NO NFTS, NOT NOW: THE RETURN OF POST-INTERNET ART AS THE NIGHT OF THE LIVING EXTINCT
NFTS have quickly become an excuse to recycle Iraq-era careers. Was Trump assassinated just so that AiDS-3D could de-extinct?
No conspiracies, but no coincidences either.—Stephen K. Bannon
Everyday, the most stupid people pass over the line.—Catherine Malabou
ithyphallic: of or relating to the phallus carried in procession in ancient festivals of Bacchus—Wiktionary
It is no coincidence that the de-extinction and NFTification of pre-Trump post-internet art is happening at the same time as Trump’s passing, the disappearance of the #resistance movement, and a general atmosphere of Biden era senescence and ubilapse.
Necrotising NFT-decadence comparable to what Simone Weil called the immense ‘cruelty and perfidy’ of the Roman Empire happened no sooner, let’s say, than POTUS 46’s inauguration. To some it’s just more ‘Wolf of Wallstreet 2.0 bullshit’.
The hardcore ‘fuck earth’ CAPITAL-IST turn of digital artists who under Trump were forced to ‘resist’—or at least speak in tongues—snapped into clarity last week when Jon Rafman appeared on Clubhouse to announce his new NFT series accompanied by Daniel Keller, Petra Cortright, Amalia Ulman, and five other Roblox gatekeeper types.
This Clubhouse-zombie-f***-Saturnalia indexed an identikit decision: to max out the resurrection phase of Non Fungible Tokens, and to do so as the world spirals into near-side mass co-extinction.
If you have an art work lying around, ‘happy to announce’ that bitch all the way into the recycling Super-Void.
The production of NFTs at this stage in history is like searching for a needle in a haystack when the needle is elsewhere and the haystack is moving and the whole faux-pastoral field of play is about to be washed away by thermal overdose and interplanetary static.
As one surveys this mess of missing links in a world without us already our own, it is always tempting to try and make a final judgement call—for example as to which of the adopters is the most desperately retrograde and superfluity-baiting.
Which among these post-netizens best expresses the lethal cupidity the Biden era ubilapse typifies? Who has the most lifeless resurrection impersonation in pimped-out extinctive speculative form going on i.e. ‘wrong life’ with an Anthony Blinken mask on or what Marx’s own reheated .gif might now call primal retardation?
Apocalyptic Mirror, Apocalyptic Mirror
Mirror stage, mirror stage on the blockchain, who’s the most retarded among them all? Is it Daniel Keller and Nik Kosmas artistically reidentifying as AiDS-3D to relaunch and archive their OMG Obelisk .gif from 2007? Is it Dena Yago’s $MOOD: The World’s A Little Blurry, a plan to mint and propagate an essay on Billie Eilish? Is it Emily Segal’s $NOVEL? Is it the inevitable NORMCORE NFT? Is it Ryder Ripps’ ‘dump.fm logo’ remixed by Nicolas Sassoon? Or is it Rafman himself launching You are Standing in an Open Field after being coddled back from cancellation by his friend Dean Kissick, more of whom below?
There is at least one other contender, of course, which is BEEPLE and the unedited version of the fallaciously ithyphallic DICK MILKING FACTORY.
Now, in the case of this one artwork, BEEPLE is not, despite appearances, res-erecting one of his own previous images. DICK MILKING FACTORY, while psychedelically up-in-your-grill, can at least be taken to overstate the tendency we are describing in all its horror-trope Proustian resurrectional mania splendour: these artists really do want to milk it, timeout and all. Rafman, Keller, Ripps, whoever, want to snort up the extinctive moment as a faux-resurrection and imitate the Prozacian stupidity of Priapus and the ass.
Academics among you will recall that the ass outsizes poor old Priapus in competition, unable to hide or get rid of his erection drive, but is then killed by the God as revenge. Big ass old white dick rules at the end of time.
The Great Retardation of 2021
If you imagine that these developments are erroneous, then they are also deeply inevitable and unstoppable. Whatever we say or do, none of this will have been stopped, at least not until it stops us in general, and that may be the ‘speculative content’ we want: PURE EXTINCTION DRIVE. After all, everybody likes being totally fucked.
Sometimes, like now, it really is just a Big Dick NFT Energy Consumption competition in trashtime. Crypto, not so cryptically, is extincto-collaborationist. Proustian becomes Prozacian and stupidly Priapic, i.e. pigheaded, forgetful, as ‘gas prices’ are subsumed into a rush-to-omnicide.
