The Day My Internet Art Paid Off

Irena Borić, Martina Kontošić, Renata Šparada

Tabs, procrastination, self-promotion, collaboration, spam, comment sections, shares, likes – these are all fragments, be it material or digital, of circulating data. On the web, the circulation performed by numerous users gives value and power to the circulated information. Therefore, internet economies do not only allude to typical digital financial transfer protocols, but are also based, to a large extent, on generating symbolic capital, i.e., values. Bearing in mind the context of the web as a corporate and supervised medium, the exhibition brings to the forefront the artist's reactionary role in relation to the economic models developed on the 2.0 web.

Assuming that the reality of the internet today impacts the way we act, socialise and think, the exhibition examines how the internet and digital economies influence the life and position in society of the people who use them. That is to say, the users are the ones who provide information online in exchange for freedom, agreeing to being resourced to particular corporations, or, as Andrew Lewis put it in 2010, if you're not paying for the product, you are the product. This is why the exhibition pinpoints the intersections of apparently divided worlds within the existing economic setup; on the one hand, the production itself is marked by the current economic state, while on the other, the online world is the extraordinary place of exploitation and experimentation.

Due to appropriation strategies in the digital age, the value of the circulated image is not determined by its originality, nor authorship, but rather the medium and the context in which it appears. In the words of Eva Respini: "Viral images, memes, and trending videos gain currency, power, and new branding possibilities in an ever-expanding image economy." [1]

Željko Badurina's work draws attention by exploring the number one phenomenon on the internet (or perhaps the number two phenomenon, after pornography). Scientific papers ponder over reasons as to why cats and the internet are a winning combination, examining psychological and other aspects of their online symbiosisThe analysis of the consequences of their dominance over the internet should not be overlooked and they are examined in the Cute cat theory of digital activism which states that cats on the internet help activists across various social movements. [2] For this exhibition, all sorts of cute kitties and the occasional dog were collected, along with human commentary. In the KITTYKITTY series (2012-2016), the artist contributes to the distribution of megapopular content with a daily post. However, his posts do not only serve to generate clicks, as is often the case with marketing strategies, but establish a critical distance from the dominant language online. They are something of a ready-made, consisting of images found on the internet, and by attaching a date and a signature, they gain a quality that is as artistic as it is subversive. Željko Badurina uses Facebook as an artistic medium where he can distribute and communicate his art, and more often than not, it is also where he comments and downloads content for his artwork. This is a continuation of post-art, when he was sending postcards offline to communicate his ideas. At a certain point, the artist and some of his followers from the cultural scene, swapped the old-fashioned postcards for Facebook. The new medium altered the relationship with the final recipients of his works, to an extent. Now they can react, and their comments, likes and shares become part of the work, vicariously addressing the specific economy of attention and visibility characteristic of social media.

User reactions are the focus of Thinner Barrel (2014) by Maja Čule. The artist downloaded more than 2,000 comments written under the Bic for her pen advertisement on Amazon, most of which were reactions to the gender exclusivity of the product in question. The virtual domain of one of the largest world corporations, which, in fact, counts on free work from its users, turned into a forum for feminist discourse. This is why the artist stripped the comments of their initial context and put them in a book, or, as she says "a feminist theory Bible of arguments written in simple language." [3]
By making a book, the artist does not follow the rules and logic of internet collaboration. The comments themselves were created as "organised action without organisation" [4], which is part of projects such as Wikipedia, with spontaneous division of labour. Anyone can write as much as they want, and the article is always a work in progress. This is precisely the process that ceases once online commentary is turned into a book.
Furthermore, when transferring those comments into an object, they are the ones that carry value, not the product to which they reacted. By displaying them in a gallery, the artist singles out the situation from its original context and says: "Look! This exists!" [5], and lets the visitor decide what to do with that information.
Her work shows that the visual language of the market is not only shaped by marketing rules and guided by profit, but also by comments from potential customers. While marketing strategies behind the controversial product think of market segmentation on the basis of which they can turn bigger profit, users warning about the misogynist discourse replicates the relations that exist in the world anyway, but are rendered more visible online.

