An article titled Network Fatigue was first published in Issue 16 of Frieze d/e. Written by Pablo Larios, the text focuses on the artistic significance of his mainly Swiss and American (Berlin-based) friend group.
I had a problem with the text and status updated about it on Facebook. I scribbled down some notes and chatted about it. No one wanted to comment on it in a public way. I felt the desire to do so and committed to writing a response. I’m having trouble remembering what the problem was. I’m re-reading the text and I’m like hmm. It’s still annoying but it also seems like fairly harmless self-promotion.
I’ve been tired. I haven’t been reading much art journalism. I went horseback riding and sailing last week (I don’t really know how to do either). I’m interested in moving in ways that are complex and unnecessary. I’m interested in having these experiences. I don’t know why I’m writing about myself here. Is this network fatigue? Or is this a breach of the kind of tact and exclusion expected of someone sufficiently fatigued and networked? Are my meals simple enough to be written about in Frieze?
Network Fatigue is a great title. The article sets out to describe something I think I ought to relate to. It seeks to brand tiredness, failure, withdrawal, but in an uplifting, twee way. Beginning with how the Internet rendered images worthless. Ending up somewhere that feels like home, but operates like a career.
The article mentions Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff, Tobias Madison, Carissa Rodriguez, Emmanuel Rossetti. Highly image-conscious young artists operating in central geographical and virtual locations. They are framed through terms like ephemeral, local, personal. It reminds me of texts about saints and musicians, I’m waiting for Larios to go for ‘humble’ or ‘down-to-earth’. That wouldn’t happen, but would be funny if it did.
Jaakko: i was reading this 1994 chloe sevigny article that connects to this really well
Jaakko: where she’s like still really alt and unknown and shopping at thrift stores but then also new yorker is writing about her and she’s in a sonic youth video
Jaakko: like this weird tension between being thirsty for alt mainstream validation while wanting to have like a small special scene or whatev
Jaakko: maybe the argument can be that
network fatigue = grunge
tobias madison is eddie vedder
i actually dont know what tobias madison is like at all
maybe he’s more like a frank black or smthng
[image: Tobias Madison @ Kunstverein Munich overlaid with Chloe Sevigny & Harmony Korine on a sofa in the mid ’90s]
Larios reports: The JPEG threatens to level the artwork into a flat, ethereal data-stream, while paradoxes like documentation preceding physical exhibition come to seem benign. Sleekness is commonplace, almost accidental. HD is unremarkable and on every storefront.
His ephemeral, local, cool, exclusive friendships are presented as an alternative to devalued overshared imagery: Madison submitted a series of dark, unfocused party photos to the blog Contemporary Art Daily following a request for images of Madison’s show. Published online, the gesture wrested power away from the expectations of glossy, well-lit images for remote online viewing and back to the local, imperfect and temporary. The flip side to this – flip in both senses – might be that publicized intimacy is itself a way of fostering cult value: a gesture toward implied or real exclusivity.
I’m thinking of people I know who have no clue what Contemporary Art Daily is. I’m thinking: maybe submitting his blurry party photos to CAD is just Madison being good at his job? How are savvy PR strategies the closest thing we have to subversion? I guess Larios is asking the same question. Asking it does not suffice.
I assume that there is an art world, but maybe that’s not the case. Maybe Larios is depicting the new status quo, a medieval landscape of villages and city-states, people loyal only to those in their immediate vicinity, having dropped any pretense of global consciousness. Would that be so bad? Maybe not.
Jaakko: twee obscures citizenship, adulthood, responsibility for self
twee idolizes quiet docile heteronormative bicycle-riding picnic blanket life
A bitter Dave Hickey would say: the party is now the art. Larios re-iterates the point, but with optimism. It’s not the kind of party you’re thinking of: a cocaine-fuelled rager at Miami Art Basel. It’s not excessive or gross. The party is a slumber party between Larios and friends. It’s a tasteful dinner you’re not invited to. A wooden table painted white, legs uneven. Candles. Agreeable, pretty, European friends chewing with their mouths closed. A full-bodied, pepper-y Syrah.
Elephant92: the comeback of the embodied image
Jaakko: soudns like a good twist
Elephant92: im tired of talking about how everything is glossy
and hd is life
Jaakko: yeah it’s boring
so banal uuugh
Elephant92: it’s not at all banal
that beheading video is not banal, sry
it’s fucking terrifying
Jaakko: not gonna watch
Elephant92: it’s scripted reality that is way more artful than ryan trecartin
Jaakko: i should include that
that images are not banal
and it’s banal to say that images are banal
and it’s a boring excuse for this twee slumber party scene
to pin it on this assumed ‘banality’
altho i guess pablo is talking more about artworks than all images
Elephant92: twee slumber party also includes a lot of MDMA and fucking tho
Jaakko: i guess it’s twee in the same way that Girls is
like it still has sadomasochism and like tattoos
Elephant92: maybe yeah
Jaakko: but the emotional aura is still twee
i really like the twee angle, gonna keep forcing it even if it’s really unfair
[image: Calla Henkel & Max Pitegoff @ T293, Belle & Sebastian album cover]
It was rainy in Istanbul. I walked up a steep hill, panting. I was out of shape and had a flu. I sat on the couch in the office and closed my eyes. I crossed my arms behind my head and took slow breaths.
