Kari Altmann, Florian Auer, David Jablonowski, Pierre Lumineau, Metahaven, Pamela Rosenkranz, Anne de Vries Curated by Melanie Bühler
6 Apr – 21 May 2014

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Brands, consumer goods, and logos play an important role in the work of artists interested in internet culture. These artists comment on and celebrate the surfaces, visual regimes and aesthetic potentials of branded goods and work with the glossy shininess of brands, turn consumer goods into sculptures and rework, assemble and collect images of branded goods.

BRANDS – CONCEPT/AFFECT/MODULARITY looks at this fascination and investigates the visual alliance between online culture and brands. It departs from the notion that images of branded commodities are powerful and attractive to work with because they express the most valuable characteristics of online image-sharing culture: they are instantly recognizable on a global scale, they implicate social relations, and they have affective qualities. Like digital images, brands can exist in different, potentially infinite versions. They are reproduced through modularity, much in the same way as digital content evolves and gains popularity through modulation and adaptation. Their evolution is dependent on gaining visual capital, by being spread, liked and adapted. Like visual organisms they build a structure of references that is embedded in the DNA of the currently actual version of the image of the brand/good. Within this process, affect plays a key role as a relational force through which brands circulate and nestle themselves in our collective unconscious.

With the rise of the internet the context for art – its currents and networks – has changed. The circulation of images has intensified: categories and labels proliferate in the flattening and accelerating streams and feeds of Facebook and Tumblr, where images accumulate visual capital through shares and likes, regardless where the images are from, who has made them and for what purpose. As David Joselit writes “The emerging image is a dynamic form that arises out of circulation. As such, it is located on a spectrum between the absolute stasis of native site specificity on one hand, and the absolute freedom of neoliberal markets on the other.” [1] This raises the question whether images of branded goods are so powerful for artists to work with because the neoliberal market strategies are already embedded in them. By building on the corporate images, which are carefully crafted to be successful on the market, artists are thus arguably intensifying the value of their own visual capital.

BRANDS – CONCEPT/AFFECT/MODULARITY investigates the parameters of this slippery terrain, with works that oscillate between adaptation and identification, celebration and perversion of branded imagery. Exhibited in the stasis of the exhibition space while building on the visual capital of branded goods, these objects and images manage to frieze, intensify, critique, and pay homage to the commercial cosmos they have departed from. If contemporary art is, as Hito Steyerl says “squarely placed in the neoliberal thick of things”[2] this exhibition highlights and questions this position by examining how the visual language of our contemporary entrepreneurial consumer society impacts art making.

[ 1 ] David Joselit, After Art, 2012.
[ 2 ] Hito Steyerl, Politics of Art: Contemporary Art and the Transition to Post-Democracy, published by e-flux, 2010.

With Kari Altmann (1983, USA), Florian Auer (1984, Germany), David Jablonowski (1982, The Netherlands), Pierre Lumineau (1986, Switzerland), Metahaven (The Netherlands, founded in 2006), Pamela Rosenkranz (1979, Switzerland), Anne de Vries (1977, The Netherlands)

Photography: courtesy Gunnar Meier