Clickbait and regurgitated imagery, freely ripped, hacked and manipulated by Cory Arcangel, uniformly fill Lisson Gallery in his latest solo exhibition ‘currentmood’. Colours shimmer with a tumultuously dated nowness push-pull. There is a rampant immediacy to how we access and consume online culture. This is echoed by both the content and aesthetics of the imagery sourced and in an offsite advertisement campaign that utilises brash slogan and image-led web advertising that shows Arcangel’s re-contextualising of digital art beyond the well-worked physical gallery formula.
The manner in which our online presence has evolved into second or third lives has been an unprecedented cultural phenomenon. But what is interesting is the hierarchy, or, lack thereof, concerning what constitutes ‘good’ or ‘important’ imagery. Arcangel explains, “I wanted to show every possible variation on the type of imagery you would see in your day-to-day life. There’s a work in there that is my car rental return photographs – the ones you take so they don’t charge you for damaging the car. That’s probably the lowest kind of photography.”
The image resides quietly in a row that also contains a heavily out of focus image of Kanye West getting out of a car, his head facing away from the camera as he talks on the phone. There is a magazine overlay – Q: Most stylish man alive? – and the three iconic stripes of an Adidas tracksuit. Overhead a large speaker system pulsates a white noise growing and quietening as the viewer takes in the images.
On a perpendicular wall is ‘Dawgs’ (2016). It shows actor Daniel Radcliffe walking a group of dogs along a busy city street while absentmindedly smoking a cigarette. Nearing a puddle the entire bottom third of a flat-screen television image ripples with now defunct Java applet ‘lake’ effect causing the puddle to ripple. These images question the viewers’ ability to compartmentalise, firstly, what is high and low culture, and secondly, the durability and artistic credibility of the works before them.
With no hierarchy in place and with everyone from celebrities to ourselves having access to the same amount of ‘space’ in which to visualise and profile an identity, nowness and omnipresence have become the deciding factors. Users of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter update hourly and daily on their own activities and on what is going on around the world. What has been said is quickly archived, rarely to be seen again. But how does this manifest itself in the durability and significance of Arcangel’s work? The physical works that appear on the wall behave like overindulged artefacts or caricatured versions of themselves, like ‘Mona Lisa’ key chains and coffee cups or prints of the Empire State Building on T-shirts and bedding.
All this leads the viewer towards the crux of the exhibition, ‘More to Explore’ (2016), a series of online advertisements for the exhibition using Arcangel’s images on various websites as pop-up clickbait. These can’t be Instagramed or recycled as such. Here, context is devoid. Arcangel’s artwork has become truly un-hierarchical – a social intervention brilliantly synthesising high and low culture at its most raw.