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Issue 21


Artist Daniel Keller chooses four artifacts from the stream of culture, on- and offline

BY Daniel Keller in Critic's Guides | 20 AUG 15

Courtesy: Daniel Keller

1 Periscope
Ok, I’ll admit it. It was actually my mum who ‘trouvéed’ this one (she also introduced me to Twitter, too). Imagine the most charmingly banal Warhol-era dystopian sci-fi premise mixed with an episode of Black Mirror and you’ve pretty much got Periscope. Periscope is an app (recently bought by Twitter) which allows your smartphone to livestream to the world. It’s not the first of its kind (in fact my friend Jon Nash tried to get an identical app off the ground a couple years ago), but Periscope seems to have the traction that might make this more than a passing fad. Its Turkish-American co-founder said it was inspired by the Taksim protests, intending the app as a ‘platform for truth’… judging from the quantity of Anatolian broadcasts, it seems the largest user base by far is Turkish. I imagine the company is hoping for someone to ‘scope’ (as Periscoping has been ‘verbed’) an act of terror or police brutality and thereby prove the app’s relevance. I mean, ‘relevance’ beyond being another platform for the lonely and vain to duckface into their smartphones and answer the banal questions of strangers (my favorite to ask: ‘What is your favorite shape?’) in exchange for ‘hearts’, the ersatz currency and only form of compensation for Periscope’s content-providers.
Periscope is still so intimate and nobody seems to really know yet what to do with it. Also, it miraculously hasn’t become the ‘Penis Channel’ that Chatroulette immediately became. Recently I scoped an ‘event’ called ‘naked morning chat’ (which was exactly as advertised – my girlfriend and I hanging out in bed, but with sheets to keep it ‘sfw’) and the only three viewers were a stranger, an Internet-acquaintance from California and Hans-Ulrich Obrist.

Courtesy: David Rappeneau & Queer Thoughts, Chicago

2 David Rappeneau
I was first shown David’s work about 16 months ago by my girlfriend Ella Plevin who had been following Rappeneau’s Tumblr for a while (back before he had gallery representation and was still known only as the mysterious Prince Diamond). He’s notoriously shy about giving interviews, and there is little published information about him other than that he ‘is a French artist living somewhere in France’. Certainly being an elusive mystery never hurts as a marketing technique for artists, but in this case I’m led to think it’s authentic shyness. David’s works are small, mannerist, cartoon-like figurative paintings in acrylic, ink and charcoal and not something I’d normally expect to resonate with me – but it does big time. His work depicts hard-edged but languid NEET (‘Not in Education, Employment or Training’) teens and youths – presumably European – hanging around in Modernist housing projects doing various mundane ‘chill’ activities: smoking joints, painting toenails and checking smartphone feeds. In a recent review of Rappeneau’s work, a friend wrote that ‘perhaps there is nothing much conceptual to say about the work.’ While I disagree with this characterization, it still gets to the core of what’s so evocative about Rappeneau’s work for me. What ‘concept’ could these bored, futureless youths possibly care about? Reading Continental philosophy (even if it is #accelerate) doesn’t pay the bills. I’ve seen very little artwork that manages to so effectively invoke the nihilistic boredom of a European youth coming of age in contemporary austerity culture.

Courtesy: Daniel Keller

3 Zerohedge
Zerohedge.com is a site run by pseudonymous blogger(s) Tyler Durden (lol, I know). Its tagline is: ‘On a long enough timeline the survival rate for everyone drops to zero’. The same could be said for foretelling economic apocalypse: on a long enough timeline Zerohedge is bound to be right. Zerohedge has been on my online bibliography on-and-off since 2009, although sometimes I try to take extended breaks when I don’t feel like depressing myself. It’s unclear who runs Zerohedge, but whoever it is has a strong ideological bias towards libertarianism, a slight bent towards ‘infowars.com’-style conspiracy theorizing, and almost definitely a large hoard of precious metals and weapons somewhere in the US Mountain Time Zone (MST).
Zerohedge publishes editorials about various impending and ongoing economic crises no matter how positive the mainstream media forecast is. (Even though the fact is that if you had followed Obama’s advice in March 2009 and bought pretty much any stock, you’d be sitting pretty right now. Zerohedge would, of course, write this off as diabolical central-bank manipulation …) If your worldview is informed by the Zerohedge comment boards (which are difficult for me to read at any length) you’d be excused for confusing Ben Bernanke with Heinrich Himmler.
Unlike Germany, which seems to be super efficient during ‘normal operations’ yet absolutely incompetent during an actual crisis, Zerohedge really shines in moments of crisis. It has been my go-to news source during the Greek/EU crisis, and it has turned out to be shockingly accurate in its analysis as it unfolds. They also called the recent Chinese stock market crash about month in advance.
What’s clear to me is that as long as global economic policies that forever favour the ultra-wealthy ooze down into the art world’s trough – in what might be the only actual example of trickle-down economics at work – the only thing that could actually damage the art market is a full-blown global economic collapse. When? My guess is fall 2016, but you never know.

Courtesy: Daniel Keller

4 Rust
Rust is a first-person, multiplayer, online ’survival action/building’ game. The premise is simple: you spawn (gamer-speak for ‘arrive’) on a multiplayer, procedurally-generated island, naked, freezing and hungry with only a giant rock as a tool. After dying countless times, you slowly build up resources to construct shacks and forts (and on the more creative, less savage servers, monumental sculptures too) and then finally protect them from inevitable raids. Basically it’s like the uber-popular game Minecraft except a lot more beautiful graphically, and with a lot more staying up all night by your campfire, paranoid that at any moment some gang of loinclothed bandits is going to come beat you over the head with a pickaxe and steal all of your hard-earned gathered wood and deer meat. The interesting thing about Rust is that because it’s technically still in ‘alpha’ phase the developers are pretty much free to throw whatever features they want at it and see what works. Recently they instituted a ‘feature’ where they randomly assigned a race to your avatar, which you were unable to change and which became permanently locked to your registration code. This enraged the predictably racist subset of gamers who couldn’t bear the thought of living with immutable race (at least if it wasn’t the race they prefer). People’s behavior in-game followed suit. Many players quit in protest.
I recently read that they’ll be doing the same with randomly assigned gender, forcing players to live with the outcome. The developer thinks of these changes as socio­logical experiments, and I’m very curious to see how they pan out.

Daniel Keller is an artist who lives in Berlin. His exhibitions include a solo show at Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Berlin (2015). In Autumn 2015, Keller was included in group shows at the Nassauischer Kunstverein Wiesbaden, PAC – Padiglione Art Contemporanea, Milan and (as Aids-3D) at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.