The Work of Art in the Age of Post Prefixes : Re-examining the symbolic and economic value of the artwork in a post-internet society

University essay from Lunds universitet/Medie- och kommunikationsvetenskap

Abstract: Over the past decade, the artworld has seen the emergence of various new art genres such as post-internet art, post-media art, and Internet-aware art to name a few. What these genres insinuate is an era of transition between us and digital media, between our online sphere and our offline sphere. This development affects all agents of the artworld, namely, the gallery system, the art-market and most importantly, how one measures the symbolic and economic value of the artwork. The Internet has enabled a new platform to democratize the artwork, and similarly a way for artists to take the marketing of their art and their artistic persona into their own hands, boycotting the middle man of the gallery space. As a result, the institutional gallery system has been compelled to restate - and justify its existence. Many artists and scholars have anticipated the downfall of the established gallery space and art-market in a new age, and yet, paradoxically, it seems to be thriving better than ever before. Through qualitative semi-structured interviews with contemporary artists, this thesis rethinks the impact the Internet has had on artists’ practice. It investigates how artists are coping with the terms and limitations of the established art-world whilst having access to the liberating possibilities of the Internet. Former research suggests that this development has enabled the artist to be completely autonomous and work outside of governing insitutions, yet the findings of this thesis refute those truth claims. Even though artists can publish and market their own material on the Internet, it comes with the price of the fabricated cult value surrounding the art-market. This thesis questions prevailing discourse on the supposed democratizing impact the Internet has had on the art-world. Too much value has been put on the Internet as a source of autonomy, as well as a steering parameter in its relationship to contemporary art. The gallery system still works as the main consecrator of value within an artwork, and because of the easily reproduciblility of the digital image, the need to withhold symbolic value within an object due to its scarcity is more relevant than ever. The rules of art are still in power.

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