Artwork featured in the salon – 'phantom.dance' A new online performance. Web Archive, Unique (2018) (Image courtesy of the artist)
Constant Dullaart is a Dutch artist whose work—spanning websites, performances, routers, installations, and a successful Kickstarter for a hardware startup—reflects how we process, discover, and share digital media. He’s exhibited at the New Museum, the Van Gogh Museum, The Armory Show, Postmasters, Transmediale Berlin, Stedelijk Museum, Carroll / Fletcher, Upstream Gallery, Future Gallery, IMPORT Projects, and Art Cologne.
Much of his work over the past few years deals with digital discovery and gatekeepers. Jennifer in Paradise “restores” and manipulates Photoshop founder John Knoll’s 1987 picture that was an ubiquitous demo when his software came out but eventually became nearly impossible to find. Dullaart’s http://untitledinternet.com/ site obscures a Google search page with blobs of brushstrokes; his http://therevolvinginternet.com/ slowly spins it. Death of the URL doesn’t do anything besides use a very long url (http://xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.xxx/) to comment on the fact that few people type in domain names directly these days—our internet explorations are typically mediated by discovery platforms like Google.
His more recent work gets into the cloudy economics of how we assign value to what we see online. Fake likes and bot armies have changed the course of everything from Instagram advertising to the presidential election. Dullaart examines what that looks like in the art world.
“The regime of audience validation within cultural critique has reached frightening levels,” he writes. And considering that so much of online audience validation is fake, it’s absurd to see likes and views become career-making metrics for many artists. So Dullaart summons bots to like famous artists’ Instagram accounts or to post poetry in quick, line-by-line succession, from different accounts, in comment threads, as he does in phantom.dance.
When he started buying followers, he was taken with the nature of the fake accounts that are up for sale. They’re typically made from sloppy scrapes of real profiles; faces are cropped out of photos and bios are misspelled banalities (“I like t be fancy”). Dullaart suggests buying likes is closely tied to our fear of being alone, and the accounts themselves are depressingly empty.
Still, a like is worth so much more than the fraction of a penny it can be bought with (and Dullaart gets a discount, since he buys in bulk). When he directed bots to like every post about him at The Armory Show, people came up to congratulate him for the popularity of his work. After a New York Times journalist interviewed him about Instagram and art, her final piece celebrated Simon de Pury’s impressive Instagram following—with no mention that Dullaart had purchased a significant chunk of it. Even knowing all the ins and outs of buying likes, he’s susceptible to the power of popularity, too. He says he’s tricked himself into “feeling like a better person” when he directs bots to like his own account.
Artist profile by Katheryn Thayer for The Current.
'phantom.dance' (2018) a new online performance from Constant Dullaart is featured in 'The Current // Truth' curated by Tina Rivers Ryan from September 6 – 14th, 2018. Become a member of The Current to attend our private salons: http://current.mu/salons