Art in the
Age of the
Internet
Performing the Self
Arrow left
Arrow left
Alex Bag, Untitled Fall ‘95 (still), 1995. Courtesy the artist and Team Gallery, New York. © Alex Bag
Alex Bag, Untitled Fall ‘95 (still), 1995. Courtesy the artist and Team Gallery, New York. © Alex Bag
Alex Bag, Untitled Fall ‘95 (still), 1995. Courtesy the artist and Team Gallery, New York. © Alex Bag
Alex Bag, Untitled Fall ‘95 (still), 1995. Courtesy the artist and Team Gallery, New York. © Alex Bag
Alex Bag, Untitled Fall ‘95 (still), 1995. Courtesy the artist and Team Gallery, New York. © Alex Bag
Alex Bag, Untitled Fall ‘95 (still), 1995. Courtesy the artist and Team Gallery, New York. © Alex Bag

Alex Bag

Untitled Fall '95

1995

Video (color, sound; 57:00 minutes)

Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York

In Untitled Fall ’95, Bag films herself playing the role of an art student at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York. The video follows the trajectory of a young woman recording a video diary of her experience as a student at SVA, from her freshman year to her final semester, punctuated by sometimes strange and humorous vignettes and different stereotypes of artists. Bag’s confessional mode of address and a medium close-up camera angle has strong roots in pop culture—especially from the MTV reality show The Real World (first broadcast in 1992)—and is now ubiquitous across reality TV, social media, and online videos.

Wu Tsang, Shape of a Right Statement (still), 2008. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin. © Wu Tsang

Wu Tsang

Shape of a Right Statement

2000

Video (color, sound; 5:00 minutes)

Courtesy the artist and Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin

Tsang’s Shape of a Right Statement uses a confessional mode of direct address to convey a sense of earnestness and intimacy. The artist stares at the camera, employing what she calls “full body quotation”—using a hidden audio source and relating the voice and intonations heard mimetically—to perform a manifesto written by autism rights activist Amanda Baggs about the inherent difficulties of communication. Tsang narrates in a monotone baritone voice that approximates Baggs’s speech-synthesizing software. Tsang admits, “I really have no business speaking [Baggs’s] voice. But there is a relationship to some ideas that I’ve felt connected to, which is how language can confine us, but how we can also use it to break free.”

Cindy Sherman, Untitled #463, 2007–08. Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures, New York. © Cindy Sherman

Cindy Sherman

Untitled #463

2007-08

Chromogenic color print

68 ⅝ × 72 inches (174.2 × 182.9 cm)

Collection of John and Amy Phelan, New York

 

Since the 1970s, Cindy Sherman has transformed her own appearance with costumes, makeup, and wigs, photographing self-created fictional characters in staged environments that predate the now-ubiquitous selfie. In Untitled #463, she questions the female stereotypes and archetypes that proliferate in pop culture. According to Sherman, this photograph “was inspired by the idea of party photos seen so often where people, desperate to show off their status and connections, excitedly pose to have their picture taken with larger-than-life-sized smiles and personalities. I started to think about some of the characters—how they’re older women and if they are successful, maybe they’re not really happy. Maybe they’ve been divorced, or they’re in an unhappy marriage, but because of the money, they’re not going to get out. That’s what I was thinking—that there’s something more below the surface that you can’t really see.”

Arrow left
Arrow left
Frances Stark, My Best Thing (still), 2011. Courtesy the artist and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York/ Rome. © Frances Stark
Frances Stark, My Best Thing (still), 2011. Courtesy the artist and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York/ Rome. © Frances Stark
Frances Stark, My Best Thing (still), 2011. Courtesy the artist and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York/ Rome. © Frances Stark
Frances Stark, My Best Thing (still), 2011. Courtesy the artist and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York/ Rome. © Frances Stark
Frances Stark, My Best Thing (still), 2011. Courtesy the artist and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York/ Rome. © Frances Stark
Frances Stark, My Best Thing (still), 2011. Courtesy the artist and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York/ Rome. © Frances Stark

Frances Stark

My Best Thing

2011

Video (color, sound; 100 minutes)

Courtesy the artist and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York/Rome