The implications of users' input in commercial setting are also the topic of Hrvoje Hiršl's work, but from a different perspective. Click Massage (2016) points out the "physicality of the digital" by placing an online ad which is actually not that at all. Ad clicks are translated into a tactile experience to a mattress put up in Galženica Gallery. Hiršl's Click Massage was derived from his works Nodes and www.butttton.com, which were shown for the first time at Gallery Nova at the Heroic Exhaustion exhibition in 2015. The concept originated from the artist's work experience during his residency at Dordtyart Centrum in Dordrecht. The aim of that work was to form a symbolic link between the previous function of the building and the current situation by transmitting the financial market fluctuations of world's largest shipyards to the steel construction of the former DordtYart shipyard – the influence of the financial market on physical space and division of labour. After three months of research, testing and system development, the organiser informed the artist that he would only receive a partial residency fee because he was not working with 'his own hands.' To combat that level of misunderstanding, Hiršl performed his work at Gallery Nova based on the idea of a mechanical turk, someone who works for a couple of cents per click. That work was re-contextualised at Galženica Gallery and expanded upon; Click Massage upgrades on the interaction and has a wider reach by spreading across the internet, not only outside the gallery and its website, all the way to electronic media space usually occupied by commercials. Moreover, transformation of invisible clicks into a massage points out the invisibility of the workers and their work online, which is used by advertising industries to obtain free labour force.
The reason why working on the web is so invisible and often perceived as idleness or a hobby lies in the fact that its physical aspects supercede the classical idea of work. What is more, many users are not even aware they are generating symbolic value on the basis of which someone else makes a profit. Social media allow their users the freedom to communicate, but at the same time, the information exchanged between users is made available to marketing and advertising companies. Katarina Peović Vuković observes that: "The surplus is not visible at the first sight – subject is granted with “user-friendly” platform. But it is offered as free only in exchange for information." [6]
According to her, this 'freedom' of 'user-friendly' interface, as well as 'open' social networks work through the typical post-ideological framework. Freedom comes in a form of empty gesture where there exists a choice offered before the subject while everybody knows which choice is the right one." [7]

A work in progress, COMCOM by Dina Karadžić is a reaction to spending time on social media. The title is an abbreviation of COMmunication COMpression and deals with the compression of time, emphasising artistic postproductions and the value of time and skills invested in those processes. The author explores the possibility of freeing up her own time, so that spending time online would be a matter of choice, rather than a necessity that comes with website maintenance, generating social media presence and random communication.
At Galženica Gallery, Dina Karadžić spatialises the processuality of exploration into a structure made of monitors which resembles a personal shrine. Altarpieces are replaced with interconnected screens, that is, social media profiles which 'work together' because the information posted on one of the profiles automatically updates the other ones as well.
The artist wants to "explore how to use social media tools at her disposal to 'steal' time usually devotedd to media artists' 'life' online (basic work sharing), so that there is more time to explore and create."
This is why the piece has two segments – it is presented as a reflection of private work space and as the 'secret' public 'performance in time' shown on monitors, available at the gallery and online. At the same time, artist's hacks, which are aimed at increasing the artist's productivity, are similar to an entrepreneurial frame of mind, constantly looking for ways to increase the usability of the work force with as fewer resources as possible. Therefore, the central issue posed by the artist is the issue of trust and how important it is to become aware of these models being reflected on individuals, while also being in the extreme focus of commercial entities. By stealing time as the most valuable online currency, the artist adjusts the commercially-minded social media to suit her artistic needs. The background of Dina Karadžić artwork consists of numerous collaborations which resulted from time compression, but also stem from the need to exchange skills and knowledge, so even in this case, the work was created during intense discussions with Vedran Gligo.

