Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The Colour of the Internet

^"Casino" Andreas Angelidakis. Image and animation Andreas Angelidakis, Sotiris Vasiliou

Years ago, even decades, I wrote a text called “Beige Architecture”. It was inspired by a construction trend in Athens, where small businesses housed in unfinished concrete frames would cover up the non-business part of the building with a dense beige plastic pergola thing, to make it appear more official. So with the beige pergola, the crappy little building would acquire an air of minimalism, in the form of a beige intention. In those days, business people such as insurance salesmen and wannabe CEOs of the neighborhood supermarket would also dress in beige suits, a sort of post-80's Armani fashion fallout, the poor mans' power-suit. Clearly there was a beige connection there, and the text followed that path in a sort of amusingly melancholic beige dérive. Towards the epilogue of that text, I stumbled upon another fact of the times: computers were beige too, as well as plastic. They also breathed through dense little pergolas of their own, or I guess we could call them grilles? Ventilation apertures? Something. 

It quickly became clear that these poor buildings in Athens were either trying to look corporate, or else they were desperately trying to pass as desktop computers. And those relationships pretty much summarized what interests me in architecture. How to understand the financial landscape, and how to live on the screen. And Athens was a city being slowly saturated with beige. 

If I think of spaces being saturated with colour, or just information, the space that comes to mind is the screens through which we access our internet. We have friends and work and music and movies and gossip and philosophy. We shop and troll and flirt, we are online all the time. And what colour does all this hyper-saturated activity take place in? Could we define the colour of the internet? 

Certainly, it is not beige, because the internet is home to everything un-corporate, and I don't think I've seen a beige computer since the late 90's when they all turned black and anthracite and gun metal grey and silver aluminum. Silver aluminum, is that even a colour? Suits have turned black too, it seems to be the defining colour of business, together with the myriad shades of grey and greige and bleige and every other convenient, matchy matchy colour one can imagine. Athens has certainly turned black in the past few years too, though that black is radically different from the black of business. In fact it is the nemesis of business black; it is the black that comes out when you burn down a business. It is the colour of the misguided attempt to resist the absurdist landscape of financial capitalism. One could even go as far as saying that it is the colour of stupidity, because obviously the only way to fight the system of crisis capitalism is with cleverer capitalism. Might that be the internet? Duh 

It’s hard to say what the colour of internet capitalism is. Immediately I think white with accents of Blue-Red-Yellow-Blue-Green-Red, strictly in that sequence. But lately I'm not even sure that that is a very clever internet, all their much-hyped products seem to be sun-setting already (I'm talking about Google by the way). 

So if it's not White+Blue-Red-Yellow-Blue-Green-Red, might it just be blue? Blue as in Facebook? Blue as in Twitter? Blue as in Tumblr? Dropbox? Dropmark? WeTransfer indeed. 

Blue could not possibly be the colour of the internet, though it is a strong internet branding brick. I guess colour theorists talk about how blue is reassuring and blue is hopeful and blue is positive, proactive, fresh, new, especially as it seems the logo monkeys' current favorite, or at least most convenient, matchy matchy shade at the moment. And that perhaps explains why I was never interested in pinterest: because it's logo is not blue. 

But the internet is certainly not wrapped in Blue, it is hardly saturated by it. How can one define what colour the internet is? And in any case shouldn’t we be wondering what colour the post-internet is instead? 

Post-internet was a term used last year for a random exhibition of artists using the internet as their studio, their canvas, their playground. I think it took place in East London, though I do not remember the specifics, or maybe I never even knew. The term stuck like fresh chewing gum on a brand new pair of Asos.com plimsols, and it does not seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. Post-internet came to signify all that is new in contemporary art today. It is the art that will replace the art that is no longer contemporary, it is the art that will survive the eternal postmodern present we have been drifting through for a while now. No tomorrow, no new, no yesterday, every piece of information seems to only exist in our perfect present, but perhaps the post-internet clique can begin to suggest tomorrows that are not related to new or to time, tomorrows that are strictly mental. Copyright free 18th century engravings, and ads for mobile phones, and last weeks' new architectural project all of which seem to simultaneously inhabit the eternal present that is the internet. The art in question tries to define ways to deal with this, in a funny and melancholic and ironic and even honest way. And where to look for colour if not in art? Branding and capitalism in general of course, but this art is born out of that anyway, it is indigenous to the landscape of financial abstraction. 

Looking at Post-internet art, in the work of people like Travess Smalley, Angelo Plessas, Rafael Rozendaal, Lucky PDF and Bubblebyte, even Amalia Ulman or Georges Jacotey, I see a blur of colours, a rainbow haze of pearly tones (Smalley, PDF, Bubblebyte), and crash of unintelligible patterns combined with the strictness of total black and white (Plessas), I see gradients of mauve to jello pink and grassy vector greens (Rozendaal). I see harsh advertisement tones in the work of Katja Novitskova, and apple-friendly abstractions in JunkJet magazine, I see more “realistic” harshness in DIS Magazine. Those are the colours of corporate seduction and radical resistance, of soothing advertisements and propaganda posters, all mixed into one eternal colour-saturated rainbow of the screen. 

All these colors tend to exist inside websites based on existing templates, downloaded for free on tumblr or exchanged with a little piece of code. Our private lives on the internet exist inside templates too, think of the facebook timeline, the twitter feed, the gmail layout. Think of your banks user interface, think of CNN or Al Jazeera, think of mypinkpony.com. Alas, template is the colour of the internet.


Exclusively for Saturated Space: A post by Andreas Angelidakis