Post-Internet-Kunstkritik – ein Generationswechsel?

Eine Umfrage von Andreas Schlaegel

2014:Dez // Andreas Schlaegel

Startseite > 12-2014 > Post-Internet-Kunstkritik – ein Generationswechsel?

12-2014

Es ist kaum zwei Jahre her, dass die Diskussion um das Schlagwort „post-internet art“ sich eher um dessen Existenz drehte, oder darum, ob man dieses als Hülse betrachten müsse. Aber spätestens Susanne Pfeffers Ausstellung „Speculations on Anonymous Materials“ in Kassel hat dafür gesorgt, dass auch dem kritischsten Betrachter klar werden musste, dass die mit der klobigen Worthülse (Gibt es schon eine kritische Betrachtung von klobigen Worthülsen in der Kunstgeschichte?) bedachten Künstler dazu in der Lage sind, in ihrer Kunst neue Themenfelder, insbesondere die Wechselbeziehungen zwischen virtuellen und physischen Welten, in einer anderen Sprache zu erschließen und zu reflektieren, als dies frühere Künstlergenerationen versuchten. Und spätestens mit der Änderung des Titels des „Creative-Writing“-Kurses an der University of Pennsylvania unter Ubuweb-Gründer und Dichter Kenneth Goldsmith zum zuverlässig provokanten „Wasting Time on the Internet“ (davor hieß der Kurs „Uncreative Writing“) ist diese Haltung nun auch im akademischen Rahmen angekommen.
Was die Frage nach sich zieht, ob und inwieweit sich auch die Sprache, die Kunst vermitteln und bewerten soll und/oder will, diesen neuen Bedingungen anpassen sollte, und dies vielleicht bereits tut? Vielleicht nicht in den traditionellen Medien, wo man dies üblicherweise erwarten würde, sondern an anderen Orten, in Online-Formaten, wie beispielsweise eben auch DIS, von den designierten Kuratoren der kommenden Berlin-Biennale, oder in den unter dem Pseudonym Brian D. verfassten Yelp-Beiträgen von Brian Droitcour, die er als „vernacular“, also umgangssprachliche Kritik beschreibt. Sprache, konzeptueller Rahmen, Foren, Themen, Motive, Kritiker – steht ein Generationswechsel in der kritischen Betrachtungen von Kunst bevor, hat sie sich vielleicht bereits an anderer Stelle vollzogen? Oder sollte es einen ­Generationswechsel ­geben, weil wirklich wichtige Themen zunehmend aus der Kritik ausgeklammert werden?
Diese (und ähnliche) Fragen habe ich einer Reihe von Kollegen gestellt, die auch als Herausgeber und Redakteure, aber insbesondere als Autoren in unterschiedlichen Kunstpublikationen aktiv sind und daher an dieser Stelle kaum einer Vorstellung bedürfen. Dabei reicht das Spektrum von großen deutschen Tageszeitungen bis zu internationalen Kunstmagazinen, und von Nachrichtenmagazinen bis zu vielleicht hier weniger bekannten webbasierten Publikationen. Aber an dieser Stelle sollen die Autoren nur für sich sprechen, als Kritiker und auch als Leser. Wer mehr über die einzelnen Autoren erfahren möchte, dem seien die üblichen Suchmaschinen empfohlen.
Die Antworten habe ich hier teilweise aus Facebooknachrichten oder Emails kopiert und ohne weitere Analyse zusammengestellt. Zugegebenermaßen ein etwas impressionistisches Stimmungsbild der Gegenwart, das deutlich unterschiedliche Betrachtungsweisen abbildet, mal lakonisch, mal als Eigenwerbung, mal schon fast als Kurzessay. Mal sehen, ob sich das Bild in einigen Jahren verändert haben wird.
Dafür allen Autoren Dank!
Andreas Schlaegel