Since they made it a competition, and not you, the question to steal back your fun with remains: who ‘retards’ the best in the primal sense of withdrawing the gift wave of accumulation (for themselves) to reignite a career and brand everything into geothermic annihilation? Who games ahead of time what is engineered as yet another distraction so that a greater number of future generations can be snuffed out sooner?
Let Us Dominate
As one reply guy on Rafman’s Instagram Return post put it, ‘a new day, a new beginning, now get in there and dominate’. Fr, the end of the world does not preclude the will to power, and everyone should be allowed to return. But those with will to power to spare—at this retarded stage—may find themselves retarded further (shorted ithyphallic humanity anybody?) by such a brutalist end and doubly superfluous look that, for example, they end up with the bad airs no more elegant than Joe Biden snagged on the steps of AF1. (This is IthyPhallic Grandad House.)
Insofar as the present wave of the ‘post-internet’ evokes far too much and far too little and far too late, or far too big and far too average, at the same time, it in fact defines better than anything else the contemporary theory of the ‘retard’ and the ‘retarded’ as opposed to the pure vibe aesthetic of the quirked up (think Wretched Worm or Honor Levy’s TikTok account for example).
Insofar as the conservative moment (repetition) can be deeply inventive, then sure. Academics could have something to say about what makes a good digital fuck, how fast and wide good extinction should go. The dematerialisation of art has reached extincto-collaborationist edgeplay as a treat, or whatever, stage. They might have said that in the Verso loft in, like, 2019.
But retardery is at some level the lateness and retardation of nature to think itself, and see itself (in) thought, at all, in good time. The NFT wave is a crowded blooming, too much, too little, too late, too never, too big, too hard, too now, too empty. This zombie spazzatura of de-extinction is, without you ever being able to get to know it, the danger itself.
To the extent the zombie break is Janus-faced, it really is a two-faced bitch, and will shit-talk civilization and you into the opaque paralysis of an off-planet boner faster than any other ghosting; automatically, in fact, nobody will be able to face both faces in time at once. You will only watch each dick in the face-off eat each other dick’s foreskin’s face off while presenting career Priapi Vaccine ID as a final analgesic in the ‘mirroring’. It will make Hannibal Lecter’s tour diaries look like Bambi’s penpal letters to Greg Lansky circa 2016. It will make American Psycho look like, ugh, American Psycho.
They—the post-internet ‘miners’—have already run away with themselves. This is the inevitability effect itself. They are the primitive cucks. This is what Art Priapism will have meant. In their hands, primitive accumulation and ultimate spec plasticity is itself retarded, even as it appears to advance. The desire to kill every last fatherfucking one of them is insufficient, but may be noted, and it matches their latent desire to have killed every last fucking one of us. Mutuals, that’s what it means: extinction thrall in #vampafterparty.
Doesn’t everybody already know without saying that in NFTs and the coeval reincarnation of post-internet art broadly we have ublilapse in spades in all its dumb technicolour night of the living ‘glory’ extinct? This is #them, saying to your children: fuck you, fuck earth, no way back. There is no ‘you and I are not the same’ that will save you. No nihilo-redemptive arc of black theory, which was hot then.
Put it this way and with all possible rigour, we really CANNOT tell the difference between a K-HOLE NFT and U2’s iTunes album Songs of Innocence. We LITERALLY cannot see what distinguishes the AiDS-3D OMG Obelisk from a water cooler at Treblinka. We really JUST FAIL to get what makes Emily Segal’s BURN ALPHA any different to flaming hot Cheetos dipped in chocolate fondue. And when it comes to Rafman’s promised domination, who can tell where the dividing line is between it and Sonderkommando No. 283, trees near the gas chamber, taken shortly after No. 282, the photographer shooting from the hip and aiming the camera too high. We really just CAN’T, and what we really just can’t is the difference between one resurrection and another. Good and bad incarnation modules? A ‘faithfulness to the thing as it was vs augmenting the thing into the future’? At this stage, whatever . . . forever . . . never mind.
You-Could-Call-It-Last-Century, ‘The Ideology of Digital Art’
NFTs—and digital arcana in general—are structured like a language, and they are structured like the unconscious. They forget themselves, and us, and it seems that our reminder, which will do away with our remainder, is precisely what initializes the ‘no difference’. Our aide-mémoire about them is no less amnesiac—and no less a warning—for all that.
Paul de Man, the cancelled ‘Nazi’ theorist who perhaps understood this technical lurch better even than Baudrillard and @alivegirl001101 combined, said all this with a few words, those in the last notebook entry for the last class he gave in a seminar on the topic ‘Théorie rhétorique au 18tème et 20ème siècle’ in 1983.
