How The Internet Is Rewiring Your Brain


 Emoticon by Artist Tom Estes for Communication Futures at The Old Royal Naval College during DRHA 2014

 Greg Sholette describes a  “Mockstitution” as a mock institution that is an informally structured art agency that overtly mimics the name and to some degree the function of larger, more established organizational entities. Mockinstitution thrive within the voids left by an increasingly fractured social framework whose coherence is faltering thanks to rampant privatization, economic deregulation, ubiquitous social risk and day-to-day precariousness. Inserting themselves into these deterritoralized spaces, Mockinstitutions typically sport their own ersatz logos, forged mission statements, and fake websites, all the while engaging in a process of self-branding not aimed at niche marketing or product loyalty, but rather at gaining surreptitious entry into media visibility itself. One such entity, the London based Art Selectronic presents an alternative to mainstream publicly funded museums and speculative market based sales galleries. Their exhibition, Ultraviolet Sun,  in association with The Museum of Modern Media (MoMM) and New York City’s is an evening of performance, sonic and retinal art.

Michael J. Lewis’s essay on the the demise of art-as-culture, was published this July in Commentary magazine Titled “How Art Became Irrelevant: A chronological survey of the demise of art,” the essay’s central claim is that “while the fine arts can survive a hostile or ignorant public, or even a fanatically prudish one, they cannot long survive an indifferent one.  And that is the nature of the present Western response to art, visual and otherwise: indifference.”


Biomorphic Robot Action Painting Performance by Tom Estes at the exhibition Ultraviolet Sun for Art Selectronic

In the 1960s and ’70s, politicization meant taking a position, establishing and following a political program, taking up armed struggle, putting one’s skills (including art) at the service of the revolution, fighting in the name of the horizon of state socialism, and acting in solidarity with anti-imperialist and decolonization struggles. Artists and militant networks were drawn together by political affinities, and Palestine, Vietnam, and Chile were symbols of anti-imperialism.

This form of politicization translated into an aesthetic practice of international vanguardism, contestation, criticality, counterhegemony, and postcolonial memorialization and assertion, within the framework of a politics of representation. Since that time, however, this kind of politics has come to be perceived as a form of violent nationalism that led to authoritarian states and propagandist aesthetics.

Unlike forty years ago, institutions today are more opaque, more exclusive, and they share objectives intrinsically linked to corporate, neoliberal agendas (to the point that those agendas have become invisible). Cultural institutions are the administrative organs of the dominant order, and cultural producers actively contribute to the transmission of free market ideology across all aspects of our lives.

Politics has become inseparable from the neoliberalized political economy, as well as from culture. This is in part, of course, due to the whitewashing of Capitalist violence through military intervention and underplaying of the role of economic disparity as a form of violence. Neoliberal ideology celebrates itself as the epiteme of ‘freedom’ through free market competition while a mainstream corporate controlled media works around the clock to secure vested interests with a barrage of rhetoric ignoring any of the drawbacks and silencing any criticism.


Biomorphic Robot Action Painting Performance by Tom Estes at the exhibition Ultraviolet Sun for Art Selectronic

Within representation’s ruin, what used to be “outside” of capitalism—like marginality, queerness, or race—has been symbolically incorporated and deprived of its capacity to disrupt and contest. Figures of otherness have disappeared and been subsumed into “lifestyle” options. The underclass is a blurry horizon disconnected from the flows of global capitalism; far from being a political figure, the underclass is sometimes subject to site-specific intervention, pacification, betterment, development, and community-building projects. Its emancipatory horizon lies in entrepreneurship.

Moreover, in the twenty-first century politics is no longer representative, but what some theorists call “post-politics.” Following Jodi Dean, this means that politics now aspires to a superficial democracy that neutralizes antagonism and denies democracy’s limits and mechanisms of exclusion. “Post-politics” thus implies the disavowal of the fundamental division conditioning politics, as equality has come to mean inclusion, respect, and entitlement. “Post-politics” means consensual politics, the end of ideology, the neoliberal withering away of the state in some areas and its strengthening in other strategic ones, and the financialization of the economy. Under these conditions, is there any room left for politically committed art?