My Best Thing is a feature-length animated video that uses two computer-generated avatars to revisit the relationships Stark formed with two Italian men she met while trolling video sex chat sites online. The avatars reenact the archived conversations the artist had with the men—ranging from private and emotional to sexually explicit. “I got fascinated by feeling so intensely for people I didn’t know,” Stark describes. “One of the things that made the intimacy possible was the fact that there was no interest or expectation in gauging the ‘realness’ of knowing each other. There was no real need to ever think about what might happen in real life. So that was a contract that shaped the possibility for the closeness or openness.” The online forum lent a sense of freedom to her interactions: “I was performing myself,” Stark said, “being myself but on a keyboard.”

Arrow left
Arrow left
DIS, Watermarked (still), 2012. Courtesy the artists and Project Native Informant, London. © DIS
DIS, Watermarked (still), 2012. Courtesy the artists and Project Native Informant, London. © DIS
DIS, Watermarked (still), 2012. Courtesy the artists and Project Native Informant, London. © DIS
DIS, Watermarked (still), 2012. Courtesy the artists and Project Native Informant, London. © DIS

DIS

Watermarked

2012

HD video (color, sound; 2:11 minutes)

Courtesy the artists and Project Native Informant, London

The collective DIS deploys commercial and stock photography to question how identities are formed in the digital era. Made as a promotional video for the fashion brand Kenzo, Watermarked parodies prevalent corporate image culture and aesthetics. The Kenzo watermark in the center of the screen suggests that this lifestyle can be yours too, but if only you buy Kenzo attire. The cast’s racial diversity parodies the well-known United Colors of Benetton ads, suggesting a disingenuous image of pluralism. This video speaks to the lure of aspirational lifestyle marketing, and how it has culturally conditioned us to fashion ourselves according to the corporate lifestyles marketed to us. 

dis.art

Arrow left
Arrow left
Frank Benson, Juliana (detail), 2014–15. Courtesy the artist and Andrew Kreps, New York. © Frank Benson
Frank Benson, Juliana, 2014–15. Courtesy the artist and Andrew Kreps, New York. © Frank Benson
Frank Benson, Juliana (detail), 2014–15. Courtesy the artist and Andrew Kreps, New York. © Frank Benson

Frank Benson

Juliana

2014-15

Painted bronze with Corian pedestal

Sculpture: 23 × 48 × 22 inches (58.4 × 121.9 × 55.9 cm)

Pedestal: 42 × 53 × 24 inches (106.7 × 134.6 × 61 cm)

Koons Collection, New York

Benson’s Juliana, made with the aid of 3-D printing technology, captures artist Juliana Huxtable in exquisite detail. Made in close collaboration with Huxtable, Benson finished the sculpture with a metallic green paint inspired by Huxtable’s 2015 self-portrait, Untitled in the Rage (Nibiru Cataclysm) (on view in this gallery), giving the classic bronze sculpture a digital, or machine finish. Benson’s Juliana is presented in idealized, hyperrealistic detail—her pose references classical representations of the female body throughout art history. For Benson, the 3-D modeling technology and its existence in digital space is on par with the physically rendered sculpture: “I want the sculpture to exist as a completely finished entity inside the computer,” the artist explains. “The 3-D model is its ultimate version and the print is the real-world manifestation of it.” After its inclusion in the New Museum’s 2015 exhibition Surround Audience in New York, the sculpture became a social media phenomenon and an icon for some members of the trans community. Its digital origins, transformed into physical form and translated back to the digital realm via social media, are emblematic of how circulated images can have immense power.