These words are: la fonction référentielle est un piège, mais inévitable.
Of this wave of mutilation, which will continue as sheen and intelligence masquerade, we can say what de Man said, that it is a trap, but inevitable. NFTs seem to have a referential function. They appear to make reference to a function, and even to a reality in art (dematerialization, contractual singularity, mathematical aesthetics, and so on), but this process itself is a trap. The reality they target and troll and sculpt is the wrong one, the other one, not this one. Art isn’t dead, or even extinct: it’s extincto-collaborative.
In other words, nobody can trip the avowal switch here and make the scavengers pay, nobody can play spoilsport, nobody can cancel the post-Biden loser sons and daughters, and nobody can do a ‘takedown’ of the Average Joe Priapus milking factory on Wall Street 3.0. Why? Because we are dealing with the suicidal epistemology of digital tropes themselves. These erect themselves, over time, harder than hard, glinting, bleeping, flashing. The glitz of digital rectitude, the heroin touch of the silicon screen.
The music of AiDS-3D was, after all, already such apocalyptic mixing and slowdown. It was the emptiness of its own return. Theory itself might, in extinct mode, seek out finer differences. But no matter. To repeat such an emptiness now could be called . . . CoVID-3D or . . . who will be there to care.
Besides, that was in 2007, before the crash, before Trump, before the cognitive import of the word ‘anthropocene’ kicked in over the fading memories of Witch House . . . enough time to mark, at least, a hiatus between freeze-framed relapses. Crucially, again, the full-on recycling of extinct ‘post-internet’ art and culture under the alibi of ‘protocol’ could never quite have happened under Trump (even though it formed a background hum there), and this too will be ignored per definition.
In this way, the zombie wave matches what we have tracked elsewhere under the name of another boat, or canal, The Drunken Malady: the scene of totally-out-of-it senescence. When there is no difference at all between an offline paper run out of Dimes Square and a bunch of outmoded artists who NFTify their CVs to drown out any future refusal, we are powerless except to formalize.
In terms of an evolution of the common phrase ‘deckchairs on the Titanic’, this supposedly new crypto-signscape is not so much ‘tiddlywinks’, as the decision to build a life-size replica of the Titanic on the deck of the Titanic itself.
This art may provides its own dissolution as a theme, but in so doing it builds in the acceleration of absolute genealogical capsize.
The Drunken Titanic
From bateau ivre to sober canal, anyone would be forgiven for jumping overboard. The art critic Dean Kissick’s NFT piece did just that and, despite being lauded by Jerry Saltz and other non-readers, was just as paraplegic and frozen as the shining .gifs now crossing over the line every day in camo as ‘the new’.
Kissick’s empty disapproval of such art takes no account of the deeper problem, namely absolute lethal cupidity itself as inevitable effect, which no number of Spring-go-lucky trips to the Frick or Fire Island will obliterate. The colonial art critic objects, but refuses to formalise or take account. As art critic, his redundancy is doubled (i.e. ‘popular’).
Desperation leads to purely Trumpian exaggeration (roughly, not exactly, 800 years!). Kissick may be taken as the barometer of a certain aesthetic within a small circle of people in New York, but everyone actually alive knows that even Tucker Carlson is more in touch with the Real. Kissick wants to brag about just how many people he knows already ‘dropping’ and then retreat to admiring the work of Fragonard like some Balzacian time traveller in a soppily nihilistic Rivette film. The finance punk trend is little better, since it merely inverts the extinction drive capitalism of high-rollers into a mock-austerity Heroin Hillbilly Baroque vigil. Both have forgotten what the mutation to ‘price’ itself means, and at what rhythm.
It is as impossible to heckle this development as it is to embrace it. A degree of abstinence may, at this point, be the only form of deception that’s almost dignified. Art criticism’s rage at Crypto Art is no less empty than the worst of the art itself: passive nostalgia as the flipside of necrotic decadence, ass beating Priapus who kills it as reply. There can be no ultimate commission of ‘wrongdoing’ here, but the resurrectional idiocy confirms the fact, performed on Clubhouse and elsewhere, of a digital crime scene.
Here, perhaps, in the comic or derisory aspect of an ongoing civilizational erection, is where the experience of criminal stupidity pops up and returns. Kissick proclaims on Twitter with sweeping certitude that ‘there are no documented cases of Stendhal’s Syndrome in contemporary art’. But in what remains comic about the new post-internet art, there is enough to make you extinct laughing.