I think a lot about the gelatinous forms and roles we have to assume to be mobile – about transhumanism, mythical animal powers, feminism and queerness, exoticism, cgi characters, and Realflow. (Kari Altmann)1

ELLIS KING GALLERY  sits amid the commercial tumbleweeds of Dublin 8’s White Swan industrial estate. White walls with galvanised trim, the gallery is contained within a tin can warehouse you’d more likely find in New York’s Chelsea district. I’m not sure why but Dublin’s Mother’s Tankstation came to mind as soon as I pulled up for the first time at Ellis King. Perhaps the warehouse setting and its remoteness from the city? Mother’s Tankstation inflated rather than diffused their relative isolation on the Dublin quays by making the experience of viewing art a private, verging on familial affair within their part-time home on the urban shore of the River Liffey. Whether you found this a disconcerting or nice experience is perhaps a matter of how secure you felt during your formative years.

In the same sense you could also say Ellis King is a little detached from civilisation amongst the steel shuttered business community in White Swan. I don’t know why this is relevant to the experience in the gallery, but it is somehow. That said, Ellis King’s location, scale and industrial mien already defines it as a singularity among the museums, art centres, commercial galleries, artist-run and curator-run art spaces that make up Dublin’s art scene. Better still, the art shown so far at Ellis King is the kind of glossy art magazine, not limited by geography, art fair fare you come across online on the likes of artobserved.com or  contemporaryartdaily.com. In some ways the curator-led and altogether too earthy and textually defined identity of the Irish art scene needs an injection of the big bad art market. Ellis King is potentially a refreshing and serious alternative to all that.

A year old this month, Ellis King has understandably proven to be a moody adolescent during its short lifespan, with a string of pick 'n' mix exhibitions to date. Over that year none of the gallery e-vites attracted my attention (ironically, the definition of the now archaic transitive verb ‘evite’ is ‘to shun’ or ‘to avoid’). However, that all changed last month when “Kari Altmann” entered my inbox. 

I purposely avoid art openings for the sake of impartiality in my reviewing, and even more so for the sake of the art (I take my art anti-socially). This also means sacrificing opening night performances when part of the package, which was the case with Altmann at Ellis King. Anyway, sometimes the residue of the performance in the gallery or secondhand experience by word-of-mouth can be equally if not more synaptically rewarding. I heard through the online grapevine that things got a little quirky on Altmann’s opening night, with a performance by a duet sporting Braveheart warpaint and futurist sportswear.

This performative aspect is reminiscent of artworld ‘riddler’ Ryan Gander’s solo exhibition ‘This Consequence’ at London’s Lisson Gallery back in 2006, in which all gallery staff, including the director (awkwaaard!) wore white Adidas tracksuits with embroidered stains in dark red thread. It is for those who attended on the night to judge whether this was cringeworthy or intentional queerness on the part of Altmann. Because of this performance those who attended on the night will have a different view of the exhibition than those who have and will visit the gallery during the exhibition run. From my ‘clean’ experience of Altmann’s exhibition at Ellis King I believe this is not just an important exhibition that asks many questions, but is also a gateway exhibition for Ellis King Gallery, and for Irish artists with a similar Post-Internet bent as Altmann (more later). But before I go any deeper into the gallery ergonomics of Altmann’s Post-Internet art, it maybe helpful to discuss the label Post-Internet art for those who are not in the know (like me). 

“Post-internet is anything that takes the idea of the internet as a starting point. The internet can be understood as an historical era and as an ecology of systems, a logic of networks – a very wide framework indeed. Any work that consciously comments on or includes the logic of the net is considered post-internet.” (Juliette Bonneviot)2

Simple. Chance of ruffling feathers = zero!?

Well, why is it when someone tries to define Post-Internet art to me, especially face-to-face, I go to my happy place? Perhaps in part because of the alien vernacular used, and also because I’m not embedded or vested in the Post-Internet art subculture or its historical precedents. I would call myself an advocate of whatchamacallit. Even a fan of  whatchamacallit. But not a whatchamacallit purest. I have come to the conclusion that Post-Internet art and its variants challenges the traditional notion of art criticism because of the new aesthetic and vernacular used to describe that new aesthetic. The question: “Do you consider yourself a Post-Internet artist/writer/curator?”3 is significant in this regard. No more can we use the cushion of art history to break the bottomless pit of the internet, a virtual space in which we have no shoulders to stand on. “Just as curators like Caitlin Jones have argued that new modes of analysis and vocabulary are required to critically engage with and evaluate Post-Internet art practices without recourse to comparisons to conceptual and post-conceptual art” (Nik Kosmas).4 That said, I don’t see Post-Internet art as a threat to art criticism but as having the capacity to transform art criticism in a refreshing way. Personally, I think the term is helpful – but I would say that because I work with words. 

