Opening Reception: Friday, January 26, 2018, 6–9pm
Exhibition: January 27–March 31, 2018
Location & Hours
Art in General
145 Plymouth Street (Map)
Dumbo, Brooklyn, NY 11201
Art in General presents Contra-Internet, a New Commission and the first-ever solo exhibition in New York by artist Zach Blas. Contra-Internet is co-commissioned by Gasworks, London; Art in General, New York; and MU, Eindhoven; and is produced by Gasworks.
Contra-Internet at Art in General marks the premiere of the full version of the film Jubilee 2033, a queer science fiction film installation that includes live action, CGI animation, blown glass sculptures and a single edition publication titled The End of the Internet (As We Knew It). Framed by existing works in animation, moving image and vinyl text, the exhibition confronts the growing hegemony of the internet.
A ‘neutral’ network during the 1980s and 90s, the internet is fast becoming the principle instrument of accelerated capitalism, surveillance and control: an infrastructure that it is increasingly difficult to imagine an outside of or alternative to. Counter to this, Contra-Internet appropriates queer and feminist approaches to technology and science fiction to reanimate the network’s more progressive past and speculate about forms of resistance to the internet of the present and near future.
Roughly based on the opening sequence of British filmmaker Derek Jarman’s seminal 1978 queer punk film Jubilee, Blas’s Jubilee 2033 (2017), starring Susanne Sachsse and Cassils, is set in the Silicon Valley of 2033. Known as the Silicon Zone, it is the imagined future of novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand’s early thought, as advanced in her novels The Fountainhead (1943) and Atlas Shrugged (1957). Following decades of deregulation, the internet has become an omnipotent ‘internet of things’, defined by the principles of self-interest and laissez-faire that underpin Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism.
This has given rise to an oppressive, neo-neoliberal, supra-state monopoly that polices the internet, which is indistinguishable from the world as everything falls apart. Flames encircle ransacked office buildings, riots abound, and the corpses of dead techies litter the streets. In the shadows of a vacant office building, however, the so-called anti-campus rises up. Led by their AI prophet Nootropix, eager students are taught history, politics, art and counter-infrastructure after the collapse of the internet. It is a philosophy against the legacy of Rand: contra-objectivism, contra-Californian ideology, contra-sexual, contra-internet.
In addition to this commission, existing works consider the present state of the internet, showing that the totalitarian network of Jubilee 2033 has in many ways already begun. A critical definition of the internet written by the artist is installed as vinyl lettering in a web-safe font; while Totality Studies (2015) comprises an animated .gif that show 3D globes with stock images as their skins. These spinning icons demonstrate that recent popular imagery of the internet always seems to convey the same message: that it’s big, and it’s everywhere.
Resisting these and other visions of internet supremacy, three short, performative videos titled Inversion Practices (2015–16) utilize various conceptual-technical tactics to abandon and subvert the internet. These include strategies as diverse as erasing images of social media posts in Adobe Photoshop; plagiarizing queer and radical economic theory to produce an anti-internet manifesto; and working with animators to model paranodal space (the space that exists in-between the various nodes of a network) as a way to visualize and think through what networks frustrate, obstruct or occlude as they are constituted.
Co-commissioned by Gasworks, Art in General, and MU Contra-Internet was presented at Gasworks in London from September–December 2017; will be shown at Art in General in New York from January–March 2018; and at MU in Eindhoven from May–July 2018. Contra-Internet is a project of Creative Capital.
Zach Blas is an artist and writer whose practice confronts technologies of capture, security, and control. He is currently a Lecturer in Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London and has lectured and exhibited internationally, recently at IMA Brisbane, the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven and ICA Singapore.
General Support of Art in General is provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services; the New York State Council on the Arts with support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; the Toby D. Lewis Donor Advised Fund of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, The Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors; and by individuals. This program is also supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.
The New Commissions Program is made possible by the Trust for Mutual Understanding; National Endowment for the Arts; Jerome Foundation; Ruth Ivor Foundation; and the Milton and Sally Avery Foundation. Support has also been provided by: Commissioners’ Circle leaders Elaine Goldman, Richard Massey, Jeffery Larsen and Joseph Bolduc; Commissioners’ Circle supporters John and Andrea Nylund and David Solo; and Commissioners’ Circle members Nader Ansary, Rob Colangelo, Don Erenberg, Roya Khadjavi-Heidari, Mary Lapides, Eric Nylund, Leslie Ruff, Steve Shane, and Diana Wege.
Special Project Support provided by Creative Capital, Arts Council England, Cockayne–Grants for the Arts, the London Community Foundation, and Thor Perplies.