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Magazine

11 June 2013
Mike Swaney, Bars
The post-internet condition

Verónica Escobar Monsalve

In 2008, the artist Marisa Olson conceived the concept ‘post-internet’. Until that point, and even up until now, art related to the internet is by default perceived as art that only exists in the digital world. Initially, this can seem like a compelling logic. But, doesn’t the Internet extend beyond the screen of a device? The true reach of internet is hard to measure. In the case of art, its effects also transcend the frontiers of the virtual.

In an article by Louis Doulas, founder and chief editor of Pool, that calls for the comprehension of this idea, we find a definition that affirms that post-internet art doesn’t fit into a category so much as it is a condition. In a manner of speaking a truly contemporary art. An art that has been affected and mediated by the internet and everything that surrounds it. But as Olson made clear in an interview for the web We Make Money Not Art, the imprint of the internet can also exist and manifest itself offline. That said it’s not easy to find artists who explore this condition in an explicit way in their work.

The concept of ‘post-internet’ has slowly filtered into the current concepts of aesthetics. One way of exploring the effects of internet offline through art is by incorporating the very language of internet within a pictorial discourse. An artist who does just this is Mike Swaney, who exhibited You just got blogged, in Barcelona from 30 May to 9 June, in the new pop-up exhibition space, me & the curiosity.

Swaney is a direct heir to the naïf practices of Jean Dubuffet and the aesthetic pictorial conception of Art Brut and Outsider Art. On a first encounter, his work seems cryptic and close to a delirious reality, where colours and forms reproduce, in juxtapositions of repeated patterns. However, something in the compositions ends up being familiar, close to a delirious reality and even stemming from a language distant from that of canvas. A closer look at the work, with the help of the explanatory texts and we begin to understand the pictorial imaginary that Swaney has created, based on a careful exploration of the space between the online world and the reality offline.

In Swaney’s canvases elements that form part of the backdrop of leisure and work, (browser bars, emoticons, pointers and pixels) transform into fragments of a complex pictorial code. The artist appropriates them, mutilating their structures to convert them into colourful, abstract, geometric forms with a markedly playful character.

His work arouses an interesting reflection. These elements pass almost unnoticed, decorating an intangible world, configuring its architecture and making its mere existence possible. But we still don’t pay them much attention. As in Swaney’s pieces, most of us have a decontextualized relation with the virtual world, understanding only fragments of its complex nature. We’re not even conscious of the changes that it has provoked in us. Swaney, on his part, isolates them and converts them into independent elements that together form a totality, in a pictorial work that is inspired in something quite unexpected.

Verónica Escobar Monsalve is a restless soul, with a digital nature and an analogue heart. Her investigations centre on art and culture that mix the digital world with pre-digital thought. Art and culture that is capable of reflecting the complexity of today’s world. She believes in the vital importance of a critical spirit and how this can be applied to any facet in life, however difficult it may be.

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"A desk is a dangerous place from which to watch the world" (John Le Carré)