‘Comprised of multiple series, Contra-Internet critiques the Internet as a hegemonic descriptor for digital networking and premier arena of political control, as well as documents and speculates upon network alternatives that social movements are developing globally, such as autonomous mesh networks, encryption tactics, and darknets… Contra-Internet aims to function as an expansive conceptual, practical, and experimental framework for refusing the neoliberal logic of “the Internet” while building alternatives to its infrastructure.’
For the first work in Zach Blas’ ongoing project ‘Contra-Internet’ – begun with intensive research in Istanbul – ‘Contra-Internet Totality Study #1: Internet, a definition’, the artist created an alternative dictionary listing for the word ‘internet’ that aims to ‘expose the Internet as a socio-technical totality that is extremely difficult to imagine an outside or alternative to.’ This work was followed by a triptych of animated .gif globes on which world maps mix with net cartographies and symbols. Blas sees this neologism as a way to allow artworks operating with social or political concerns to escape the blanket term ‘Post-internet’, used to describe artistic practices forged at a time in history where the internet and its effects are ubiquitous. While on residency the artist sought out connections between internet alternatives such as dark net and mesh network technologies and protests in Gezi Park and internationally.
‘Contra-Internet’ is inspired by and samples from transgender theorist Beatriz Preciado’s ‘Manifesto Contrasexual.’ At a public event in Istanbul, Blas artist spoke on his previous projects ‘Queer Technologies’ and ‘Facial Weaponization Suite’ and introduced ‘Contra-Internet’ with a reading and performance from Preciado’s text. ‘Manifesto Contrasexual’ designates the dildo as ‘all kinds of technologies of gender and sex that resist the normative production of the body and its pleasures.’ Blas reworked Preciado’s performance to focus on the cracks and slippages inflicted by the ‘dildos’ of the internet – technologies such as autonomous mesh networks, encryption tactics, and darknets – framing ‘Contra-Internet’ as a contract entered by performance participants in order to strategise the employment and availability of their digital bodies.
‘I recognize the right to use my reproductive cells only within the framework of a consensual contra-sexual contract. I resign all property rights over the body or bodies produced within the context of a contra-sexual reproductive practice.’
-Excerpt from ‘Manifesto Contrasexual’ by Beatriz Preciado
The video ‘Contra-Internet Inversion Practice #1: Constituting an Outside (Utopian Plagiarism)’ is a screen-capture of a text being generated to the sounds of Le Tigre’s ‘Get Off The Internet’. The text, titled ‘Contra-Internet Inversion Practice #1: The End of the Internet (As We Knew It)’ is made by copy-pasting entire sections from texts such as J. K. Gibson-Graham’s ‘The End of Capitalism (As We Knew It): A Feminist Critique of Political Economy’ (1996). Blas then replaces instances of ‘contra-sexual’ with ‘contra-internet,’ ‘capital’ with ‘internet’, ‘economy’ with ‘network,’ ‘dildo’ with ‘paranode,’ and so on. In this way the text borrows strategies of liberation from the former and projects them onto the later, transforming Fredric Jameson’s infamous quote to ‘It seems to be easier for us today to imagine the thoroughgoing deterioration of the earth and of nature than the breakdown of late internet; perhaps that is due to some weakness in our imaginations.’
Displayed on the wall alongside this book is ‘Contra-Internet Inversion Practice #2: Social Media Exodus (Call)’ – a series of prints defined by the way in which they ‘utilize conceptual-technical tactics to subvert and abandon the Internet.’ The works show posts on popular social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, iMessage, WhatsApp, Linkedin, Tumblr, and Instagram. The posts incorporate excerpts from Blas’ book such as ‘I recognize myself and others as embodied bio-informatic aggregates that exceed the brutal quantification and standardization of digital.’ The artist’s previous projects take a wide range of forms, from 3D printed masks to ‘shop-dropped’ trans-technology kits. Similarly this ongoing project will continue to accumulate in a variety of online and in-space forms.
Zach Blas (b. 1981, Gallipolis) is an artist and writer living and working in London and Berlin. Blas received his PhD in Literature from Duke University, Durham and his MA in Fine Art from UCLA Design Media Arts, Los Angeles, and also studied at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Selected exhibitions include Whitechapel Gallery, London, 2016; Somerset House, London; ZKM, Karlsruhe; Import Projects, Berlin; Denver Museum of Contemporary Art; Modelab, Wellington; Furtherfield, London; Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, 2015; Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City; Dakar Biennale; Museum of Arts and Design Biennial, New York City; Eyebeam, New York City; The Foundation for Art and Creative Technology, Liverpool, 2014; quartier21, Vienna; Transmediale, Berlin, 2013; Fraser Gallery, Los Angeles, 2012. Selected talks & workshops include Abrons Arts Center, New York; King’s College, London; The New School, New York; University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond; Royal College of Art, London; New Museum, New York; University of Chicago; Institute of Modern Art Brisbane; Pitzer College, Claremont; Universität der Künste Berlin, 2015; Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw; New York University; Institute for Network Cultures, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences; Art Gallery of York University / videofag, Toronto; Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City, Arena Glashaus, Berlin; Sundance Cinemas, West Hollywood; ICA, London; Mediamatic, Amsterdam; The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 2014. Selected conferences include transmediale, Berlin, 2015; American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Los Angeles; Pratt Institute, Brooklyn; King’s College, London, 2014; Medialab Prado, Madrid, 2013. Blas founded the art group Queer Technologies and is a founding member of The Public School, Durham. He lectures in the Department of Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths College, London and was Assistant Professor in Visual Studies, University at Buffalo.