The economy of collaboration which forms the background of internet art is also something that interested Tea Stražičić. Her installations Fire (2016) and Swamp (2016) were derived within a layered digital creative framework, supported through her collaboration with Marta Stražičić and Filip Ščekić as co-authors. Their collaboration includes simple economy of exchange and barter. The artist explains: "Both installations feature collaborations with musicians and electronic music producers. The collaboration is usually set up online, resulting in the exchange of sound/image, which is an extremely simple trade in contrast to complex, digital and technical work. Even though we are surrounded by sophisticated technology, which means performing complex pieces of music and animation is available to everyone, and therefore more independent and more free in its expression, the economy related to production of such works is mostly based on the exchange of goods and art, as well as an oral agreement."
While Swamp portrays the digital swamp as the internet's fascination with fluid and plastic, Fire uses its motive as a reflection of visual information exchange in creative digital communities, in which it also takes part. These communities enable the exchange of materials, topics and different aesthetics, and the digital pagan motive of fire is a recent trend. The fascination with a particular material and then spreading it online, either accidentally or under the influence of prominent profiles on sites such as Reddit, Tumblr or Facebook, is adjacent to the cultural phenomenon of internet memes.
There are also tapes with Filip Ščekić's music shown next to the Fire installation, so the visitors can take them if they leave something in return, perpetuating the trade-off principle on which the works are based.

Unlike Tea Stražičić, who uses the aesthetics of online vocabulary even in a gallery, Igor Štromajer does the exact opposite and strips down the structure of the web composed of very palpable, almost noteless cables, disks and a screen. By exposing the raw materiality of the internet, Štromajer translates intima.org/intimadotorgslashfuture (2016) into a material form. The work simultaneously presents nothing (a sale is only attempted) and something (created when translated as material presentation of online activity). The online version of his work that tries to sell intima.org/intimadotorgslashfuture for €12,610, offering up future, currently non-existing content, is a commentary on the status of internet art on the art market. The artist views actual sums of money that can be earned with internet art and toys with the expected sums by organising discounts or correcting the price of the website. The object on display in the online version of the piece does not represent anything, the object merely signifies the online context of the sale. In the physical version, the work becomes a material object purchased by a potential buyer with a price tag and the title of the work, much like an article at a shop.
In the context of Štromajer's entire opus, not only does this work question the value of a piece of art online, but also its materiality in digital surroundings. We also should not forget that Igor Štromajer is an artist who easily destroys his old works when they cannot exist in their originally conceived form due to new technology.

In terms of the subject of a work of art in online context, tackled by Igor Štromajer, there is still the matter of the subversiveness of artistic activity in an environment with such invasive corporate interest. What are the strategies to re-establish online data circulation which could, as pointed out by Hito Steyerl, short-circuit existing networks, circumvent and bypass fixed regimes of power and money?

[1] See: http://www.walkerart.org/magazine/2016/eva-respini-ordinary-pictures-dictionary, September 5, 2016

[2] According to the cute cat theory of digital activism, suggested by the blogger and Internet activist Ethan Zuckerman, cat motives on social media, such as, Facebook, Flickr and Twitter, are useful to activist across different social movements. Using those kinds of tools makes them less vulnerable because it is much harder for the government to shut down a popular social media outlet than a single, exclusively activist platform.

[3] See: https://i-d.vice.com/en_gb/article/do-what-you-love-with-maja-cule, September 5, 2016

[4] Shirky, Clay (2009.) Here Comes Everybody, The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. Penguin Books. London

[5] See: https://i-d.vice.com/en_gb/article/do-what-you-love-with-maja-cule, September 5, 2016

[6] Peović Vuković, Katarina (2016) "The Merciful Economy - Just Communicate! Marx and Creative Industries", Knowledge Cultures, Vol. 4(6), ISSN: 2327-5731

[7] Ibid.