THE ITALIAN JOB – Job n.1, embarrassment party, 2014. Creative Commons license e mixed media, 2 curatorial texts
In 2014, curator Marii Nyröp conceived and led a digital artist residency program on the topic of cloud computing called embarrassment party. My personal contribution highlights the hidden structures behind themes such as originality, legality, artistic legitimization, collective processes, digital labor and the relationship between artists and curators in the age of the Internet.
Nov 2013 – Apr 2014: I announced that at the end of the residency, I would steal the entire residency and every artwork produced for it. The act of stealing, the curatorial texts, and the works stolen, would become my final artwork. My statement influenced my relationship with the other residents as well as their decisions on what to produce.
Apr 2014 – Today: I licensed the “embarrassment party” name and website under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-
embarrassment party by Emilio Vavarella is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at http://embarrassmentparty.biz/.
THE ITALIAN JOB. ITALIAN THEORY AND THE ART OF TROLLING
Curatorial text by Lucrezia Calabrò Visconti
In 1961, 27 year-old Piero Manzoni stated that the gullible art world would buy anything signed by an artist, even if it was a little tin of faeces. Guess what? Last time I checked, the Artist’s Shits were sold for no less than 170,000 dollars each. Fifty years later, everybody knows that Maurizio Cattelan won’t answer any questions himself in the interviews he gets – nevertheless, magazines keep interviewing him, every single day. Apparently, Italians are very good artists when it comes to the supreme art of trolling. It seems like the art world will take the bait, no matter who, no matter what.
Emilio Vavarella has the peaceful smile of somebody who lucidly recognizes this legacy: to troll is surely a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it. Specifically, The Italian Job, conceived for the residency and exhibition Embarrassment Party, reproduces the most sophisticated trolling operation contemporary art has ever conceived of – that is, what we politely call appropriation art.
Right now we find ourselves in the middle of a new generation of appropriation artists: in 1979 Sherrie Levine re-photographed the photographs that Walker Evans took in 1936, and in 2001 Michael Mandiberg created AfterSherrieLevine.com and AfterWalkerEvans.com, two websites where anybody can download high-resolution quality images of Sherrie Levine’s Walker Evans’ photographs, with a certificate of authenticity, and instructions about the framing. New media certainly brought unexpected scenarios into the debate about the authorship – but what does it really mean to appropriate an artwork, and ultimately to be an artist, in the 2.0 era of cognitive-cultural capitalism? Is it a promising getaway from the structures of digital labor, or is it just a way to play with them, use them from the inside, and eventually become their victim?
These are just some of the issues raised by the project embarrassment_party: the online residency aims to explore the methods in which the web, with its cannibalizing tendencies towards our bodies, and its nevertheless lifeless interconnectivities, can become a medium for artistic practice. As Marii Nyröp writes in the open call, “the Internet is dead, but its affective protocols of remote intimacies, generative aesthetics, embarrassing timelines, and immaterial labor persist into the zero gravity of the cloud.” The one-month-long residency will lead to an exhibition, and here’s when Vavarella’s burglary plan finally comes in: The Italian Job consists in the robbery of the whole embarrassment_party exhibition. The works, the residency process, even me writing this text, will be licensed under Creative Commons, and in the future will be used only in the exhibition’s configuration, and exclusively under Emilio Vavarella’s name.
While The Italian Job indubitably fits Italians’ long time reputation of sneaky burglars, this isn’t the only reason why the adjective “Italian” is crucial to the work. In the last decades, a movement called Italian Theory emerged, possibly as a response to the crisis of language-centered Anglo-American philosophies. Strongly related to Operaismo, the Italian Theory considers language to be another means of production, and knowledge indissolubly bound to the concept of political struggle. Agamben, Negri and Esposito (among the others) dug up the notions of biopolitics and multitude, and indicate a possible practical escape plane from contemporary post-capitalist struggles, out from the language and into the practice.
The Italian Job pursues a paradoxical yet solid instance of Italian Theorists’ political statements, developing the treacherous strength of words in the context of techno-power. Vavarella’s slow withdrawal from the project itself leaves the legitimization of his work exclusively to legal agreements and formal recognition – in the present case, Creative Common’s legal agreement and a curator’s formal recognition – my formal recognition, taking place through this text.
Whether it is exploiting me, my brain and my time, or I am taking advantage of his voluntary retirement from the Job; whether the embarrassment party took advantage of the selected artists, or the other way around, this simply highlights a deep power play, reproducing in part the dynamics of cognitive exploitation and cultural abuse. If we really needed another work of appropriation art, this is the only one that celebrates the unpaid labor and the politics of visibility, not very unlike what happens everyday in our world. Stealing wise words, because I’m Italian too: everybody will be famous, for 15 words in the courtesy.