Und irgendwann bist Du nicht mehr der Jüngste. Sondern andere, die ganz andere Sachen können oder dieselben, und dann fühlst Du Dich plötzlich alt. Und dann hast Du Gelegenheit, selber wieder jünger zu werden. Schreiben ist der Ort, wo man immer jünger werden kann, je älter man wird. Das klingt jetzt sehr alt.
Noch was. Man darf sich nicht über Mangel an Kritik beschweren, wenn es dafür nicht die ökonomischen Anreize gibt (in Geld oder in Anerkennung). Eure Generation hat doch alles an die Reichen verschenkt. Und jetzt richtet Ihr Euch in selbstgerechter Antihaltung ein und tut Euch leid. Wenn wir jetzt um Sprache und Kriterien ringen, bezahlt uns das keiner. Wenn wir es trotzdem tun, dann nur um uns nicht selbst zu langweilen.
Also, Jungs und Mädels. Nehmt Euch nicht so ernst. Und schreibt nichts, was Ihr nicht fühlt.
Wir danken insbesondere Afrika für die günstigen Rohstoffe.
Kolja Reichert

Contemporary art has been lethargic about digitisation. Where is the Tavi of contemporary art? How come e-flux persists when so many other digital entities have come and gone? It’s even older than Myspace … Art already survived mechanical reproduction – Benjamin was wrong, it does make sense to ask for the original print of a photograph, just consider vintage prints – so art will survive digital reproduction.
But not art criticism – insofar as it’s part of the dying mass media: film, literature, music, journalism or photo-journalism. Art can be expected to become even more intensely driven by social bonds. “Communities” are the new cliques.
Jennifer Allen

Die Schwierigkeit ist, dass ich als Redakteur schwer was sagen kann, was nicht sehr allgemein ist. Es wurde die letzen Jahre immer schwieriger, die Autoren zu einem Urteil über Ausstellungen zu bewegen – das hat viele Gründe (Aufkommen der deskriptiven Review bei artforum und frieze, Abhängigkeiten durch Mehrfachrollen, allgemeine Zweifel am klassischen Kritikbegriff) – und am liebsten wird über Freunde bzw. das eigene Netzwerk geschrieben, bei manchen Autoren ist das auch explizit so.
Generationswechsel gibt es ohnehin, eine Veränderung des Blicks, des Lebensgefühls – und auch, dass der Konflikt zwischen einer älteren Kritikergeneration, die vor den neoliberalen Bedingungen, unter denen wir jetzt arbeiten, sozialisiert wurde und den Jüngeren zunehmen wird – jedenfalls hoffe ich das. Das Ergebnis wird man sehen. Alles Liebe, Christian
Christian Kobald (über facebook)

I think we haven’t seen a new generation of Post-Internet art writers fully unfolded as of yet. But I see signs of it – such as the writing appearing in and around DIS magazine. ‘In and around’ because the surrounding writers are still trying to write themselves into this history. Central to the art is a preoccupation with how we communicate on the Internet – from the tongue-in-cheek use of emoticons to the swipe of the index finger that is at the basis of everything we do. This radically new mental and physical condition is still being researched and investigated in art itself and therefore also in the writing around it. Few writers have the capacity, surplus energy or overview to distance themselves from this all-encompassing investigation to treat the Post-It art expression in terms of more old-fashioned critique. Everybody is still trying to grasp the moment and trying to be part of the next vocabulary-in-the-making.
As the possibilities of the Internet – as overall discourse and tool – are far from fully uncovered, we are witnessing a lot of art making marked by what I refer to as the “Portapak syndrome” – where the new media briefly dominate, taking precedence over the ideas and overall direction of the art making. Like in the late 1960s when artists were blown away by the possibilities of the invention and accessibility of the Portapak and would spend hours recording boring videos. The real landmarks of the new tool only came after the artists had experimented with it for some time. Today artists are experimenting with the language of emoticons, the effects of the index-finger-touch-experience, the perceptible flatness of smart TV, the eternal instantaneity of everything, the multiple presence-ness of everyday life, etc. And, as far as I see, so far the writers are just trying to follow pace.
What I’ve noticed most is a return to what I call “art writing” – an affirmative position where you don’t really perform a critique but write with the artist, ranging from the subtle resume to creative, investigative essays where the writers really try to write themselves into the matter itself. You write to become part of the language and of establishing a new discourse – which can be extremely interesting to read. Also, I’m very much in favor of what I refer to as “embedded criticism”: the best art criticism comes from writers who are “aboard the ship”, very close to the field, know a lot of artists, directors, gallery owners, with whom they have long discussions at night; people who know what it takes to put up an exhibition – for the artist, the institution or gallery; who know about the gallery system, the channels money flows by in the art world, etc. However, this “embedded” approach is only interesting – as far as criticism is concerned – when the critic is also capable of taking that important step back, letting go of all these strings attached, when a review is to be done.
When it concerns the modus of art writing connected to the Post-Internet generation, it sends me straight back to the relational aesthetics of the 1990s. Then, there was a lot of jumping in trampolines and open-air cooking which had an equally strong focus on the social scheme of things, and which at the time also seemed to defy critique. Similarly today, it seems as if the self-imposed blasé attitude (vast use of irony, e.g. emoticons, as if to say ‘it’s all just for fun’) performs a social Morse code that defies criticism. Occasionally, I feel a little tired of the tongue-in-cheekness and jargon-heavy tweet lingo that characterizes this kind of writing, but I also acknowledge that it simply has to do with defining a certain attitude which is a concept seen in all kinds of different art milieus through different generations. You want to communicate that you are part of the gang – the gang with a particular codified language ;-)
Pernille Albrethsen