Tobias Madison walked in with his crew. He had just arrived from LA. He was not an Eddie Vedder. He was his own person. He had a friendly smile. He was serving graphic-designer-from-Stockholm realness. He shook hands with everyone and introduced himself. Oh, you Facebook messaged me, he said. Yes, I said.
We were in the same residency by coincidence. I guess neither of us was thoroughly network fatigued. I had contacted him before his arrival to ask him if he wanted to talk to me about my potential response to the article.
He went to the balcony to puff on his e-cigarette. I joined him and a group of others there. The sky was gray. He wore a chain around his neck. On the chain a 1:1 human nose cast in silver. I looked at it and tried to figure out if it was a cast of his nose. It didn’t occur to me to ask.
We had a long conversation about the article. I didn’t record it. I didn’t take notes. I wasn’t feeling like a journalist. My shaky recollections would do. I typed some stuff into my phone.
He said he didn’t try to belong anywhere and I thought that I always tried and that was probably behind feeling excluded, the trying.
He used the word ‘defend’ in relation to the article. Larios was defending a certain mode of artistic production. What was this mode being defended against? Madison made a point about gender, that maybe the article was about gender. Maybe these elusive, ephemeral, wistful, whispered strategies were a stance against a certain type of art world machismo, of space-taking. Confident bros had eclipsed the rest of us, was it a way to resist them, to be invisible?
Madison talked about ‘equalized space’ in terms of Times and New Theater, the spaces in Berlin run by Henkel & Pitegoff. I thought it was an interesting term. It made me think of well-mixed music. Was equalizing a kind of flattening? I thought of those spaces as ‘cool’, and that as cool spaces they excluded certain elements, most elements. Were coolness and equality compatible? I was asking too many rhetoricals but didn’t want to stop.
Madison’s position was hard to pin down. I approached the conversation as a debate. I tried to articulate a clear position that could be agreed or disagreed with. Somehow he managed to stay opaque and ambiguous. He had a cat-like languor. Maybe this was network fatigue: network dreaminess, network indolence, network diplomacy.
I perceived hard choices were he perceived none. I felt crass for trying to push resolutions. I asked him if he considered submitting the blurry party photos to Contemporary Art Daily a subversion, and what he thought the difference was between submitting them and simply not submitting anything.
He asked me why I cared about the article, why did it feel like I needed to react to it. I think he used the word ‘attack’ here. I said I was interested in it in relation to a recent history of authenticity. The history of youth. I talked about Chloe Sevigny a bit.
Lunch was served. Street cats visited the office like they tended to do in Istanbul. Tobias Madison let one of the cats sit in his lap. Tobias Madison fed the cat a piece of potato from a stew. The piece was balanced on top of a radiator, the cat pushed it down to the floor. A splash of orange stew on the radiator to mark the event. The cat played with the potato before consuming it.
Talking to Madison helped me understand the (not-so-)subtle shade in the article (or: he put me on the wrong track). That it was written in opposition to conflict-driven high visibility singular practice boy geniuses that had dominated Berlin art terrain for a few years. It was probably about Simon Denny, Timur Si-Qin, Daniel Keller, Oliver Laric, etc. I assumed that Madison and Larios and all young people with taste were now against the idea of “Post Internet” in general and of male, sculptural Post Internet in particular.
Larios had alluded to his distaste in previous writing. In his review of ‘Speculations on Anonymous Materials’ ( Post Internet-y group show at Fridericianum in Kassel, Spring 2014) he had written: During the night of the opening, three of the exhibiting artists began to quarrel and were asked by guests who preferred to enjoy their dinners to take their argument elsewhere. Anyone who peeked over a balcony could witness a curious zoological display: a trio arguing various ‘positions’ on materialism, biological determinism, machismo. Regardless of the sides being argued, the real takeaway here was unfortunate. Everyone lost, because the playing board was already faulty. Just as enlightenment once to led to barbarism, now theory leads to dogma, and dogma leads back to unenlightened conflict – now in HD.
[image: Timur Si-Qin, ‘Bow on stripper poles’, 2012, overlaid with Mars Symbol]
I feel like the Network Fatigue article would’ve worked better if it had gone for blood. If Frieze d/e is mainly a forum for hashing out local art world politics, that could’ve happened in a transparent, juicy, reality-as-in-reality-TV way. The article should’ve pointed to the masc art game itself as *the* source of fatigue, instead of scapegoating innocent ‘banal’ images. Image circulation online is an escape for gender dysphorics and autists and lonely teens worldwide. The internet has saved thousands, if not millions, of queer lives. Then again, I guess the talk was of artworks, not lives. Although, in Network Fatigue, I’m not sure what the difference is.