Currently on view at Art in General, artist Zach Blas has installed a striking interrogation and deconstruction of the internet itself, framing his show Contra-Internet through a language that fuses both classic frameworks of punk antagonism with a new generation of digital counter-cultures. Centered around a contemporary remake of director Derek Jarman’s masterpiece of radical queer cinema, Jubilee, Blas presents his own version of cultural collapse and reconstruction, framed through a group of artists and intellectuals seeking to rebuild from the ashes of Silicon Valley.
Many young artists have brought this mixture of both creative fervor and political energy to the landscape of modern practice, but few have worked in such a resonant historical framework and interest in the relationships of both cultural evolution and framings of the same questions of power and social relations in the manner that Blas has. His works are less about the “digital sphere” than they are about how this sphere has reshaped and reworked many of the same questions as in the past, or perhaps more resonantly, taken some of the revolutionary questions of a past era completely out of the frame of criticality.
His work in Contra-Internet is framed around this mode of thinking, the idea of how and when to work certain exercises of revolutionary, radical queer identity, and the social change that these exercises of existence might be able to work on broader cultural frameworks. Jarman’s original film poses a culture post-collapse, one in which the exercising of queerness is perhaps the ultimate radical act, a rejection of every societal more that has brought the society to this state of collapse. In his new framing of the same cultural context, Blas presents a Silicon Vallery in collapse, and a resistance network built around the teachings of Paul Preciado and J.K. Gibson-Graham. Blas’s resistance, rather than that of mainstream society’s hashtagged, anti-Trump rhetoric currently exercised on massive corporate platforms like Twitter, works at the core of what the Internet itself has become, a bloated network of corporate interests, and seeks to rewrite its history through a targeted, “contra-internet” position.
As much as Blas’s punk dystopianism seeks solutions, it equally poses situations where these solutions might actually realize themselves. Blas seems to see the the way forward for true revolution as working against the current state of technocratic power-consolidation and fascist exercises of racist politics. Revolutionaries must ultimately seek to destabilize its modes of transmission and understanding. This cannot be done by toothless exercises of expression, he argues, but by the ultimate destruction and reworking of entire modes of communication and transmission. In Blas’s works, the revolution will not be livestreamed, and can only occur by rewriting the idea of the network again.
Contra-Internet closes April 21st.
— D. Creahan
Zach Blas: Contra-Internet [Exhibtion Site]