Generationswechsel gibt es, klar, wie im richtigen Leben eben auch. Leider werden die jüngeren Kollegen immer unkritischer und marktkompatibler, kaum jemand schreibt noch Verrisse. Das hat aber, glaube ich, nichts mit Generationen zu tun, sondern damit, welche Teile einer Generation die Möglichkeit bekommen, sich zu artikulieren.
Raimar Stange

I’m always shocked at how narrow the discourse around contemporary writing is as compared to contemporary art. Contemporary art has long staked a space in hybrid practices, ones that are both conceptual and identity-based, ones that at once reify and question notions of identity, destabilizing and deconstructing them in compellingly complicated ways. Think of the practices of Adrian Piper, David Hammons, Jimmie Durham, Kara Walker, Gran Fury, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Martha Rosler, Tania Bruguera, Jayson Musson, Sharon Hayes… the list could go on and on. I can’t imagine that any one of these artists would self-identify as “avant-garde” nor do the critical discourses around their work invoke that term. Why does the discourse around contemporary writing still feel the need to cling to binaries like “mainstream” and “avant-garde?” Somehow upholding such binaries in a critique of binaries only serves to reinforce those same binaries. Conceptualism was not prescriptive. While the discourse surrounding such a predominant mode of writing appeared hegemonic and canon-building, the writers involved in the movement had no such agenda; ours was a response to technology and offered one way of framing language and its new modes of slippage in a new landscape. As Sol LeWitt so elegantly wrote in 1967, “I do not advocate a conceptual form of art for all artists. I have found that it has worked well for me, while other ways have not. It is one way of making art; other ways suit other artists.”
The form remains open to reimagination, reinvestigation, and reframing (I’ll Drown My Book: Conceptual Writing by Women, for example). In the end, conceptualism was another tool in the writers’ toolbox, no more, no less.
Kenneth Goldsmith (on facebook, Oct 5th, 2014, 18.27)

Kunst ist immer Kampf oder wenigstens Konflikt, sonst gäbe es auch keinen Grund, Kunst zu machen, die etwas bedeutet. Wenn Kunst Konsens ist, ist sie überflüssig. Kunst ist in der Zeit und vor der Zeit. Deshalb spielt es eine Rolle, wie alt der Künstler, die Künstlerin ist und wo er/sie herkommt. Der Blick auf die Welt ist ein anderer. Das gleiche gilt für die, die darüber schreiben. Sie sollten Komplizen sein, sie sollten sich auf eine Seite schlagen, sie sollten harsch und grausam in ihrern Urteilen sein und verehrend-fördernd, je nachdem. Aber nie lau. Sie sollten Allianzen bilden. Sie sollten Partisanen sein in diesem friedlichsten Kampf, einem dauernden Triumph der Sublimation. Deshalb sind wir Menschen.
Georg Diez

