Internet art gets a bad rep

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The highbrow art world – you know, the stuff that goes in galleries and gets written about in dissertations – looks down its nose at its nubile, digital rival. 

However, it was not long ago that the highly conceptual YBA’s (Young British Artists, namely Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst) were criticised (“is it even art though?”) by their previous generation of holier-than-thou art critics, who were huffing and puffing in the name of classicism. This was all happening at around the time that the Internet was starting to kick off but paradoxically, if you fast-forward twenty years, preserved sharks are old news and the internet is a successful vessel for fine art.

A great creator that has harnessed the web as an exhibition space is New York-based Analisa Teachworth. 

Analisa comes across as a resilient character, having built a strong mental framework about herself to deal with the shit you have to put up with when releasing artwork into the judgemental public, to tricky curators and demanding clients. She’s the kind of person you’d want a pep talk from when times were tough.

Having worked as an individual artist on the ‘net and as a performance artist for years, in 2014 Analisa teamed up with her business partner Slava to start up their digital agency 4Real, who have since smashed out interactive web pages for Warp Records artists and electronica duo Teengirl Fantasy. 4Real’s aesthetic references nostalgic Web 1.0 graphics taking the viewer momentarily back to 1995 via their monitor.

We took our chance to talk to Analisa about “working when you don’t feel like it” and how tapping into the primal instinct of intuition can help an artist through a patch of mental block. 

Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Analisa. We’ve been following your work for a while, from your moving image projects and outspoken essays on basicbeing.me to the interactive websites you make for musicians and DJs as new media agency 4Real. On top of all that, we have just learned that you do performance art, as well. It’s exhausting to read about. 
Ha. Unfortunately, I’ve never been the kind of artist who could choose just one medium to claim as ‘my thing’. I say it’s unfortunate because in many ways I think that sticking to just one method would have made my work more relatable to the public. 

Do you ever find it all overwhelming though – are you a procrastinator?
Yeah. But, difficulties and obstacles are put into life for you to concur them. They enforce change and growth, which is never a bad thing. I can procrastinate for so long until I absolutely can’t anymore and then push myself through it by not buying into my own bullshit ­- the ‘I can’t do this’ state of mind. 

Under your company 4Real, you’ve made interactive websites for Warp Records signee Lafawndah, as well as Teengirl Fantasy and your clientele has also included some big-name brands. When did you start using the Internet as art?
I guess I started working on conceptual websites around 2011. Then in 2014, myself and my business partner Slava Put our heads together as 4Real, which operates as a digital agency and art collective. Before that I was just blogging my collages, prints, photos – the usual stuff. On the ‘net I liked the way you could just make something that a lot of people would see immediately, you know, it’s extremely direct. I don’t have to wait for someone else – like a curator – to give me an opportunity to do what I want. Also, the Internet is unpretentious; the art world is not!

Yeah, we hear you there. What was your drive behind starting 4Real as an agency as opposed to working as individual artists?
We built 4Real up as an entity for monetary purposes as artists trying to get by in NYC, and we also happened to share a similar ideal for what we could envision the Internet becoming. Slava matched my visions and together as 4Real we could make more of an impact than as individuals. 4Real is like my child; it’s the representation of the progress I have made in the world from hard work and determination.

Intuition is a topic that we find really interesting, and understand that as an artist handling a diverse and heavy workload, you’re gonna come across some creative blocks along the way, when you really have to push through and produce something. Can you recall any instances where you’ve relied on your intuition to make the end product when you’ve been stuck?
Yeah; my performance Conjure Migration for the Berlin Biennale 9 was a sure test of my intuitive skills. I was working under a very short time constraint with four dancers that I’d never even met, let alone done any movement work with before. It was late in the game when I decided it would be best to involve other dancers into doing choreography and performing with me. I met them all just a few hours before the actual performance took place. We ate some food and then went straight to the show venue. We only did one very brief and light walk through of movement together, it was totally unrehearsed.

Performing unrehearsed in front of an audience? That sounds terrifying. What happened?
During the show, I was wearing a series of masks over my face, so I was completely blind. Physically, I was controlled by the other dancers, so I was completely relying on self-trust and intuition to feel the proper positions to put myself into.  It was a total surrender to forces beyond my physical boundaries, however, it felt unimaginably comforting to give over control to a stranger who was moving me from one state to another.

Do you trust your intuition to guide you through difficulties and ‘artist’s block’ when you’re engaged in other conceptual projects or client work, too?
Yes. I am comfortable trusting and using intuition to help steer a project, a work of art or even major life decision. Every time I have not trusted my intuition it’s ended up messy. Us humans have a deep understanding of what we need to do in life, listening to yourself will never lead you into a direction that you don’t belong in. Usually, when we shut up our inner dialogue screaming at us, we end up taking wrong detours. It’s not so easy to know always what exactly intuition is saying but it easy to work on building dialogue within, using it to reinforce confidence within your decisions.

How do you think one becomes intuitive?
Intuition comes from repeated experiences, knowing yourself and trusting what it is guiding you to go and do. Many people are detached from their intuition. At the root of the problem here is a lack of time spent thinking about why we have our feelings, thoughts and behaviours. Like any other skill, the more you exercise your intuition the stronger it gets. 

Agreed. As we’ve established, it’s really useful for improvising your way out of a wrong turn.
For sure. As an artist, tapping into your intuition is essential to creating magic out of mistakes.

You also mentioned part of your success being due to ‘working even though I don’t feel like it’. Can you elaborate on that?
Yes, I think I have had success career-wise by not giving up, you know, no matter how long something might take me. When I don’t feel like working, when I feel like just day dreaming out a window or surfing the internet looking at nothing, it takes self-discipline to continually manifest your idea and keep loving it even when you’re tired of it.  I learned to love the hardest parts and appreciate them beyond the outcome of whatever feeling it is that holds me back. 

That’s a pretty strong mental framework you’ve built yourself there. Where are you taking 4Real,  what ideas do you want to work on in the future?
In the future I want more freedom to go bigger and beyond what I can now conceive of. Luckily most roadblocks are all things that are obtainable like resources, money, or opportunities. I know now, that those things are not out of my reach which gives me the courage to go after what I want.

 


Imagery by Analisa Teachworth

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