Seemingly much maligned by the majority of artists and curators who are inspired by and creatively produce via the internet, and awkwardly accepted by those who don’t have a bull’s notion, the term Post-Internet art has proved discursively trigger happy in recent times because everyone has their own definition of the definition of Post-Internet art. The brilliant Brian Droitcour kicked up a virtual hornet’s nest in late 2014 with his article ‘The Perils of Post-Internet Art’ for Art in America with commentary like this:

‘I know it when I see it’ – like porn, right? It’s not a bad analogy, because Post-Internet art does to art what porn does to sex – renders it lurid. The definition I’d like to propose underscores this transactional sensibility: I know Post-Internet art when I see art made for its own installation shots, or installation shots presented as art.5

No doubt, Post-Internet art does look good in your browser window. We could read Droitcour’s statement as mean-spirited, or just a colourful way to describe the systems and networks of the artworld’s tail in mouth production and consumption, which Post-Internet art signposts without really trying. Droitcour’s opinion of Post-Internet art reflects that of Lauren Cornell, curator at New York’s New Museum and former executive director of Rhizome – an online hotspot for “digital cultures” – who according to artnet art critic Ben Davis stated: “‘Post-Internet art’ is an attempt to recapture internet art for gallery culture.”6 What’s wrong with that!?

Ironically, the whole Post-Internet art thing is a meta-argument (‘meta’ being one of many prefixes that truck the jabberwocky vernacular produced by the defenders of the internet faith). ‘Meta’ is just another word for being in a reflective mire. But this is what I love about subcultures, whether their hobbyhorse is art or skateboarding, their dialect is their identity. Verbalising culture is as important, if not more important than imaging culture. Word is God.

Further, the argument against labeling cultural stuff is the náive by-line teenage indy bands tout when convincing their young fans of their short-lived and shortsighted notions of what constitutes multiform originality and independence from The Man. Labeling and branding is the nature of the capitalist beast. We name it, we own it – without really shaming it. In the 1980s we were ‘the people’ (Live Aid). Today we are part of an online collective, whilst every now and then punctuating those Favorites, Likes, Retweets and Shares with a bit of cherry-topped individuality: “Your ideas and personalities [become] brands instantly [online]” (Altmann).7  To throw a spanner in the works Altmann refers to herself as a “cloud-based artist”, even though she is casually labelled as a Post-Internet artist by the ignorant. Anyway, on with the show. 

After passing through what looks and feels like a doctor’s surgery entranceway – minus the pile of Woman’s Way and crookedly hung art – Ellis King explodes into a Tardis. And what better artist than Altmann to elicit fantasies of the future. The work, the gallery, everything feels transitional here. The past is the dirty scuff marks on Ellis King’s painted gallery floor from footfall and winefall and maybe rainfall on the opening night; the future is the palette jack with wooden crates that wait in the wings to be transported from gallery to overseas art fair.

I was immediately attracted to these happenstance, transitional marks and objects amidst Altmann’s slick high definition videos, soft definition inkjet backdrops, pounding bass and pop-up graphical displays, because the latter felt in temporal and physical flux, always forcing you to take a step back and to the side, to look askew at the amorphous and veiled aesthetic that breathes a shredded technology. The combination of aquamarine colour-coding, gelatinous blobs, bubbly synths, elicited a layered ecology of generic imagery you might find on a brand spanking new computer before you personalise it. Landscapes, space-scapes, animal-scapes, plant-scapes are felt but not visually explicit. Health stores, sports stores, yoga, gyms, showrooms, bikini-clad models draped across cars, business conferences, art fairs are explicitly implicit. This is the territory of oxymoron; contemporary art’s immutable scapegoat. This is Metamodernism, a contemporary moment in which we are ‘feeling’ and ‘oscillating’ our way through the contemporary conditions of virtual excess and physical obsolescence, sincerity and irony, dismay and hope.8

Hours and days after seeing Altmann’s work at Ellis King, an exhibition that threw me for a wobble and snuffed out the memory of a lot of good art I’d seen the same week, I mentally revisited the work with the same dumb fascination of a Vulcan trying to crack a smile in front of a mirror. I was hoping to get some verbal foothold on what I felt was an uncomfortable and cold manifestation of the internet in the gallery: (to myself) ‘Thank the Internet God that some of Altmann’s wall works were sealed in perspex because they would perish from breathing in the gallery air.’ One structure that is not so lucky, however, is the aluminum framework of a pop-up display lying flat and skeletal on the gallery floor with the raggedy vinyl remnants of the printed graphic that once covered it, nestling on its industrial next of kin. Also finding purchase in the unbreathable mechanics of Altmann’s materials are Tillandsia (also called air plants that grow without soil). A good substitute for what Droitcour cynically calls the “Post-Internet stylistic trope” of  “Sad-looking ferns”.9