I would definitely say the internet has effected the aesthetics and ethics of a new generation of writers, just as television influenced the generation of novelists Foster Wallace famously described in his essay on irony in literature. Over the past few years, writers such as Roberto Bolano, Zadie Smith and perhaps above all Adam Thirlwell have adopted new strategies of storytelling focusing on what we may call 1. a “linked narrative” (epic tales at once coherent and disjointed, often through different povs); 2. suspended contemporaneity (the happening of too many events at the same time, which manifests itself in Bolano, as I have said elsewhere, through unfinished sentences, whilst as Alison Gibbons has pointed out, Thirlwell often begins sentences with a “while”, suggesting two events taking place simultaneously, but then only describing one of them); 3. utopistics (Wallerstein’s term for achievable alternatives); and 4. the return of an alienated yet repositioning subject.
Timotheus Vermeulen

Einen Generationswechsel bei Kunstautoren sehe ich nicht – zumindest fällt mir niemand auf, der meinungsstark und kenntnisreich bestimmte Themen oder Thesen vertritt. Vielleicht passt dieses Phänomen zur „Postinternet“-Generation: So affirmativ, wie Künstler an die Dinge unserer Gesellschaft herangehen, schreiben junge Autoren über Kunst. Einen Namen macht man sich in meinen Augen aber nur, wenn man zumindest gelegentlich auf möglichst fundierte Weise mehr sagt als das, was man sieht – und keine Angst hat, damit auch mal anzuecken. Der Mangel an Meinung zugunsten deskriptiven Schreibens ist ja derzeit weit verbreitet, obwohl wir in einer Zeit leben, die anderes verlangt. Eben das ist aber eine Chance, nicht nur für Nachwuchs-, sondern für alle Autoren.
Gesine Borcherdt

Writing about art seems to be in constant crises, no matter what the genre. This maybe has something to do with how art is perceived in society and the function writing about art is supposed to fill. In terms of the internet and generational shifts, yes, things have changed. The main thing is, and I am stealing from Žižek here, but there are no experts anymore, just people with opinions. This is certainly true for those who write about visual art. I mean, I look at something. I write about it, you disagree and make a “comment” below the text. I’m wrong, your wrong, who can say? Well, everyone.
Cedar Lewisohn

Hey, I think that visual art writers 2.0 need to incorporate technology into their story ideas because that’s what the market depends on – trends. It is harder to get a review of a painting show in a magazine, than a Tumblr project. Digital art criticism is something I see happening, it has the power to make modernism look archaic. We’re all users, we can all scribble comments. But it takes a lot of research and context to truly understand net art, for example, its past and future. That’s why I am writing an ebook called the Arts Reporting for Beginners available January 2015 at artstarsbooks.bigcartel.com. Stay tuned!
Nadja Sayej

Even in my very cursory observations, I have noticed a trend towards higher quality writing online. Of course there is no shortage of the usual drivel, but as more of us spend more of our time online, its great to see that the desire for thoughtful, researched, well edited, and reviewed texts isn’t divided along technological lines. Serious writers and academics, like bloggers, enjoy the immediate gratification of seeing their work disseminated – and why shouldn’t they? For the humanities, Triple Canopy has been around since 2007, e-flux journal since 2008; Uncube with editors in Berlin and London is well liked; ARPA Journal and Aggregate both rigorously present current topics in architecture; and just this year we see the appearance of The Avery Review, out of Columbia University, and Momus, from a conglomerate of North American writers. Extra-institutionally, critics Brian Droitcour writes art criticism on Yelp, and Christopher Glazek annotates and scrutinizes texts on Rap Genius. And this is just the English language. Yes, information wants to be free, and yes information wants to be good.
Carson Chan

