Invisible Art I Saw This Summer

Somewhere I encountered Ed Ruscha’s text pieces. White statement slapped on oversaturated mountain, rather like something I forgot I’d already reblogged on Tumblr, only the text isn’t an adolescent existentialism. Rather it reminded me of signs I’d seen driving through Ohio; “Caring Farmers Producing Quality Pork”, “Onward Christian Soldier”, “Drive Sober!! Alcohol Deaths 266”.

Interestingly, the second page on his website, after “works”, is “missing works”. Here you find black and white photographs of stuff like Piano [#2], which you can download by right-clicking, eliminating the pretense of even taking a screenshot in order to take a copy of the image with you. What then is missing here? Color, like the skin of dinosaurs, we’ll never know. Just the little things, like piano (p) for quiet. And of course monetarily, the value. What then is left? Oddly, something that still has plenty of meaning. I’ll never see Piano [#2] but I have seen something else I took notice of.

4527-d-1966-13-1

Anyway, I don’t know why they’re missing, but you can contact the Catalogue Raisonné if you “have information about the location of any of the works”.

Then I walk into a dark room and this is playing:

I wonder about Hito Steryl’s black gi (you know, this thing), which is folded left over right side–to me, the wrong way. (As I write this, I have to double check that I’m not imagining it by googling “kimono” (spoiler: gross appropriation), but I’ve worn a kimono and I know I’m right.) It’s the kind of little thing that feels deeply wrong when you’re reading a flipped manga. And I have to pause and say that maybe I’m assuming when I think Hito Steryl is Japanese and would care about this anyway. As it turns out, she’s German. That in itself is “how not to be seen”, a kind of cultural invisibility, that an assumption because of the way you look can erase your real identity. But I also remember at the last minute that the folds of a kimono are reversed on the body of someone about to be cremated, and I wonder if that was her intent. But I’ll just keep wondering, because Steryl doesn’t have a website and, in respect to my curiosity, remains invisible.

Then I walk into another dark room and get in a ball pit (no, actually, a ball pit) where this is playing:

Hard to know where to start with this one.

I suppose the obvious thing to point out is that Jon Rafman sticks his hands into the internet and pulls out, kicking, screaming, or heavily breathing, many sights and sounds that we may never have dreamed existed (or wanted to). The thing is, I say “we” to describe the category of people who might be shocked or disturbed by this visual information, but the internet as a community is responsible for them, and if you are using the internet to read this sentence, you are a part of it too. As the narrator informs us, “You do not move your eyes from the screen. You have become invisible.”

The corners of the internet we may think of as being the darkest are still a part of the human imagination as a whole, and I think Rafman points out to us that they are more real than we would like to acknowledge. They are merely a facet of culture that is less visible. What is actually disturbing may simply be that the internet provides a platform for invisible things to become visible.

While writing this I was compelled to do some light research (read: wikipedia) on 4chan, a website that, for better or worse, played a significant part in my education about the world at large. If you know what I’m talking about, you know, and if you don’t, read: wikipedia. It includes a “controversies” subheading including “threats of violence”, child pornography, and one murder. One citation about users that tracked down the uploader of videos of abuse of a cat named Dusty and facilitated his arrest. (“The cat was treated by a veterinarian and taken to a safe place.”) This on a website alongside women depicted with mundane regularity as objects subjected to violent and humiliating rape. But those are just pictures, right?

I don’t have any answers about what the internet means for us, our culture, for our benefit or destruction. But I will say I think there’s much that we call invisible that we merely choose not to see, and that goes for identity, conspiracy, value, a word that spells “piano”.

 

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