Arrow left
Arrow left
Martine Syms, Lessons I–LXVIII (still), 2014–17. Courtesy the artist and Bridget Donahue, New York. © Martine Syms
Martine Syms, Lessons I–LXVIII (still), 2014–17. Courtesy the artist and Bridget Donahue, New York. © Martine Syms
Martine Syms, Lessons I–LXVIII (still), 2014–17. Courtesy the artist and Bridget Donahue, New York. © Martine Syms
Martine Syms, Lessons I–LXVIII (still), 2014–17. Courtesy the artist and Bridget Donahue, New York. © Martine Syms
Martine Syms, Lessons I–LXVIII (still), 2014–17. Courtesy the artist and Bridget Donahue, New York. © Martine Syms
Martine Syms, Lessons I–LXVIII (still), 2014–17. Courtesy the artist and Bridget Donahue, New York. © Martine Syms

Martine Syms

Lessons I–LXVIII

2014-17

Videos (color, sound; sixty-eight parts, each 00:00:30 minutes)

Courtesy the artist and Bridget Donahue, New York

Syms’s series Lessons combines found footage mined mostly online, images and video from her personal archive, and original footage, to construct thirty-second commercials. The lessons “range in tone and texture,” Syms describes, “but each one explores the idea of black radical tradition—as much in terms of the way I was making it—the process—as the content that was within it.” This work takes as a point of departure the five lessons in Kevin Young’s book, The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness (2012), which argues that African American culture is American culture. Through the short format of the videos and their presentation on a monitor in front of a wall painting of the word “SUSS”—a compressed textual and graphical expression of the work made for the ICA—Syms examines black cultural politics, commercial media, and the multivalent performance of identity.

Amalia Ulman, Excellences & Perfections (Instagram Update, 27th May 2014), (Matching!!), 2015. Courtesy the artist and Arcadia Missa, London. © Amalia Ulman

Amalia Ulman

Excellences & Perfections (Instagram Update, 27th May 2014), (Matching!!)

2015

From the series Excellences & Perfections, 2015

Performance; Chromogenic color print

49 ½ × 49 ½ × 1 ⅛ inches (125 × 125 × 3 cm)

Collection of Kristen Joy Watts, New York

For her series Excellences & Perfections, Amalia Ulman changed her persona on the social media platforms Facebook and Instagram. Lithe and female, a cross between reality star Kendall Jenner and an aspirational Kim Kardashian, she publicly and suddenly began to make radical shifts in her appearance and her life, including plastic surgery, excessive shopping, and dieting. As she attracted a large online following (many of whom were male), salacious, insidious, and aggressive comments were made to the artist. After four months, Ulman halted this process and revealed it to her 89,244 followers as a performance. According to Ulman, “the idea [with this work] was to experiment with fiction online using the language of the internet.” 

Juliana Huxtable, Untitled (Casual Power), 2015. Courtesy Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. © Juliana Huxtable

Juliana Huxtable

Untitled (Casual Power)

2015

Inkjet print

40 × 30 inches (101.6 × 76.2 cm)

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

Purchased with funds contributed by Stephen J. Javaras, 2015

Huxtable is a multidisciplinary artist who engages visual art, poetry, music, and performance across a range of platforms to push against and destabilize the restrictive boundaries traditionally assigned to categories such as gender and ethnicity. “My adulthood was liberated by social media,” explains Huxtable. “It became as integral to my sense of self and psychosocial reality as my flesh. At this point, I feel like I am always living as a hybrid of my online presence and my IRL [in real life] presence. I used to feel a bit powerless, and it was actually through playing with my body as an image file that could be manipulated, distorted, rendered, decorated, and placed in new contexts that I came to accept and feel at home in my body as it is currently, but also to imagine how it might move into the future.” For Untitled (Casual Power), Huxtable creates a provocative visual poem composed of references to various places, people, and cultural signifiers that relate to African American identity. 

Celia Hempton, David, Florida, USA, 28th September 2015, 2015. Courtesy the artist and Southard Reid, London. Photo by Lewis Ronald. © Celia Hempton

Celia Hempton

David, Florida, USA, 28th September 2015

2015

Oil on linen 

11 ¾ × 13 ¾ inches (30 × 35 cm) 

Courtesy the artist and Southard Reid, London

In Hempton’s series of Chat Paintings, the artist painted—in real time—the people she met on chatrandom.com, “a place where you can meet strangers using your webcam,” according to the website. While her male subjects expose themselves on screen, Hempton makes gestural paintings of them, artworks that engage themes of exhibitionism, voyeurism, and the performativity of sexuality in virtual interactions. According to the artist, “There’s an interesting type of interaction that happens online, where there’s a level of mystery or it’s difficult to understand what’s real and what’s not real—because you’re not sat in front of someone. You don’t have all your senses helping you make a decision or judgment about someone, so you’re given very little and you end up imagining various things. There’s also an intimacy that you can get.” 

