Saturday, 30 January 2010


I have spent this afternoon wrenching works of art off the wall of a gallery, cutting them up and mailing them to my friends. This wasn't an act of a callous but caring vandal, nor am I a philistine who's finally cracked under the weight of one too many Channel 4 programme telling me how wonderful contemporary art is. Rather, I was taking part in the conclusion of the HTTP gallery's project DIWO at the Dark Mountain, an open-to-all "disassembly" event where the elements of the exhibition were stuffed into envelopes and e-mailed out to whoever the participants wished - old friends, gallery contacts, their mums and so on. (DIWO by the way stands for 'Do It With Others', a nice antidote to the individuals contained within 'Do It Yourself')

The work for the exhibition was created over a month through the netbehaviour e-mail list, with various iterations of artworks being exchanged and then altered, expanded or transformed by the list's participants. These were then curated into an exhibition by HTTP. The art works were created in response to the Uncivilsation - the Dark Mountain Manifesto, a text which proposes that western civilization is tottering on the brink of collapse. Dystopianism bores me, but this has a hint of apocalypse which keeps things a little more exciting. Of course, the text was also subject to extensive critique on the mailing list - which in turn was being printed out on a dot-matrix printer within the exhibition, and was used to wrap the art works which were posted out.

Some of the works can be viewed online here. I'll leave off any direct comment on the work produced, as I'm not convinced I have much insight here - and in any case such a focus might miss the point of the project a little. Part of what I found interesting about today is how an infinitely reproducible digital/digitised work can transmuted into a physical object with its own distinct value, and a different potential. The ritual of stamping it with DIWO in red and wrapping it up in the print-out marks the work (which is after all simply a foam-back printout) marks it out as in a sense 'authentic', but this isn't a case of imbuing the work with monetary worth. Rather it creates a lineage, a series of links and connections which have their own aesthetic value, which can be carried into any work created by the mail-outs.

Hopefully some of the participants have creative mums.

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