Grotesque Revisited: Grotesque and Satire in the Post/Modern Literature of Central and Eastern Europe
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But a revolt against such conventions makes no sense in the context of the internet, because the conventions have already been inscribed into the technology of the internet itself. The situation changes, however, when internet data is transposed into offline exhibition spaces. Online, artists operate through combinations of pictures, photos, videos, sound sequences, and text that build into a meta-narrative.
In the exhibition space, however, they come to be presented in the form of an installation. Conceptual artists already organized the installation space to convey a certain meaning analogous to the use of sentences in language. After a period dominated by formalism, in the late s conceptual art made artistic practice meaningful and communicative again. Art began to make theoretical statements, to communicate empirical experiences and theoretical knowledge, to formulate ethical and political attitudes, and to tell stories again.
The influence of ideas from sources such as Wittgenstein and French Structuralism was decisive.
But the new orientation towards meaning and communication did not make art somehow immaterial or make its materiality less relevant, nor did its medium dissolve into message. On the contrary, every artwork is material, and can only be material.
These philosophers understood thinking as a use of language, which is wholly material—a combination of sounds and visual signs. Thus, an equivalence, or at least a parallelism, was demonstrated between word and image, between the order of words and the order of things, between the grammar of language and the grammar of visual space. But if the presentation of art on the internet became standardized, the presentation of art in the exhibition space instead became de-standardized. The reason for this de-standardization is clear: the space of the exhibition is empty; it is not preformatted in the way a webpage or website is.
Today, the white cube plays the same role as a blank page performs for modernist writing or a blank canvas for modernist painting. The empty white cube is the zero point of exhibition practice, and thus the constant possibility of a new beginning. This means that the curator has an opportunity to define a specific form, a specific installation, a specific configuration of the exhibition space for the presentation of digital or informational material. Here the question of form becomes central again. The form-giving directive shifts away from individual artworks to the organization of space in which these artworks are presented.
In other words, the responsibility for form-giving is transferred from the artists to the curators who use individual artworks as content, only this time within the space that the curators themselves create. Of course, artists can reclaim their traditional form-giving function, but only if they begin to function as curators of their own work. Indeed, when we visit an exhibition of contemporary art, the only thing that truly remains in our memory is the organization of the spaces of this exhibition, especially if this organization is original and unusual.
However, if the individual artworks can be reproduced, the exhibition can be easily documented. And if such documentation is put on the internet, it then becomes content, ready again for a form-giving operation inside the museum.
In this way, the exchange between the exhibition space and the internet becomes an exchange between content and form. The exhibition becomes the means through which the relationship between the form and content of art on the internet can be thematized and revealed. Additionally, curated exhibitions of this art can reveal the hidden mechanisms of selection governing the distribution of text and image on the internet.
Screenshot of the twitter account woreitbetter. At first glance, the distribution of information on the internet is not regulated by any rules governing its selection. Everyone can use cameras to produce images, to write commentary on them, and to distribute the results with little censorship or selection process. One might think, therefore, that traditional art institutions and their rituals of selection and presentation have become obsolete. Many still see the internet as global and universal, even while it has become increasingly evident that the space of the internet is rather extremely fragmented.
Even if all data on the internet is globally accessible, in practice the internet leads not to the emergence of a universal public space but to a tribalization of the public. The reason for that is very simple. The user finds on the internet only what he or she wants to find. The internet is an extremely narcissistic medium—a mirror of our specific interests and desires. It does not show us what we do not want to see. In the context of social media we communicate mostly with those who share our interests and attitudes, whether political or aesthetic.
Thus, the non-selective character of the internet is an illusion. The actual functioning of the internet is based on non-explicit rules of selection by which users select only what they already know or are familiar with. Of course, some search engines are able to scrape the entire internet, but they always have particular goals, and are controlled by large corporations and not by individual users. In many cases we try to ignore these unwanted images and impressions, yet they often provoke our interest and more generally serve to expand our field of experience.
To perform a similar role, we can say that curatorial selection should be a kind of anti-selection, a transgressive selection even. The act becomes relevant when it crosses the dividing lines that fragment the internet and, more generally, our culture. It reinstates the universalist project of modern and contemporary art. Rather than fragmenting the public space, such selection works against it by creating a unified space of representation where the different fragments of the internet come to be equally represented.
The creation of such universal spaces was the traditional occupation of the modern art system. The history of modern world exhibitions began in the nineteenth century, famously with the Crystal Palace Exhibition in London.
In the art context, the great museums such as the Louvre in Paris, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, or the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, as well as exhibitions like Documenta in Kassel or numerous biennials, made and still make the claim of presenting the art of the world.
For example, Egyptian gods sit beside Mexican or Inca gods in their respective universes, and in further combination with the unrealized utopian dreams of the avant-garde. These removals and new arrangements call forth uses of violence—such as those in economic and direct military intervention—by demonstrating the forms of order, law, and trade that regulate our world, as well as the ruptures, wars, revolutions, and crimes to which such orders are subjected. As visitors, we are not outside this frame, but rather inside it.
Through the exhibition, we are exhibited to ourselves and to others. For this reason, the exhibition is not an object, but an event.
This is why an exhibition cannot be reproduced. One can only reproduce an image or an object placed in front of the viewing subject. However, an exhibition can be reenacted or restaged. Ghost Stories in post-Reformation England. Striving for Citizenship: Struggles for Representation beyond Rights.
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