Digital material is never natural. It is either generated or repurposed, and always pre-inscribed with meaning. It settles in sediments, turning the Web into a veritable billboard land: a frenetic free market in which corporations, private citizens, and fictional conglomerates all wave their own signs. It is a landscape rich with fiction, contradictions, and disjuncture. The new quickly becomes obsolete, and the old is continually revived. Internet-based montage, the assemblage of distinct materials into a new whole, is therefore both an inevitable and perpetual accident and an emerging, illuminating art form.
As the fourth layer of "Unmonumental," an exhibition that explores the contemporary appropriation and reinvention of collage techniques, "Montage: Unmonumental Online" frames Internet-based assemblage as part of a shared, historical discourse, and yet specific to a particular landscape. Cutting and pasting, breaking apart and reassembling, ripping and remixing, the artists in the exhibition extend the radical practice of collage to the Internet and demonstrate how previously tried techniques can engender rich, new artistic practices. True to the copy-and-paste culture in which they work, and through the incorporation of found digital images, sound, video, or code, these artists interpret collective desires, frustrations, and fantasies recited online. As exemplified in John Michael Boling's Three Way Guitar Solo (2006), three side-by-side YouTube videos of men playing electric guitar, or Oliver Laric's 50 50 (2007), which interlaces fifty video re-enactments of the rap icon 50 Cent's songs, or Cao Fei's provocative documentary of life in a virtual world, these works do not critique mass culture, but rather its consumption, internalization, and performance.
"Montage: Unmonumental Online" demonstrates how the field of Internet-based art has become a vast, diverse, nuanced one-a field that responds to new forms of commerce, identity, and culture, and creates a critical space within a burgeoning new medium.