Biomorphic Robot  Abstract Action Expressionist Painting by Tom Estes at the exhibition Ultraviolet Sun for Art Selectronic

Technology is big business. Most devices become ubiquitious before there is even a chance to question their impact on society. In the arts there is very little discussion of the impact of technology, more of a sales pitch. However, Ultraviolet Sun, is an evening of performance based on the idea that the internet is changing the structure of our brains. London based Art Selectronic in association with New York City’s  The Museum of Modern Media (MoMM) present an alternative to mainstream publicly funded museums, festivals and speculative galleries. Their exhibition is an evening of performance, sonic and retinal art.

Technological progress has accelerated to the point that the future is happening to us far faster than we could ever have anticipated. Technology has altered human physiology. It makes us think differently, feel differently, even dream differently. It affects our memory, attention spans and sleep cycles. This is attributed to a scientific phenomenon known as neuroplasticity, or the brain’s ability to alter its behavior based on new experiences. In this case, that’s the wealth of information offered by the Internet and interactive technologies.


Biomorphic Robot Abstract Expressionist Action Painting by Tom Estes at the exhibition Ultraviolet Sun for Art Selectronic

The teleological Identity of Capitalism and artificial intelligence conceives of machines in terms of human use-value, thinking of them as temporarily troublesome tools with which humanity is ultimately destined to be reconciled. But how do you think of a form of capital that is already thinking of you? This new world is what Hans Ulrich Obrist calls “extreme present,” a time in which it feels impossible to maintain pace with the present, never mind to chart the future.

The internet is changing the structure of our brains and the structure of our planet in extraordinary ways, so quickly that we haven’t yet developed a proper vocabulary for it. Today Capitalism incarnates dynamics at an unprecedented and unsurpassable level of intensity, turning mundane economic ‘speculation’ into an effective world-historical force. The exhibition, Ultraviolet Sun, therefore plugs into the fears that have haunted Science Fiction since its inception: the idea of a human population becoming dependent upon machines over which it has no effective control. As technological integration increases, human control lessens, and the possibility of something crashing the entire system grows. Forget all your real-world certainties, everything solid melts into air.

History insists upon a linear causal progression – a neat passage from the past which is already decided, to the future which is merely the playing out of what has been laid down in the past. Tell me about your mother, then, and I’ll understand everything about you. Beyond this causality is another temporality, uncovered at the point where schizoid-analysis meets pulp horror. Here, cause does not follow effect.


Barbara Rosenthal’s performance “Existential Ultra-Light Photo Run” for Ultraviolet Sun

The question of The History of Art is problematic, not least because artistic activity is characterized by its antagonism towards stable temporality. It’s the business of the great sedentary assemblage of art institutions to establish settled lineages and well-ordered sequences, whereas artistic-processes attach themselves to coincidences, glitches and unforeseen consequences -breaks, twists and bends in time.

Artist and curator of Ultraviolet Sun, Tom Estes states:

“Abstract Expressionism is the term applied to new forms of abstract art developed by American painters such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning in the 1940s and 1950s. It is often characterized by gestural brush-strokes or mark-making, and  with its emphasis on spontaneous, automatic, or subconscious creation. The movement’s name is derived from emotional intensity with an image of being rebellious, anarchic, highly idiosyncratic and, some feel, nihilistic. Action painting, sometimes called “gestural abstraction”, is a style of painting which often emphasizes the physical act of painting itself as an essential aspect of the finished work or concern of its artist. With the potential of an Artificial Intelligence to rivial our own consciousness and the proliferation of robots in the workforce I felt an Expressionism created with robotics rather than the human hand was an interesting metaphor for our times”


Annabelle Stapleton-Crittenden’s performance with visuals by Jahan Nazeer for Ultraviolet Sun

The invention of the internet once promised to make knowledge open and accessible to anyone across the world, a perfect, radically open tool that encouraged the sharing of information and knowledge across societies and specialisms. Yet in opposition to the original nature of the web, the mechanisms behind the filter bubble are generating closed systems of knowledge. This is radically harmful to both individuals and societies.

Noted science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov predicted that one day, we’d “have computer outlets in every home, each of them hooked up to enormous libraries where anyone can ask any question and be given answers, be given reference materials, be something you’re interested in knowing, from an early age, however silly it might seem to someone else,” and with this appliance, be able to truly enjoy learning instead of being forced to learn mundane facts and figures.

