The Internet has not so much changed my thinking as it has expanded my preexisting artistic sensibility. Like many collagist, I cobble together quilts of disparate information that rely on uncanny juxtapositions to create new meaning. Cut and paste has always been the way I think. I used to spend days in bookstores and libraries searching for raw images and information to be reorganized and repurposed into my pictures.
Now I sit in front of my computer and grab them out of the Internet hive mind that expands endlessly outwards, a giant, evolving global collage that participants edit to conform to their needs and sensibilities. This process of hunting and capturing reduces me to a pair of hungry eyes and two thinking hands. (My whole body is for later, for when I build my pictures analog-style.) When the image is finally assembled, it sings in the chorus of a million authors. I am the conductor and through me, this collective hums. The electricity overwhelms me. I'm no longer a rugged individualist.
There was a time, not that long ago, when the apostles of the coming digital age predicted the obsolescence of unique art objects. They forgot that some once believed that the emergence of photography would render paintings useless. As we now know, the emergence of photography actually helped free artists from the need to describe the world realistically, and this helped revivify painting and jumpstart modernism. From then on, artists could do anything they wanted, and they did. Photography caused all hell to break loose, and that hell and some new ones are now fighting it out in an info-cloud.
Now I can do more than I ever thought I wanted. The Internet has given me a new paintbrush that I can use towards the making of singular things. In this landscape of endless copies, a real thing, made by a person, with its repository of the creator's time and it's tactility, scale and surface quality is almost startling in its strangeness.
Growing up in the land of theme parks, I became aware at an early age that the unreal is the realist thing there is. Waterfalls without pumps and electricity? Impossible! A sublime without LSD? Who are you kidding? Experiencing all this made me want to make real things about my unreal world. Now I can capture banal elements of the shimmering digital mirage and fix them into place where they can become strange again.
Oh real, tangible things, is my love for you proof of my own obsolescence? I'm filled with nostalgia for the dying objects of the old economy. Over the years, I would occasionally draw on top of handmade, unique photograms. Now, the kind of photo paper that can withstand my scribbling has become extinct. I've also sporadically used the front page of the New York Times as a backdrop for collage and paint interventions. How long will it be before it too is no longer available? (Still, vinyl refuses to die. Maybe there is hope.) I used to be jealous of cultural forms that existed through an economy of copies. Books, newspapers, magazines, films and recordings offered a democratic way for consumers to pony up a tiny chunk of money that helped the author or enterprise survive and sometimes even prosper.
Now copies are worth even less than the paper they're not printed on. Despite the new economy, unique art objects seem to have maintained a semblance of monetary value. (For the time being at least.) While a few patrons have always supported a few artists, most art is still not worth much. In the future, I expect that we'll all be poor, but for the time being, value is now given to living humans doing real things, or real things made by living humans. (Well, all living humans except for poets. No one said the Internet was fair.)
I'm an information grazer. I've always felt comfortable with skidding across vast plains of data, connecting the dots wherever it feels right. The Internet mirrors the cross connectivity of my own mind — a mind, it should be noted, that has been hybridized by drugs and other consciousness altering activities. Aldous Huxley famously posited that to enable us to live, the brain and nervous system eliminates unessential information from the totality of our minds. Psychedelics, on the other hand, overwhelm our minds with the fullness of the world. In other words, information overload is just another way of being psychedelic. I can live with this. All good art experiences are inherently psychoactive. Art modifies perception and offers either a window or a mirror. Sometimes, if we're lucky, it does it all at the same time.
Huxley tells us that our minds are constantly editing down the world into manageable bits. The problem with the Internet is that the menu has gotten too big, too unwieldy and too full of lies and stupidity. Who can apprehend or trust it? For instance, if I search for "naked lady" I come up with 16,400,000 items in 0.18 seconds. Somewhere lies the perfect naked lady, but where is she? I get cranky and impatient. I know she's there somewhere and I want her now. I've become habituated to getting everything right away. I'm the editor who thinks he's in control, but my fingers on a keyboard have a tough time finding a few trees in this haystack of needles. Wherever I settle, I always suspect a better choice is just around the corner.