporary relations of production. Even where they highlight the limitations of the internet, the works reaffirm our enduring endeavor to defy the web’s protocological pressures, mobilizing its possibilities for collectivity against its imperatives of control.
The temporality of labor on the present-day web is dramatized in works by João Enxuto and Erica Love and by Rutherford Chang. Enxuto and Love’s Waiting for the Internet (2015) is a fixed-frame durational video that surveys the waiting area of an overcrowded computer lab in an underfunded downtown Atlanta library. In a long and largely static shot, the video registers the waiting time necessary to access a machine. Chang’s Game Boy Tetris (2015) also meditates on the theme of extreme endurance over time; this long-running work documents Chang’s obsessive and unrelenting goal to become the world’s leading player of the eponymous game (Chang is currently in second place, while Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak is in sixth). The work is presented in the exhibition as an online archive and live streamed performance.
Other works consider the live stream as a space for spiritual and personal connection, at once acting as a temple and a bedroom for the rituals of worship, culture, and everyday life. In Internet Bedroom (2015), the Japanese collective IDPW live streams a group of participants, spread across the globe, as they sleep in shifts over twenty-four hours. According to the artists, this project creates a community that is connected through sleep, and functions outside of language, with the playful hope of seeing “a dream of electric sheep grazing with bots.” In Servicio Digital a Papá Legba (2015), Manuel Arturo Abreu transforms the web into a platform for spiritual and bodily transcendence in a digital, live streamed adaptation of a Dominican Vudú service for Papá Legba, the omniglot intermediary to the spirits of the Vudú pantheon. Arturo Abreu invokes Legba by using the internet as a portal to connect with their ancestors.
The web is incorporated as raw material in performances by Shireen Ahmed and shawné michaelain holloway. Ahmed’s Antonym of Direction in the Curiosity Gap One Act Play (2015) takes dialogue typical of an online relationship and transposes it to a theatrical setting, where it is recited by amateur actors. Meanwhile, Ahmed augments the staging by sourcing images, audio, and video from the internet in response to key words in the dialogue, projecting the results onto the actors’ bodies and playing it back in the space, in real time, as they perform. holloway’s BROWSER COMPOSITIONS: 3 UNRELEASED SELECTIONS (2015) is an improvised, live streamed electronic music performance pulling from sound art, DJ culture, and musique concrète. In the work, holloway creates musical compositions in browser windows, mixing online synthesizers as well as free and found audio samples playing on multiple tabs to produce a layered composition.
Finally, illustrated lectures by Zach Blas and Amalia Ulman, staged in the private space of the artists’ computer desktops, show the intermingling of personal narratives with larger histories. Ulman’s The Annals of Private History (2015) considers social media as the continuation of the female-gendered practice of diarykeeping, now brought into public discourse and made more potent in the process. In contrast, Blas’s Contra-Internet Inversion Practice #1: Constituting an Outside (Utopian Plagiarism) (2015) takes a darker view of the internet. Probing its military roots and its perceived hegemony over all aspects of society, Blas urges viewers to consider how the internet itself might be reimagined, concluding (in a line adapted from Zapatista literature) that “IN OUR DREAMS we have seen another network, an honest network, a network decidedly more fair than the one in which we now live.”
Together, the works in this exhibition summon an image of the web as a performative, malleable, and contradictory platform for political and artistic experimentation, marked as much by the promise of subversive action as by the constraints of power structures. Throughout the course of this show, these conflicting forces play out as the internet mutates to the extent that it performs. With each piece, the web is reworked: from a platform for spiritual and ordinary rituals to a testament to our endurance as gamers and workers; from a digital time warp where we wait, and then sleep to a tube and telescreen where we watch and are watched; and from a surfable archive of moving images to an index of the historical present, culminating in a looping live feed of recorded real time.
"Real Live Online" is copresented by Rhizome and the New Museum as part of First Look: New Art Online, and curated by Devin Kenny and Lucas G. Pinheiro.
Major support for First Look is provided by the Neeson/Edlis Artist Commissions Fund. Additional support is provided by the New York State Council on the Arts, the Toby Devan Lewis Emerging Artists Exhibitions Fund, and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.