My research enters the history of art at the point when ordinary commodities become dematerialized and networked, more like interactions or social experiences than material goods, more like performances or happenings than services. From this perspective within the present tense, my research stretches backward through the long history of art's encounters, both critical and compliant, with commodity culture as it props up the social, public, and intimate spaces made possible in capitalist economies. Within the contemporary moment, I look to both artworks and art discourse for analyses, descriptions, appropriations, and pedagogies of commodity culture in its guise as "social media." The larger and longer contextualization of this research involves drawing out the immanent and formal, as well as the explicit historical connections between art, ordinary life, and technologies that mediate the social.
Another way to say this, over-generalized but not untrue, is to say that my research tries to understand the authorship, procedures, function, and effects of art in a networked political economy, and to produce a genealogy for this particular present tense. This means that my work is also in conversation with media studies, internet research, cultural studies, visual studies, anthropology, and Science, Technology and Society (STS).
My current writing project, a manuscript entitled Never Alone, Except for Now: An Art History of Networked Life, looks at the art of Thomson & Craighead, Sharon Hayes, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, and Wafaa Bilal. These artists all straddle the border between image culture and network culture, between a logic of spectacle and a logic of networks. Ranging from the late 1960s to the present, they work across installation, performance, painting, criticism, and media arts. But their history includes pre-contemporary mediations, such as early twentieth century political media, mid-century cybernetics, and late twentieth century information economies. I put these artists in conversation with search engine aesthetics and the production of new networked forms of subjectivity such as trolling and emoticons—media, in short, that foment a kind of intimacy at a distance that calls into question what a public is, what populations are, and how individualities get constituted.