Altmann herself once said “I’m into the stressful sublime”.10 Of all the impressively controlled and articulate things that Altmann has said or written online about internet culture and her own imagistic culturing of the internet, this is most on point. However, I didn’t experience this “stressful sublime” when surrounded by Altmann’s art at Ellis King. I still didn’t experience it when I exited the gallery (the sonic boom effect). I did, however, start the process of feeling it as soon as I hit Dublin City traffic and the inevitable release onto the fluid motorway. Come to think of it stress is not an Event, it’s a process. Stress is more durable than you, me or the pink bunny rabbit. By being somehow into the stressful sublime Altmann discloses that she is both casual addict and pusher of the excess and anxiety perpetuated by the everything and nothing sublime of the internet.

Finally, I mentioned above how Altmann’s exhibition is a gateway exhibition for both Eillis King Gallery and Irish artists with an interest in digital cultures. Let’s first take Irish artists and the Irish art context.

Over the years there have been some challenging group shows that have shuffled groups of artists who use the internet as a springboard for visual art. By far the best manifestation of this in the gallery was the group exhibition offline at Dublin’s Temple Bar Gallery + Studios in 2011, curated by Rayne Booth (review here). Looking back, Booth was an important supporter of internet artists, including the brilliant Eilis McDonald and Alan Butler. I felt the same de-centredness experiencing Booth’s offline as I did experiencing Altmann at Ellis King. I don’t mean this in a Big Lebowski kinda way, but in a violent assault on my aesthetic sensibilities and thought patterns kinda way. However, with more curators than artists in positions of power the group show has become the norm. Solo exhibitions can show up weaknesses, which leads to more questions. Conversely, the curated group show shore up strengths by way of numbers and curator/artists alliance. These days it’s rare we get to experience individual artists take on the gallery space on their own terms. Perhaps the group show acts as a safety net for both curator and artist. Also, you immediately treble the footfall, make friends, not begrudgers. I eagerly wait for the day when we see more solo shows locally by artists who are embedded in internet culture. Hopefully Ellis King’s Altmann exhibition is seen as an exemplar by Irish curators and directors that such artists can risk it alone. If not, for me the over-saturation of curated group shows is a threat to art criticism, transforming it into a gap-fill exercise.

Significantly, this is Altmann’s first solo show in Europe. Whether you think the exhibition in question is more art fair booth than authentic exhibition it doesn’t really matter. For me, it’s as authentic as Post-internet art can get in the gallery. “Until smart objects and AR are super available, or until gallery spaces have as much equipment as a Best Buy, conditions are always going to be limited, and the presentations will reflect that” (Altmann).11

The whole Altmann experience at Ellis King got me thinking about the film Total Recall (1990). Here we are presented with musclebound construction worker with identity issues, Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who is bombarded with images of Mars in his dreams, and by day, the soft brand advertising tactics of a company called Rekall, that convince him to take a virtual ‘memory trip’ to Mars. Some people say that advertising goes over a man’s head. However, after the Altmann experience I feel like Quaid in Total Recall, becoming meta from being exposed to Altmann’s pure metaness at Ellis King. This is an exhibition I cannot imagine happening at, let’s say, Dublin’s Douglas Hyde Gallery. All of a sudden Ellis King has eyes peeled and hearts pumping for what may potentially come next. For once, predictions as to who will show next at a gallery in Dublin are out.

[James Merrigan]


1Interview with Kari Altmann by Harry Burke for Rhizome: posted: 25 March, 2015.


2Art Post-Internet: INFORMATION / DATA:


3., 4., Ibid.                      

5Brian Droitcour, The Perils of Post-Internet Art’, Art in America:                                            


6Art Post-Internet: INFORMATION / DATA. op.cit.

7Interview with Kari Altmann. op.cit.

8Philosophers Robin van den Akker and Timotheus Vermeulen talk about their concept of metamodernism, the waning of irony and the new forms of sincerity emerging in 21st century culture:


9Brian Droitcour. op.cit.

10Interview with Kari Altmann. op.cit.

11‘Ripe for Capture: Artist Kari Altmann Is a Prophet’ (Interview with Kari Altmann):


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IMAGE CREDITS: © Kari Altmann and Ellis King Gallery, Dublin.

Thank you to Jonathan Ellis King for images and additional information.

Kari Altmann

‘Xomia (Return Home, Realflow, All Terrain)’

Ellis King Gallery, Dublin

27 March  – 2 May 2015

Courtesy of the artist and Ellis King Gallery


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