Celia Hempton, United States, 21st February 2015, 2015. Courtesy the artist and Southard Reid, London. Photo by Lewis Ronald. © Celia Hempton

Celia Hempton

United States, 21st February 2015

2015

Oil on wood panel 

11 3/4 x 13 3/4 inches (30 x 35 cm)

Courtesy the artist and Southard Reid, London

In Hempton’s series of Chat Paintings, the artist painted—in real time—the people she met on chatrandom.com, “a place where you can meet strangers using your webcam,” according to the website. While her male subjects expose themselves on screen, Hempton makes gestural paintings of them, artworks that engage themes of exhibitionism, voyeurism, and the performativity of sexuality in virtual interactions. According to the artist, “There’s an interesting type of interaction that happens online, where there’s a level of mystery or it’s difficult to understand what’s real and what’s not real—because you’re not sat in front of someone. You don’t have all your senses helping you make a decision or judgment about someone, so you’re given very little and you end up imagining various things. There’s also an intimacy that you can get.” 

Juliana Huxtable, Untitled in the Rage (Nibiru Cataclysm), 2015. Courtesy Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. © Juliana Huxtable

Juliana Huxtable

Untitled in the Rage (Nibiru Cataclysm)

2015

Inkjet print

40 × 30 inches (101.6 × 76.2 cm)

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

Purchased with funds contributed by Stephen J. Javaras, 2015

Huxtable is a multidisciplinary artist who engages visual art, poetry, music, and performance across a range of platforms to push against and destabilize the restrictive boundaries traditionally assigned to categories such as gender and ethnicity. “My adulthood was liberated by social media,” explains Huxtable. “It became as integral to my sense of self and psychosocial reality as my flesh. At this point, I feel like I am always living as a hybrid of my online presence and my IRL [in real life] presence. I used to feel a bit powerless, and it was actually through playing with my body as an image file that could be manipulated, distorted, rendered, decorated, and placed in new contexts that I came to accept and feel at home in my body as it is currently, but also to imagine how it might move into the future.” In Untitled in the Rage (Nibiru Cataclysm), Huxtable portrays herself as a self-described “cyborg, cunt, priestess, witch, Nuwaubian princess.”

Celia Hempton, Jim, United States, 27th February 2016, 2016. Courtesy the artist and Southard Reid, London. Photo by Lewis Ronald. © Celia Hempton

Celia Hempton

Jim, United States, 27th February 2016

2016

Oil on linen

11 3/4 x 13 3/4 inches (30 x 35 cm)

Courtesy the artist and Southard Reid, London

In Hempton’s series of Chat Paintings, the artist painted—in real time—the people she met on chatrandom.com, “a place where you can meet strangers using your webcam,” according to the website. While her male subjects expose themselves on screen, Hempton makes gestural paintings of them, artworks that engage themes of exhibitionism, voyeurism, and the performativity of sexuality in virtual interactions. According to the artist, “There’s an interesting type of interaction that happens online, where there’s a level of mystery or it’s difficult to understand what’s real and what’s not real—because you’re not sat in front of someone. You don’t have all your senses helping you make a decision or judgment about someone, so you’re given very little and you end up imagining various things. There’s also an intimacy that you can get.” 

Celia Hempton, Macedonia, 12th August 2016, 2016. Courtesy the artist and Southard Reid, London. Photo by Lewis Ronald. © Celia Hempton

Celia Hempton

Macedonia, 12th August 2016

2016

Oil on linen

11 3/4 x 13 3/4 inches (30 x 35 cm) 

Courtesy the artist and Southard Reid, London

In Hempton’s series of Chat Paintings, the artist painted—in real time—the people she met on chatrandom.com, “a place where you can meet strangers using your webcam,” according to the website. While her male subjects expose themselves on screen, Hempton makes gestural paintings of them, artworks that engage themes of exhibitionism, voyeurism, and the performativity of sexuality in virtual interactions. According to the artist, “There’s an interesting type of interaction that happens online, where there’s a level of mystery or it’s difficult to understand what’s real and what’s not real—because you’re not sat in front of someone. You don’t have all your senses helping you make a decision or judgment about someone, so you’re given very little and you end up imagining various things. There’s also an intimacy that you can get.” 

