John Perreault performing in Alphabetical Tshirts in 1969
These are a few thoughts in response to a John Perreault Interview and his Facebook discussion available below
The interview in Art Experience New York City available here:
In it he says :
“The internet will not destroy art but will destroy galleries and museums and art books.”
He specifically refers to the Google Art Project. He also reflects on the concept of ‘tactile deficit’ that he created in 1998 in
‘In Touch: The Internet and the Re-Materialisation of Art’
His idea then was that increasing quality of internet art provision would eventually force a return to tactile values – that is the real.
This in some ways reflects the analogue -recording and back to vinyl movement within music which is now gaining ground. He seems to now regard this as a mistaken assumption and that instead of embracing tactility the ‘genius’ of the web is to offer a flight from it. However in the remarks in the ‘Death of Art’ facebook discussion many artists also refer to a ‘lack ‘ of sensation and true ‘looking’. Whilst he may be currently regarding this premise as failed a scratch below the surface of the present tablet/ipad fashion reveals there may be more to come.
The music world took a while to come to terms with downloadable music and it is only now that wholesale e-books seem possible. Once this entrenched especially amongst the young like MP3s, we wil probably see a revision of values just as we have had in music. The days of a ‘tactile deficit’ are I suggest just beginning.
Perreault is scathing in the interview about Graduate Art and the chances of success. Basically if you do not sell out your degree show these days you are a failure. This was ever the case but accelerated careers boosted by internet visibilty and the heavy hand of internet-savvy dealers mean it more true now than ever. To this end any graduate degree show is stuffed with shallow poseur art vying to be the next ‘sensation’ with no idea of quality or indeed a history of whatever medium the ‘artist’ trying to perform in.
We used to pride ourselves in the U.K. on a certain degree of craftsmanship in the creation of ‘art-objects’ but now even at MA level that gone to wind. Tiresome egos flaunting not only their technical feebleness but also intellectual shallowness are legion. The internet has enabled a good deal of good practitioners in middle to late career to be discovered but it has also sawn away the roots of the next generations of technically proficient practitioners.
Left with a bloated generation of fame seekers we have many thousands of sound installation artists, new media video artists, performance artists..all existing solely through their youtube profiles…..’pick me pick me’ the saatchi generation wail before my facebook friends evaporate, my tweets are ignored and I wake up (usually about 30) to the realisation that I am a failure…….and a failure that actually has done very little….
The Myspace generation of artists mostly exist in an ‘interzone’ of publicity seeking, networking and very rarely actual physical art objects. The reason is simple – why bother learning to craft something over years when your next door student just picked up a B.A. and a sale for masturbating online (literally or metaphorically I expect somewhere some grad doing it) and getting it shown in a top gallery.
I believe that Perreault’s prediciton will eventually come true. As the waves of ‘event’ driven networks implode in the U.K. as the helium that inflated them runs out from funding we will see not only less artists but less ‘Virtual Art’ of all kinds. The attempts to create a separate ‘Internet Art’ as a new medium, much as Photography grew into an artform that replenished and almost superceded realistic painting, have so far stalled. This is because the internet is a mirror not a medium. It mirrors our actions in life not replaces them. We desire friends, we desire images, we desire the surface not the reality of things.
To be an artist now there are only two mediums that exist within the internet and thrive -Photography and Film (Moving Photography)….nothing else works….(with the possible exception of cartoons which created quickly thrive on the 30 second attention span) but to my mind nothing else works. Drawings even if created digitally are not as effective as a decently framed print..paintings are not present in their time-based ‘aura’ at all. Digital reproduction destroys the tactility of time. We cannot feel the presence of the author and if the author dead then is not the work too?
One can create a gallery of artists who cannot exist within a contemporary frame……Morandi, Cezanne, Hodgkin…all are about a process that evades the instant snapshot. They are not names contemporary art students can recognize as it not only a lack of edcucation but a lack of awareness of a certain ‘otherness’ that not present in the flood-tide of ephemera and trash that is the present internet.
Looking down on a tsunami of images barely ordered is the current state of the internet. We can barely swim in its push and pull. All we can do is grasp onto current theories, flashes of inspiration, trendy magazines and the forlorn hope that we will catch a wave and land up on some dealer’s lawn…..it a myth. It a myth we have to sell to keep ourselves going.
However if we stop even for an instant and consider the sheer volume and physical work required before the internet eased our path we see a very different picture. It may be that the true generation of artists of this epoch are hidden unable to grasp the flow of (mis)-information that buoys us along.
If that is the case then a practical negation of the internet and all it stands for may be required. Artists may have to be weaned off its lure and sparkle and return to tactility and thought over a period of years. We may even have to consider the unthinkable and actually teach our students to think through actions and through manipulating mediums rather than grasping at fashionable straws.
As I have researched and trawled through current theories for this M.A. I have become increasingly convinced that the processes I am investigating are not ‘art’ nor particularly interesting. Art as the application of thought processes and revisions over a large body of time is all but invisible. It does not sell.
I can create a good many ‘digital artefacts’ in no time at all and probably will have to for the M.A. invigilators however none of it will be worth one afternoon’s drawing on location in front of a subject. We are talking about different ways of seeing. The race to virtual heaven is paved with failed artists and their wares…..the ‘tactile deficit’ a bit like the national debt is growing. How long can we live on its false credit?