Artie Vierkant | The Image Object Post-Internet

Today we will use Artie Vierkant’s seminal text ‘The Image Object Post-Internet’ (2010) and his resultant ‘Image-Object’ series to debate the impact of digital technologies on the physical art object; as well as the imperfection of the term Post-Internet through the critique of curator Robin Peckham.

The Image Object Post-Internet 

In 2010 Artie Vierkant (Artist and Adjunct Professor New York University, Steinhardt 2013/14) published an article entitled “The Image Object Post-Internet” in which he responded to the term post-internet and its relationship to artistic practices.  

What is Post-Internet?

Vierkant outlined the term post-internet as a contemporary moment in the arts that used attention as a form of currency and embraced the concept of universal authorship. His paper drew on the thoughts and practices of pioneering predecessors, including artist Marisa Olson who originally coined the term “Post-Internet-Art” and critic/theorist  Gene McHugh who described post internet art as “art responding to [a condition] described as ‘Post Internet’–when the Internet is less a novelty and more a banality”.

The Post-Internet move is also distinct from the two historical artistic modes with which it is most often associated, these being New Media Art and Conceptualism.  New Media Art remains focused on the novelty of new technologies and Conceptualism prioritises ideas over physical material – Post internet art therefore attempts to function in the space between these two modes. However, as a label within the art world Post Internet is highly contested as an imperfect term.

Leading curator Robin Peckham has denoted it as a grass roots descriptor for what artists see themselves doing within their studios as related to the shift in digital interaction. The use of ‘post’ is not intended to denote its usual connotation of ‘after’  – the internet is no where near being ‘over’ comparative to the manner in which post-modernism was born- instead post internet indicates a rupture, a break for reflection on the impact digital technologies are having on all aspects of art. 

How does it effect artists?

Vierkant’s argument remains highly pertinent for artists because it concerns the material practices adopted by creatives working within the digital epoch, he states:

“Post-Internet objects and images are developed with concern to their particular materiality as well as their vast variety of methods of presentation and dissemination.” (Vierkant, 2010)

artists defined under the rubric of ‘post-internet’ utilise knowledge of both physical and digital spaces to create hybrid practices. 

“Just as Barthes’ proclamation of the “death of the author” is in fact a celebration of the “birth of the reader” and the “overthrow[ing of] the myth,” culture Post-Internet is made up of reader-authors who by necessity must regard all cultural output as an idea or work in progress able to be taken up and continued by any of its viewers…Artists after the Internet thus take on a role more closely aligned to that of the interpreter, transcriber, narrator, curator…”  (Vierkant, 2010)

Post-internet art put simply refers to the influx of the internet and its associated technologies into the production of traditional art media such as oil painting and gallery-based sculpture. It highlights the impact of imaging software such as Photoshop on artistic production and negotiates the screen as a filter of contemporary experience. Finally it embraces the circulation power of digital documentation of physical artworks. As such, post-internet art has tied itself into the lineage of mainstream art history as opposed to a side genre such as net art or new media art.

Artie Vierkant, Image Objects (2011-ongoing)

Prints on aluminum composite panel, altered documentation images

An example of this is the ongoing series Image Objects by Artie Vierkant – sculptural prints that have a dual life as both objects and as disseminated images. Each piece begins its life as a digital file which is then rendered as a UV print on dibond and precision-cut to create photographic prints with the depth and presence of a sculpture. Vierkant often creates projects that have a dual life between an ‘immaterial’ form and a material object, deliberately playing into the perceived space between the two and suggesting that all forms are already in some way hybrid.

Each time the sculptural pieces are documented officially, the photos are altered to create a new form which does not accurately represent the physical object, generating new derivative works that build upon the initial objects. The viewer’s experience becomes split between the physical encounter in a gallery setting and the countless variations of the objects circulated in prints, publications, and on the Internet. This intervention within the space of documentation is intended to bridge the division between what we would traditionally identify as a ‘primary’ or ‘secondary’ experience of the work.

Further Viewing:

Immaterial vs Material

A paper delivered by Artie Vierkant at ‘Post Digital Cultures’ Conference, 6-7.12.2013, Lausanne. Symposium presented by the Federal Office of Culture (FOC), Switzerland and Les Urbaines. 


Tracing the Post-Internet: A Case Study in Curatorial Process

A talk given by Robin Peckham at 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art: Thursday 10 July, 2014.