July 1 – October 30, 2017
THE WORK: ARTIST STATEMENT
This is the 20 year anniversary of GRAMMATRON, one the first works of net art to ever be exhibited in the Whitney Biennial of American Art. The work has taken on a life of its own as one of the seminal works of digital art. As a young (fifth generation?) net artist recently said to me upon us being introduced to each other: "You're in the book." I think he meant The Generic Art History Book.
Yes, it's true, I'm in the book, but my four year journey creating GRAMMATRON was a clear break away from the book. It's composed of hundreds of web pages and thousands of links, many of them randomly generated so that there are endless possibilities for how the work is experienced. GRAMMATRON comes with a slew of images including some of the first mid-90's styled animated GIFs intentionally composed as digital art objects. The work also includes an original soundtrack and a companion "theory-guide," Hypertextual Consciousness, that has also been exhibited on its own in many venues around the world.
When this artwork was first released on June 26, 1997, it was really pushing some well-established boundaries. First and foremost, it was pushing genre and disciplinary boundaries. "Is this literature? Conceptual art? Visual art? A new form of primarily text-based cinema?" The questions that arose as a result of the work's release on the internet opened up an opportunity for me to invent a whole new vocabulary around an emergent form of art that not too many people could get a handle on. This led to countless presentations, performances, interviews and nonstop media attention all around the world. The questions I was being asked by various British, Australian, Brazilian, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish reporters were all over the map, everything from "Who is the audience for this work and how will they pay for it?" to "How does it feel to have more people accessing your art on the internet than would normally see it if you exhibited it in the confines of an art museum?"
Of course, nowadays, it's become quite blasé for artists to put their art up on the internet, but in 1993-1997, the years of GRAMMATRON's making and slow release, it was considered in-your-face blasphemous behavior to all of the cultural gatekeepers in both the art and publishing worlds.
At the time of its official release, the day that the New York Times devoted an entire article to the work, GRAMMATRON was also pushing technological boundaries. Trying to squeeze animated GIFs and long-form streaming audio soundtracks through the terrifically slow modems of the time was a way of challenging the curious recipient at the other end of the transmission to seriously think through what was happening to them in the fast-forming world of dot.com entrepreneurialism and push media spam mongering. Some of us who were pioneering the new net art of the rapidly approaching 21st century were intentionally hoping to "crash your browser with content." In the case of GRAMMATRON, that content came packaged in a multi-media narrative that required a few good hours to navigate your way through, especially if you had any intention of truly reading the story.
Now, in 2017, GRAMMATRON enjoys its status as one of the most viewed artworks living on the network. There's a difference, though, between viewing and reading. Who has time for long-form reading on the internet these days? My millennial friends tell me anything on the internet that takes more than thirty seconds to experience risks being abandoned for something less demanding. But that reality has never stopped me before, so why should it stop me now?
With that in mind, this online exhibition at the Upfor Gallery features a new artwork titled Detail(s) from GRAMMATRON (Animated GIF Remix). Made in collaboration with artists Melanie Clemmons and Zak Loyd, this remix is composed of a few huge and jam-packed animated mega-GIFs that repurpose data from the original site as well as scans from the GRAMMATRON print archive not to mention random ephemera from other artworks and philosophical texts that informed the work's initial development. Chances are, it won't work on your phone or tablet, and it certainly runs longer than thirty seconds. In fact, like GRAMMATRON, it takes time or, even better, it steals time, something none of us have anymore, but who needs time when you have the internet?
Mark Amerika's work has exhibited internationally at venues such as the Whitney Museum, the Denver Art Museum, the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, and the Walker Art Center. In 2009-2010, The National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens, Greece, hosted Amerika’s comprehensive retrospective exhibition, UNREALTIME. In 2009, Amerika released Immobilité, often considered the first feature-length art film shot on a mobile phone. He is the author of many books including remixthebook (University of Minnesota Press, 2011 — remixthebook.com), META/DATA: A Digital Poetics (The MIT Press, 2007) and novels The Kafka Chronicles and Sexual Blood (both with FC2/University of Alabama). His transmedia art work, Museum of Glitch Aesthetics, was commissioned by the Abandon Normal Devices Festival in conjunction with the London 2012 Olympics. In March of 2017, Amerika was the first American artist to have a survey exhibition of digital artwork in Havana. His new book, remixthecontext, will be published by Routledge in fall 2017. Amerika was appointed Professor of Distinction at the University of Colorado Boulder, where he is the Founding Director of the Doctoral Program in Intermedia Art, Writing and Performance and a Professor of Art and Art History.