Arrow left
Arrow left
Lizzie Fitch/Ryan Trecartin, Safety Pass, 2016. Installation view, Lizzie Fitch/Ryan Trecartin, Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York, 2016. Courtesy the artist and Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York. Photo by Pierre Le Hors. © Lizzie Fitch/Ryan Trecartin
Lizzie Fitch/Ryan Trecartin, Safety Pass, 2016. Installation view, Lizzie Fitch/Ryan Trecartin, Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York, 2016. Courtesy the artist and Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York. Photo by Pierre Le Hors. © Lizzie Fitch/Ryan Trecartin
Lizzie Fitch/Ryan Trecartin, Safety Pass, 2016. Installation view, Lizzie Fitch/Ryan Trecartin, Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York, 2016. Courtesy the artist and Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York. Photo by Pierre Le Hors. © Lizzie Fitch/Ryan Trecartin
Lizzie Fitch/Ryan Trecartin, Permission Streak (still), 2016. Courtesy the artists, Regen Projects, Los Angeles, and Sprüth Magers. © Lizzie Fitch/Ryan Trecartin
Lizzie Fitch/Ryan Trecartin, Permission Streak (still), 2016. Courtesy the artists, Regen Projects, Los Angeles, and Sprüth Magers. © Lizzie Fitch/Ryan Trecartin
Lizzie Fitch/Ryan Trecartin, Permission Streak (still), 2016. Courtesy the artists and Regen Projects, Los Angeles. © Lizzie Fitch/Ryan Trecartin
Lizzie Fitch/Ryan Trecartin, Permission Streak (still), 2016. Courtesy the artists, Regen Projects, Los Angeles, and Sprüth Magers. © Lizzie Fitch/Ryan Trecartin

Lizzie Fitch / Ryan Trecartin

Safety Pass

2016

Unique sculptural theater for Permission Streak (HD video [color, sound; 21:17 minutes]); custom diving bunk, wooden platforms, message boards, carpet, paint, drop ceiling, lighting, and ambient sound

Dimensions variable

Courtesy the artists, Regen Projects, Los Angeles, and Sprüth Magers

Safety Pass is a sculptural theater featuring the movie Permission Streak. Fitch and Trecartin’s sculptural theaters are designed to be unique frames, both literally and conceptually. The custom diving bunk in Safety Pass evokes acrobatic or aquatic training, and the conflicted notion of preparing for a performance either with or without the necessary protection, recalling themes prevalent in the video that carry over into the space. Permission Streak is aggressively episodic, a sequence of animations and character-driven vignettes reflecting on the way that cameras, reality TV, social media, and gaming have changed the ways we engage with each other and form (or perform) our identities. Through these sequences and vignettes, it is often unclear whether the characters are proxies or if their agency is inherent; ambiguously themselves, the humans and post-humans in the movie are fluidly and temporarily defined by their context.

Celia Hempton, Turkey, 22nd March 2017, 2017. Courtesy the artist and Southard Reid, London. Photo by Lewis Ronald. © Celia Hempton

Celia Hempton

Turkey, 22nd March 2017

2017

Oil on polyester

11 3/4 x 13 3/4 inches (30 x 35 cm)

Private collection of Mario Russo and Frank Gilligan, Boston

In Hempton’s series of Chat Paintings, the artist painted—in real time—the people she met on chatrandom.com, “a place where you can meet strangers using your webcam,” according to the website. While her male subjects expose themselves on screen, Hempton makes gestural paintings of them, artworks that engage themes of exhibitionism, voyeurism, and the performativity of sexuality in virtual interactions. According to the artist, “There’s an interesting type of interaction that happens online, where there’s a level of mystery or it’s difficult to understand what’s real and what’s not real—because you’re not sat in front of someone. You don’t have all your senses helping you make a decision or judgment about someone, so you’re given very little and you end up imagining various things. There’s also an intimacy that you can get.”