Lieber Andreas, ja ich denke schon, dass es da eine gewisse Veränderung gibt. Ein guter Text bleibt ein guter Text und das narrative und argumentative Handwerkszeug hat sich nicht völlig und total verändert. Aber das Stichwort „networking“ spielt eine große Rolle und – im Positiven – eine höhere Sensibilität für seismische Veränderungen in diesem Bereich. Ich bemerke aber auch, bei Kollegen der digital-native-Generation, eine gewisse Scheu vor Polemik und Konfrontation, die mit der Emphase auf Networking einhergeht. Der Kollege ­Pablo Larios hat aber auch hellsichtig in frieze d/e von „Network Fatigue“ gesprochen. Die Kritik geht weiter.
Jörg Heiser

Is there a generational shift going on in criticism? I’m afraid that I don’t think there is. I would love for something new to come up! There have been signs and fata morgana, pinpricks of light in among the darkness of overwhelming timidity and conformism.
A major reason for this is that art magazines and other forums for criticism and curatorial know-how rely on the commercial gallery and museum sector to make them bankable. These advertisers have a whole shared canon between them and an unsaid (but hinted at!) code of conduct, and they agree 100% on one issue: that negative criticism of the artists they show or curators they work with is not to be tolerated.
As a critic, I must ensure that the reviews that I pitch to various magazines are about shows that I truly found to be good. To communicate a negative feeling immediately activates the sub-editor, who proceeds to destroy your hard work. Like a classic liberal, I decide to toe the line when there’s a chance of being cast out.
So generally speaking, there’s a climate of stupid fear amongst our critical community. Stupid fear is that fear that is so omnipresent that it de-evolves your very brain. Obey all the rules, written or not. The surge of interest in academia is a symptom of journalists and other critics looking to secure their lifestyle with a good job at an art university, instead of actually doing criticism: because you really cannot say anything! Criticism in visual art is thus in serious danger of dying out. You might say that criticism is migrating to Scandinavia, where the best jobs are to be found.
In this way, Berlin’s position as the global capital of art production is also jeopardised.
Incredibly, a more moral stance for Texte zur Kunst would be to receive advertising money from the likes of Nestle, Unilever, or an oil firm: because though these companies have awful records on employee management, pollution and human rights, they do not have a direct conflict of interest with the people running the magazine.
Matthew Burbidge

Like the precocious child of the psychotherapist, art criticism has more or less always defined itself in relationship to some emergency. The word ‘criticism’ contains ‘crisis’, after all. It’s hard to speak of a generational shift in criticism responding to a new crisis in art, since the fire alarm has always been sounding, and these crises are never new. In the best cases, art criticism – now as ever – is just good description: as practical and disposable as a napkin.
Pablo Larios

There is a generational shift, but I don’t believe it is intentional or positive. I think the cause is economical, not ideological. Writers cannot sustain themselves, so they get aged-out. Students start writing because editors package non-paying gigs as „opportunities“ but nothing viable evolves from countless additions to a writer’s CV. Good writers keep pushing because they are passionate but – around age 30–35 – they realise they need to find supportive work. There are few ways for writers to earn a living but PR and gallery-work can, sometimes, become escape-routes. However, these careers cancel out critical writing because of perceived (or legitimate) conflicts-of-interest. The few writers who remain either see it as a hobby, have independent means of support or suffer – and anxiety and feelings of failure can colour their relationship with the work.
Personally, I enjoy writing about art but I am at the age when I need to be realistic and start looking elsewhere for my next move. I do it much less, because I view it as my creative outlet, not my career. I guess that I see it as a hobby – but one that I care about, passionately. I cannot imagine abandoning but I am selective about the platforms where I publish and I no longer write for free – I just realise that I can’t support myself as a writer. I tell my younger friends and students to view criticism as a fun adventure, for the next few years, but make those “model years”! So, I expect to see a quicker turn-over with writers and a consistently young voice because the industry allows fewer and fewer Kate Mosses to work steadily past 35!
Sorry if that is a little depressing but … worth saying, I think.
Ana Finel Honigman