Curatorial text by Marii Nyröp
isn’t it time to rename the internet? isn’t the web 2.0 more of a cloud for falling than a net for catching? the internet’s external inter-connections have been wholly consumed—internalized and made mobile. the cloud is always simultaneously here—in our local drives, intuitively integrated with our bodies and preeminently available to them—and way over there—on servers far away, in metaphors up in the air, and peripheral to individual comprehension or control. we ask: what does this remote intimacy of the cloud imply? and what does it obscure?
with the emergence of the cloud, connections of time and space have fractalized, becoming too many and too arbitrary and too deep. our actions have become porous, complicit and confused via social plugins, multinational investors, ’friends of friends,‘ conspicuous absences and inferred consensus. we click here and a server in texas compliments our labor with its own; we click there and an advertising agency cashes in; we click here and our photos become the property of something or someone else (we don’t know); we click there and our contact lists are spammed; no one clicks and we delete our content over the unsettling lack of response. we are queasy with oscillations of here and far, near and where.
much more than the servers, routers, cables, and agreements to terms of service that comprise it, we know the cloud to be a precarious factory and a nauseous feeling. we also know it to be a medium through which resistance, eagerness, and generative forms of embarrassment can still materialize. if the cloud can no longer be extricated from protocols of social, political, economic, and emotional life, we hope that this installation might inform a more empathetic future for those who will have been uploaded into it.
in november 2013, i released an open call online for artists and theorists to apply to the embarrassment_party virtual residency program. i purchased the domain embarrassmentparty.biz and the email address email@example.com, and from then on operated as “the maestro” of the e_p project. in the following weeks, over 50 applications were received and the website was viewed by several hundred visitors from 32 different nation states. applicants were asked to submit responses in any medium to the project’s initial themes, including remote intimacies, cloud capital, over exposure, data labor, and free fall in the cloud.
by january 2014, seven artists were welcomed into the project (the eighth being myself/the maestro), and the residency officially began in early february. since that time, we have chatted extensively as a group and in smaller clusters about ideas, sources of excitement, and sites of anxiety. few of us have met each other in person. this did not impede collaboration, but certainly informed and transformed our creative, collective practices. even though the residency has culminated in the embarrassment_party irl + url installation, the residency will not end now. for better or worse, the cloud does not close unless we close ourselves to it. however, emilio vavarella”s theft of embarrassment_party in its entirety within his creative commons concept piece the italian job has left the future of the project precarious and foggy, much like the cloud in general. any other iterations of e_p would be illegal, but whatever…?
The following artworks are Licensed as part of embarrassmentparty.biz by Emilio Vavarella under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Marii Nyröp, net_worker leaving the factory 404 (2014), .gif animation to .mov video, ipad display, 404 friendship bracelets / dimensions variable.
Marii Nyröp, free fall (2013), inkjet print of .png collage / 23” x 23”.
Marii Nyröp, heartbreak the mixtape (2013), hd single channel video on ipod touch / 9min 49sec / 2.31” x 4.86”.
Annelyse Gelman, On Silence (2014), five interactive web poems / dimensions variable.
Mehron Abdollmohammadi, Ekleipsis (2014), inkjet prints of .pdf tableux / dimensions variable.
Mehron Abdollmohammadi, Smoke On The Water (2014), sd video projection of film transfer / 1min 16sec loop / dimensions variable.
Viktor Timofeev, that fateful afternoon in the cloud(s) (2014), audio collage / infinite loop / dimensions variable.
Sanguine cb, poet1 (2014), blogger poetry labyrinth for web / duration variable / dimensions variable.
Cristine Brache, video for invidividual on demand (v.o.i.d.), (2014) hd single channel video / 3 min / dimensions variable.
Cristine Brache + Jesse Darling, Sample Video for V.O.I.D. (2014) hd single channel video / 3 min / dimensions variable.
Jesse Darlin, Brazil (2014), digital text.
- THE WRONG, New Digital Art Biennale, Homeostasis Pavillion, curated by Julia Borges Araña and Guilherme Brandão, online exhibition
- THE ITALIAN JOB – Job n.1, embarrassment_party, curated by Marii Nyröp and Lucrezia Calabrò, online and physical exhibition at Amherst College, MA, US
The first Italian Job was supported by the Five College Digital Humanities Project (MA), US and Andrew Mellon Foundation through the embarrassment party online residency program.
Artisti partecipanti: Marii Nyröp (Amherst), Viktor Timofeev (Riga/NYC), Mehron Abdollmohammadi (NYC), Cristine Brache (Guangzhou), Jesse Darling (London/Berlin), Annelyse Gelman (SF/NYC), Sanguine cb (n/a), Emilio Vavarella (NYC), con la partecipazione aggiuntiva della curatrice italiana Lucrezia Calabrò Visconti. La residenza è stata resa possibile da: Five College Digital Humanities Project e la Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
“Italian Theory and The Art of Trolling”
by Lucrezia Calabrò Visconti. (eng)
by Marii Nyrop, 2014. (eng)
“ITALIANS ON THE JOB: Inside and Outside an Anarchival Impulse”
by Monica Bosaro, 2014. (eng)
“A Question of Stealing?”
by Emma Stanisic, 2014. (eng)
“Un’opera creata digitalmente con immagini di opere rubate…realmente”
interview by Andrea Bruciati, 2014. (ita)
“An art fair where the physical plane meets the new, digital flesh”
“The Wrong New Digital Art Biennial Brings Together The Best Of The Net”
“Explore an Extraterrestrial Dimension of New Media Art”
“Nueva, híbrida y… equivocada”
“The Wrong: una bienal de arte que no tiene nada de “equivocada”
“Launching the Largest Digital Biennale in the World on Shoestring Budget: An interview with David Quiles Guillo”
“Llevarán el arte a sus manos”
“The Wrong Biennale”