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January 8, 2015

charlie hebdo and the hivemind

Remember a little more than a week ago, when we were all cheering on the looming new year, happy to put a stake through the heart of 2014?  Well hello, 2015.

No need to link anything concerning the murders in the offices of "Charlie Hebdo" as if you've not heard of them then you are deliberately avoiding the news.  Just horrible horrible news to wake up to, first for the meaninglessness of the loss, and second for the implications.

And then we had a day of social media, and it was bewildering, even as it settled into camps.  There were those that took the murders to be yet another incidence of some world conflict between faiths, and there were those who, out of excusable outrage, took to mocking of the faith of the murderers, and then there those who made self-serving stands for alternately freedom of speech and the freedom of the press.  I have differing levels of problems with all of those, but, as they say, who cares?  The most poignant, perhaps, were the scores who posted simply, "Je suis Charlie", which is about as simple a declaration of support and sympathy as you can imagine, and used in the public vigils in cities across the globe.  Of course the cynic in you can argue that, actually, no, you are decidedly not Charlie, but nice job making it all about you, but intentions being what they are, etc.

And I'm not even talking about the trolls, who have settled into the discourse like shabby furniture, predictably lumpy and smelling of cat piss.  I mean, technically, Chuck Johnson actually is Charlie, and yes, France has a troubling history/present concerning the freedom of religion (i.e., anti-semitism is banned, but so is wearing a burqa), but maybe the time to bring that up is not while families are still IDing the corpses.  But even everyone else, the saddened, the earnestly upset, and ultimately, the vocal, are hobbled by the constraints of their own personal hiveminds.  It's a tapestry of confusion and self-righteousness, with small chairfights breaking out in the interstices.  You want desperately to gaze upon this and be filled with a swelling love of humanity and its resilience and compassion and that's all kind of in there somewhere.  You keep telling yourself.  As you stare down a road paved with best intentions.

And it's not just intentions just contribute to this, but rather the tenor of our age.  Let's accept that the world we live in now requires us to first have an opinion, and then immediately find the affinity group to join in solidarity over this opinion, and then fav each other to death.  It's almost as if no tragic event with enough resonance to circle the planet can be said to have happened unless enough people feel the need to take to the streets over it.

But ultimately, it was a terrible day to be on the Internet, as the majority of users inspired to comment on the tragedy were hammers mistaking a variety of things as nails.  Personally I think that terrorists have exactly as much power as you give them, which is why I choose to call them murderers, because they ain't nothing but.

It was a day of bringing out the worst in the best of us.  And ultimately, the murderers got what what they wanted: to catch the attention of the world, and to be thought of as something bigger, something greater, than murderers.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:49 AM

January 5, 2015

post-internet art is dumb

This entire piece is worth a read (if a bit stingy with the details) about this modern-day disruptor of the art world.  It is morbidly fascinating to see members of my generation take the Move Fast and Break Shit credo to its logical and vulgar conclusion.  In this case, one idiosyncratic and voluble person is trying to upend the fine art market by cornering the market in young talent.  How so?  Well, identify hot, social media friendly Millennial artist, buy their entire inventory, and then snag them in a 21st Century version of patronage — dude pays for materials, overhead, living expenses, etc., and dude owns future output.

(This is where the story gets a bit hazy.  There is much winking and nodding to this patronage relationship, but there is not much in the way of reported facts.  We are left to surmise, which may be a mistake.)

But mostly I'm sharing this because, in it, I learned of what is being called "post-Internet art," which I'll just let the speculator/patron in question, Stefan Simchowitz, explain himself:

Simchowitz uses the term as a generational marker to describe how art history has been "flattened" for artists of a certain age. "When they typed in 'tree'‚ÄČ" in a search engine, Simchowitz explained, "they got a thousand pictures of a tree: a picture of a tree made in the 18th century, a tree made last year, a cartoon of a tree. You have this flattening of time." To the extent that "post-Internet" sometimes defines a sensibility, you could say that it's characterized by positivity, the melding of satire and admiration, an emphasis on popularity over exclusivity and an uncomplicated reverence for fame and success.

Now I know that this sounds silly to you and me — describing an artistic movement on the terms of the availability of reference — but then again we all remember post-Encyclopedia-Britannica art, in which all the art was of things from foreign countries, and in alphabetical order.

Plus also this concept of post-Internet art is as lazy and muddle-headed as every single other little dingleberry of jargon that has found shelter in the mouth of someone disrupting something or otherwise begging a bro-VC for some seed capital that I thought I'd dump it out on the carpet here so we call all stare at it in awe.

I mean, it's not even a mild misuse of an existing word or phrase, like innovation or inflection point.  It's like they're not even trying.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:56 AM