Artist Marisa Olson takes on one of the building blocks of the Internet and the computer–background imagery–with wit and verve, stealing the familiar wallpapers and animated gifs, reimagining them in gigantic proportions–from bits to bytes to pure gluttony.
Her exhibit Background Information at Esther Klein Gallery includes new work. It’s a load of fun, a small exhibit that takes on the graphics used to express sound files, the “transparent” grid from Photoshop, even the Flickr Safe Search Veil.
This last one was personal for me–I still haven’t forgiven or forgotten when Flickr veiled my images for a brief period after someone tagged as offensive a Marilyn Minter image of a woman giving a microphone a blow job. It’s a microphone for god’s sake!!! Have we lost all perspective here or what! And then I had to grovel for the anonymous Flickr police bureaucracy to prove my worthiness! It took a moment to veil me. It took a month to strip my photos bare. [This story is completely wrong; the truth is, Minter’s blow job to a microphone was in fact a penis being held like a microphone. I rewrote the past in my mind to justify my outrage, I suppose.]
In this non-world that is the Internet, it turns out what is not real is all too real, an elusive recreation of real institutions of human society reduced to their most inhuman. It is here in that confusion between reality and unreality that Olson positions her work.
It’s the vaguely disquieting lack of genuineness that makes Olson’s work pack a punch. The Flickr veil is a fall-apart vision of black and gray-scale pixels that dissolve into meaninglessness at the same time that they have the power to censor. They are nothing. They are something.
As for the sound files, they are luscious, and the pixel leakage around the edges are a form of deconstruction of the visuals in motion. Are they there, those ghostly edges? Can you hear them? Or are they visual residue of the previous sound? Beats me. But the more I thought about those seeping edges, the more I read into them. My ideas about them are at least as real as those stray pixels.
Olson is in another exhibit in town, about to close Friday. Here’s the info.
A writer as well as an artist, Olson has a hefty resume, which ranges from the Whitney to the Centre Pompidou to the New York Underground Film Festival. If you missed Annette’s terrific interview–a little edgy, a little hilarious–check it out. It’s the best way to find out just how nerdy Olson is.