His insight has proven to be amazingly accurate, as we now live in a world with the Internet, where nearly the entire wealth of human knowledge can live at our fingertips or even in our pockets, from being able to summon email from our smart phones to earning entire degrees from accredited online colleges. We can also earn these degrees in a variety of options including associate degrees, bachelor degreesmaster’s degrees, and even PHDs- all online.

Such an amazing feat, of course, doesn’t happen without impacting our lives, and scientists have begun to note that the Internet has not only served to fulfill our brains’ curiosities, but also rewired them. So what exactly is the Internet doing to our brains?  In this Brave New World narratives are written and re-written, looping the past into the far future, like strange entities using a body to incubate the eggs from which they will emerge. The crucial question is one of becoming: what are you changing into, what is growing out of you?

About The Artists

Visionary, nerd and all-around nice guy, Artist Tom Estes has had his work hung, played and performed in a few of the world’s right places and a couple of deliciously wrong ones. Estes considers himself a carnival sideshow conceptualist, combining a bare-bones formal conceptualism with an eternally adolescent, DIY comic-prank approach. His performance work for Ultraviolet Sun, entitled ‘The Ideal Robot Home Show’ incorporates the use of biomorphic robotics. The work is a kind of thought experiment in which consumer technologies and Science Fiction merge and mingle in an ever-expanding field of social, political and economic

RiffyPerformance at Ultraviolet Sun is where heightened fascination begins. Operating between reality and fiction, the performance work of Riffat Ahmed (aka Riffy Powerz) embodies the disconnection that occurs between two worlds. A curator, film-maker and artist, Ahmed’s perfomance work brings filmic devices into an immediate interactive reality.You can read more about her in this interview for her project at the Saatchi Gallery.

Image- The performance work of Riffat Ahmed (aka Riffy Powerz) for Ultraviolet Sun embodies the disconnection that occurs between two worlds.  

If you haven’t heard of Vanya Balogh by now you probably should have. In recent years this boy has sent some serious shock waves through the London art scene. His curation, an integral part of his creative output, is defined by high intensity, large scale events and he was recently listed as one of the Artlyst Power 100. Balogh has exhibited widely and worked as a contributor with cult street style magazine I-D for over a decade. His commercially acclaimed photographic imaging will be at Ultraviolet Sun.

The work of Sonic Artist, Sarah Gavin, is an exploration of how sound can be sculptural. Portraying abstractions of the real, the mesmerizing, experimental and innovative ‘Table Score’ for Ultraviolet Sun is influenced by the rules of cymatics and ontological theories of existence.

BBKP is a group of artists comprising Nicholas Brown, Nathan Birchenough, Craig Kao and Savvas Papasavva. From various backgrounds, they deliberately lose their individual identities in a many-pronged practice that incorporates wit and humor.

Old Master of New Media, American avant-garde artist, writer and performer Barbara Rosenthal. As well as her own significant body of work, from 1976-1996, she was the principal female actor in Super-8 films by Bill Creston, seven of which were screened at The Museum of Modern Art. For Ultraviolet Sun she will present her performance “Existential Ultra-Light Photo Run”

London based Art Selectronic in association with and The Museum of Modern Media (MoMM) in New York City present Ultraviolet Sun, an evening of performance, sonic and retinal art.

Tom Estes, Sarah Gavin, Vanya Balogh, Riffy Powerz, Annabelle Stapleton-Crittenden, Jahan Nazeer, (BBKP) Nicholas Brown, Nathan Birchenough, Craig Kao, Savvas Papasavva and special guest, New York based artist, Barbara Rosenthal.

Saturday, Febuary 27th
from 6:00- 9:00 PM
14 Baylis Rd, London SE1 7AA

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About Art Selectronic

Art Selectronic is an artist-led initiative, that supports grass-roots contemporary art that remains unswayed by fashion, trends or the whims of government funding. The project involves ongoing research into the placing of contemporary art, it’s audiences and it’s relationship to the everyday. We place great emphasis on context. Our mission is to support new works of contemporary art and foster an audience from a wide range of backgrounds.
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3 Responses to How The Internet Is Rewiring Your Brain

  1. Pingback: You Don’t Need to Be a Rocket Scientist: Artistic Impressions Of Science | artselectronic

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