Good Days & Bad Days on the Internet (Women & Their Work)
On Saturday I went to an artist “TalkAbout” at Women & Their Work Gallery, a space I love due to its flexible design and ability to host a wide range of exhibits. TalkAbout, is a new program that facilitates casual Saturday morning conversations with exhibiting artists and the people who inspire them. The gallery’s current exhibit, Rachel Stuckey’s Good Days & Bad Days on the Internet, explores what it means to live with chronic connectivity and invites visitors to examine and empathize with their online selves.
Saturday’s conversation was hosted by five artists, including Stuckey, who work with new media (defined by Stuckey – for those of us somewhat clueless – as “art that uses things that plug in”). I’d never really thought of the internet as part of the art world until this moment, but the artists (and their intent audience) offered examples of such personal experiences and how they have shaped their works and their lives, that the many layers of the online world suddenly became something I could touch.
Rachel Simone Weil, an experimental designer whose work offers alternate visions of computer and video game history, describes the internet as an infinite playground. One of her interests is in the power that resides from taking old technologies and making something new with them. She points to a Daft Punk video as an example – the creator took sprites, playable characters from an (old) video game, and gave them new actions in a vastly different setting.
The talk focused largely on how each artist became involved with the internet – from Sean Ripple’s nine month stint in the hospital in which social media became a companion, to Melanie Clemmons building birthday websites for friends; the artists’ favorite websites: Bug Davidson’s a real estate site that offers endless possibilities of where to go next and a forum Stuckey found on gmail.net that shows only the last 100 posts and includes comments like “I’m just trying to check my email” or the most recent, as of this article’s publication, “Report on my earlier statement on bullies and blue cheese. was effective, and all are now suspended. and stinky.”
We also talked about things that are popping up for each of us every day now. Like memes – a form of art that is so simple in nature, doing the least you can do to get the reaction you want, usually humor. And net neutrality – how internet spaces available to us today may not be tomorrow, and how this can form a new conversation.
As the meeting broke up, I was able to explore Stuckey’s exhibit. Two pieces that really stood out to me were #shattered, a collage of nine YouTubers, each processing the heartache of a shattered phone screen, a sentiment we can all get behind. And it is like the ocean, a sensuous undulating wave of textural video pixels with accompaniment from an avatar guardian. I happened to be standing in front of this guardian for some of the talk and she kept appearing and disappearing, but I knew she was always there with me, watching over my shoulder, with a snail’s pace turn of her head that was at once both fascinating and creepy.
Good Days & Bad Days on the Internet runs through this Thursday, January 11 at Women & Their Work Gallery – 1710 Lavaca Street | Austin, TX 78701.
Video cover: e-clip still, Rachel Stuckey