At a time when the boundaries between tangible and virtual reality have begun to blur, something that plays on my mind is a world where the internet and its ubiquitous culture no longer exist. In his book, New Dark Age, artist and writer James Bridle discusses how global warming threatens the servers that house the internet, and the wi-fi signals we depend on to access this network. Imagine if the internet suddenly became defunct and billions of cat videos and memes evaporated into the clouds. How would online culture be remembered historically? My practice speculates on the types of artefacts the contemporary world might leave behind for humanity in some not-so-distant future.
Networked ruins post the internet
At the beginning of 2019 when I first began my Masters of Contemporary Art at the Victorian College of the Arts, I was producing paintings that juxtaposed Greco Roman artifacts with digital aesthetics, heavily influenced by the visual world that accompanies a musical micro-genre known on the internet as Vaporwave. Grids, hyper colour gradients, tacky Photoshop FX and trompe l’oeil illusions signified my fascination with the screen-based, image-heavy world of the internet. But what was my practice trying to say? Through researching ancient Greco Roman culture, the history of the world wide web, and artists categorised as ‘post-internet’ (including Katja Novitskova, Parker Ito and Cory Arcangel) I began to recognise a particular interest in the aura surrounding artifacts. Where previously I struggled to explain why I made paintings inspired by the internet, rather than using the internet itself as a medium, I began to realise an interest in creating physical artifacts that document this intangible network and its culture.
I started my final year of my studies thinking a lot about archaeology and anthropology, medieval frescoes, mosaics and ancient tablets. Attending the Venice Biennale in late 2019, I took a week-long trip to Milan and Rome visiting endless museums filled with the detritus of the Roman empire. In February 2020 I was fortunate enough to spend time in Mexico admiring the artifacts of its ancient indigenous civilisations. I found myself pondering the types of relics and artifacts contemporary society will leave behind for future civilisations, offering insight to a history where the boundaries between tangible and virtual reality are blurred.
In his book, New Dark Age, artist and writer James Bridle discusses how global warming threatens the servers that house the internet, and the wi-fi signals we depend on to access this network. (4) The web is a major contributor to climate change, eating up monstrous amounts of energy and rare minerals, but also at threat from rising temperatures and sea levels. As the world faces a potential climate catastrophe two terabytes of code from the world’s largest open-source website, GitHub have been saved onto archival film reels and preserved deep in the Nordic permafrost. (5) Likewise, a time capsule deep in the Swiss Alps uses microfilm and even printed paper to ensure we have, “the tools needed to reconstruct highly-valuable data long after the lifeline of supporting technology has disappeared.”(6) Both these projects rely on the physical recording of data outside of the cloud, as if one day the internet may need to be rebuilt from scratch.
In response to all this, I have created a series of faux artifacts which attempt to communicate a future history where the internet no longer exists. These ‘fauxfacts’ imagine describing the internet in a dystopian future to someone who has no concept of online and offline. How would the internet be remembered historically if the network suddenly became defunct and billions of cat videos and memes evaporated into the cloud? Inspired by Greco Roman frescos and ancient tablets I have shifted the gradients, drop shadows and other internet signifiers from my canvas paintings over to plaster. Through mould making and mixing debris into plaster the surfaces are fossilised, damaged and indented with the remnants of intangible grids and miscellaneous fragments. The virtual, image-based world of the internet has been transposed onto these fauxfacts via a combination of analogue techniques (screen printing, airbrushing, hand painting) and Hydrodipping, an industrial process where digital prints are transferred onto objects using water. The online world of images is disrupted as it merges with uneven plaster surfaces, unable to rely on the flat grid of a screen to reproduce its high-resolution form. Each fauxfact operates in limbo between sculpture and image, representing the flatness of our screens from one angle, and the physicality of ‘meatspace’ from another.
Reflecting on the production of this series of works, the role of the internet in a potential climate catastrophe has stuck with me. I began this project from a speculative perspective, inspired by apocalyptic narratives like the Walking Dead franchise, but the internet’s demise now seems more real than a zombie Armageddon. The relationship between the network and climate change feels like a vast terrain on which to expand my practice into the future.
Ingmar Apinis is a Melbourne based artist currently completing a Masters of Contemporary Art at VCA. Apinis’ practice revolves around an interest in the internet, nostalgia, future histories and queerness.
Ingmar Apinis completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts (painting) at the Victorian College of the Arts in 2000 followed by a Graduate Diploma in Fine Arts at the same institution the following year. In 2020, Ingmar completed his Masters of Contemporary Art, also at the Victorian College of the Arts.
Starting in 2016 Ingmar was invited to participate in a number of group shows at C3 Contemporary including Faux Studio (2016), C3+ (2017), Significant Others (2019) alongside his first solo show Googly Corners also with the space in 2016. Ingmar was included in Quarter Time and Going Around in Circles at the VCA Art Space in 2019 and 2020 respectively. Ingmar had a solo show Click Hole at Rubicon ARI in 2017, and another Virtual Inanity at Kings ARI the following year.
In 2020 Ingmar was awarded the Ursula Hoff Printmaking Award.