I’m sure I am too late now with a reply to your question, but I have thought a lot about it, and yes I can sense a change. I have the impression that it is not necessarily about age, but rather about an “hipsterification” (seeing how the hipsters can be at least 50 years old), where some of the context matters over content. A cool gallery and a tattooed artist making decorative art because it “looks and feels great” gets a writeup about just this, and not a word about what or why, why does this matter or how this makes you reflect intellectually (thinking of course about “post-internet” art and “crapstraction”). Surely this is also related to the art market being so overriding and strong. I’m sorry, but I’m not sure I have noticed the surge of interest in academic research related to art: Really? But this might just be me coming of age, engaging in bitterness and revelling in the descent of the west, hehe. Somehow I long for texts that have the ability to not only contextualize the art work in the multi-faceted art world but also draws upon the “real world” and why it matters.
Power Ekroth

Die Ausstellung in Kassel habe ich wirklich mit Gewinn gesehen, aber Bezüge zu den Autoren kann ich nicht unbedingt ausmachen, abgesehen vielleicht von der Diversität. Wie sich in der Kunst parallel zum übermächtigen Markt in den letzten Jahren zahlreiche Mikro-Szenen entwickelt haben, gibt es ja nicht mehr „die Autoren“ als Instanz, sondern viele Stimmen, die durch Blogs auch viel schneller an ein spezielles Publikum kommen. Das Verständnis von Öffentlichkeit ist heute ja ein völlig anderes als noch vor einigen Jahren. Insofern finde ich es schwierig, überhaupt noch von einer Generation zu sprechen. Andererseits gibt ja auch kaum mehr Autoren, die allein vom Schreiben über Kunst leben, oder? „Text“ ist wie Musik eben etwas geworden, was so diffus verfügbar ist. Dadurch sind einfach andere Netzwerke entstanden, andere Abhängigkeiten, andere Systeme, andere Geschwindigkeiten, andere Fokussierungen.
Kathrin Wittneven

Thank you Andreas for this challenging question. I do not think we are witnessing a shift of any sort. I think the web is just another tool, providing new possibilities of expression and connection. For me, the most interesting aspect is that thanks to the web, you can spread and exchange ideas and information globally and easily, at a very low cost. Writers, especially contemporary writers, should be used to artists that, since a few decades now, have been keen to experiment with different media. I do not see why writers should change their approach today because of the internet or post-internet era. They just have to keep their minds open as much as art is open, look at the new media as much as we look at all the other events and facts that are happening nowadays to understand the world we live in. The beauty of our profession is that it exposes us to continuous challenges, it forces us to keep updated; I do not think it is a generational issue. It really depends on how good we are on surfing (the net) our times and the complexity it implies.
As an art journalist and curator, I decided to use the web to develop the project Radicate.eu, because I was fascinated by the possibility of creating a platform suitable of being constantly transformed; of being reachable by colleagues from all over the world; of being implemented thanks to other internet-tools such as Skype, WeTransfer, YouTube, Vimeo, Dropbox, etc. But primarily, I was fascinated by the possibility to do all of this at a very low cost; indeed, an internet connection is all you need. Only a few years ago in order to do a conversation with a colleague, you had to take an airplane. Today you can have a coffee break via skype with artists working many kilometers away from you.
However, I must say that I have a traditional background, I have been working for many years for a traditional paper-magazine and what I have learned there is definitely still valid and very useful today. What I have assimilated there are those timeless rules that have been cornerstones for all writers in the past, and still are now, and always will be in the future. I am referring to those strict rules that represent the only key to vividly interpret the present, its essence, and its ongoing transformations. Those rules are: constant research and update, in-depth analysis, and accuracy. With these keys in your hand you have the tools to understand our present times and its representations, no matter what generation you belong to.
Tiziana Casapietra

Generally speaking, I would start by saying that I call most of the writing I read “copy/paste” writing, meaning the writers mainly copy paste press releases, and there’s not so much of thinking going on. I think that also Jameson, in his famous essay on Post Modernism, twenty years and more before post-internet generation, was characterizing our cultural age in relation to the death of the institute of the critic, but maybe its banal even to mention it today.
Ory Dessau

Screenshot Internet
Simon Denny „Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Documentary Restoration“, 2011,
Ausstellungsansicht: „Speculations on Anonymous Materials“ at Fridericianum
Foto: Achim Hatzius, Courtesy Simon Denny, T293 Naples/Rome and Galerie Buchholz, Berlin/Cologne