Is Postinternet Art Just Tumblr?

What is “Postinternet Art”? The overly contemporary movement is art created in reference to the modern ease by which art is able to be created. It’s a reaction to the abundance of creative outlets and opportunities to create. Postinternet Art is what you get when you have millennials making with everything at their disposal.

I’m very familiar with this work, too. From Jesse Stecklow‘s information bending works to Devin Kenny‘s offline/online inclusive performance spaces, from Casey Jane Ellison‘s online parodic self-attacks to Petra Cortright‘s glitch heavy YouTube reactions, all the artwork appears to be very self-reflexive and all about deconstructing and reconstructing online realities. There’s something very intimate about what these artists create; yet, as you can see, it all starts to look the same. Even when the works of these artists are used or coopted in big ways by music videos and art happenings, there is the sense that this art is everybody’s art. Because everybody with the Internet can make them.

This has been something on the mind since reading a review of an all Postinternet Art show. Everything seems to run together. You see the trappings of Internet reliant artwork. What you (I) have been thinking for years now is very clear: isn’t Postinternet Art just Tumblr? You feel like you are walking in on someone’s good but young artwork—but it would make a great Tumblr page.

The issue here is that everything becomes reductive or derivative. Instead of creating the new, something fashionable or funny is swapped in instead. Everything is a sketch or a mood board. It’s incomplete. It’s selfies and animated gifs. Never has there ever been a more resonant feeling in art that, “I could make that.” Perhaps these artists are thriving because older, less sophisticated audiences are consuming them on confusion? We may never know.

This isn’t limited to this show nor what the artists that I know in Los Angeles: Postinternet, Tumblr based art is getting major recognition in great and awful ways. While visiting Paris, the Palais De Tokyo was a thrilling aesthetic experience. Yet, the two youngest shows stuck out like malignant tumors since they were literally fashionable teen caves: Tianzhou Chen‘s vogue family queer hip hop short films and ephemera were kid music videos with very high production budgets while Korakrit Arunanondchai made a fashionable church of paint splatters and torn jeans. Both were breathtaking. Both were most definitely the definition of #currentaesthetic. “Childish” is not what you would call these creations because they are far from being overly simplistic: they’re instead “childish” in the sense of the youth of today being ruled by visuals, jokes, sex, the self, queerness, etc.

This all isn’t bad: it just gets old. The limits of these creations are revealing themselves and, while people like Ryder Ripps are totally thriving, others like Niko The Ikon are rich kid pranks being enacted online. This is all to say that art is in a really weird place.

Will the pendulum swing in the other direction though? Or will art continue to just eat its tail online and off? There will most definitely be a time when these people are outed for profiting from doing very little, doing things that you could do with an iPhone. It wouldn’t be surprising if nearly three decades of “online art” brings forth a conservative and exciting fusion of actual fine art techniques with Internet ideas. I know this is happening but, instead of a tradesperson painting or sculpting something for the artist, it would be great if that artist actually did the work himself instead of exporting it to China.

Art should wow and engulf viewers and, unfortunately, most young artists are coming across as bratty and entitled. #millennials.

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