Why do we yearn for fleeting forms of communication?
On 21 September 2014 the New York Times ran an article entitled Pass the Word: The Phone Call is Back. Jenna Wortham observed how, counter-intuitively amid the recent upsurge in text-messaging platforms, ‘something curious began to happen. My friends started to pick up their cellphones for an unusual purpose: they wanted to talk.’ The disruptive return of old-fashioned voice communication in the age of emojis is initially unexpected, though on second thought reasonably forward-thinking. What could be more nuanced, instant and direct than the realtime transfer of the human voice? A phone call takes comparatively more effort to track and record, and leaves no trails of text publicized in social media or stored on other people’s devices. Suddenly, voice chat seems both retrograde and cutting edge.
[…] Might ‘ghosting’ and Snapchat bear some structural or symptomatic relation to the revived interest in voice telephony? It would initially seem that virtual absence (ghosting, ephemerality, social abnegation) are the virtues of one end, and virtual presence (telephony, chatting) those of the other. Yet ‘ghosting’ and phoning, while divergent activities, have a common root: the overlooked need for media expiry, for content to accommodate itself to its own obsolescence, to burn upon arrival amid our current data overflow.
[…] Crucially, expiry does not demote content as less important. Or less deserving of engagement. So what might a form of writing look like which, rather than condemning itself to permanence – amid a surplus, today, of stagnant data – instead is comfortable with its disposability and still has genuine use value?
Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff
Schoneberger Ufer 00
Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin
Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff’s website offers only practical informations on the current, performative, community-based project they run in Berlin, New Theater, without visual documentation, without bio, without a list of previous works. This offers a telling illustration of their concern over the importance of presence, temporariness and of their distrust in slippery representational means. Working mainly with performance, photographs and texts, the duo reflect often on the conditions of artistic production and its constitutive emotional and interpersonal nature. In the following interview they talk about amateurism, hierarchy of audience, the performance of the self, the metonymy of digital images and their next exhibition at Isabella Bortolozzi in May.
Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff at VI, VII, Oslo
Photos by Vegard Kleven
It’s precisely Joselit’s understanding of image power, which reduces an artwork to a page ‘hit’, that a cluster of artists – admittedly, working in Berlin or Switzerland and thus proximate to my own working and social conditions – seek to undercut, opting collaboratively for a resistant ephemerality that claims the personal against swarming circulation. Network fatigue is the image’s prior admission of its own defeat before the matrix of connectivity. It constructs small mechanisms of temporary exclusion – what used to be called privacy, and which is partly, though not entirely, closed – to counter larger, widespread ones that occurred under the spectre of the ‘network’ and ‘the social’, but which only served to exclude us from ourselves. Network fatigue privileges the temporary, the contingent, and the to-hand – simply, the people and things around you – sealing off something real and personal before a work’s assumed, and perhaps inevitable, reentrance into the digital agora.
Mobilizing personal relations, artists of network fatigue such as Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff, Tobias Madison, Carissa Rodriguez, Emmanuel Rossetti, among others, work in temporary, reconfigurable groups whose results are site-specific and whose relationship to documentation is poised and slow (if still strategic).
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.
[…] 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.