Fair Warning

Fair Warning

Image courtesy  Whitechapel

Image courtesy Whitechapel

Fair Warning, 2016, is a Net art project by Swiss artist Jonas Lund. Fair Warning consists of 300 questions that repeat in a loop at the website fairwarning.tech. The questions range from unprompted pairs of colors or photographs, binary selections between words, or a cloud of options that the viewer can select. The questions in the quiz make a wide range of references, including: contemporary and classical art, contemporary politics, selfhood and society, and popular/internet culture. While taking the quiz it is difficult to discern whether or not one's answers change the course of questioning. The test displays a radiating concentric circle each time a mouse-button is clicked, and rings a bell when changing the question - every 3 seconds - whether or not an answer has been given. Fair Warning indulges in the aesthetics and many of the tropes of on-line data-gathering quizzes and analytics, while thwarting our habitual expectations of online polls and surveys. Usually a poll is limited to a choice. Usually we are instantly rewarded with the outcome of the survey questions we just answered (is my opinion the same as the majority or not?) Usually our attention and information are directly monetized. Fair Warning is as vexing as it is appealing.

As part of the landmark digital art exhibition “Electronic Superhighway (2016 – 1966)Fair Warning was installed on the websites of Whitechapel and Phillips, using the audiences of these two well-known art institutions as test subjects; discovering, measuring, and quantifying their tastes, opinions and ideas. Jonas Lund asks the perennial question about whether or not there is an objective means of judging art, he does this through extensive subjective polling. The cursors of everyone currently taking the test are visible to everyone else. Results of users interactions with Fair Warning - cumulative location of mouse-clicks - are displayed in each gallery following the premier of the website. In Fair Warning, because two different arts venues are simultaneously polled we, and the artist, can then consider how much they have in common and how they differ from one another. We must also acknowledge here that the audiences attending these venues are from rather specific social classes and demographics. As much as the artworld is part of a broader social system it is also a cloistered branch of this network.

Jonas Lund, addressing his own use of algorithms and data says:

“We live in a world where, in some sense, almost everything we see can be construed in multiple ways. As a result, we are constantly choosing between duck and rabbit ... We’re living in the age of metrics and quantification. Every part of our daily lives is being measured and evaluated — either voluntarily while we are aware or hidden behind mechanisms in an opaque manner.”
Lund, J, (2016, May 21) Email Interview

All the while these metrics, percentages, and charts are the engine driving Jonas Lund's entire art practice. Lund's work treats the entire art market as a networked system. Fair Warning is an example of Lund gathering these metrics for himself as the artwork, while his The Top 100 Highest Ranked Curators In The World employs an algorithm that uses a database compiled by the artist from information available online. This data about artists, exhibitions, curators, galleries, institutions, writers and publishers is used to rank the curators based on amount of connection and influence. The rankings are then displayed as a grid of portraits. We can see Lund dissecting the artworld. Isolating its constituent parts and evaluating them.

Image courtesy the  Artist

Image courtesy the Artist

Hans Haacke's World Poll is an artwork with many iterations, beginning in the 1960s and continuing to the present, in which he presents the art audience with questionnaires as a means of gathering metrics about the artworld. The most recent iteration of World Poll was presented at the 56th Venice Biennale in the form of 20 questions that audience members answered using an iPad. World Poll asks questions about the content of what is being exhibited at the museum, corporate sponsorship of exhibitions, as well as things like income, profession, race, and language. Both Haacke and Lund produce cumulative “portraits” of the audiences of their exhibitions through the metrics gathered in their polls. While Haacke asks more overtly political questions with the intention of provoking reflection and action, Lund is more oblique and subtle in his inquiries and points toward more multi-faceted outcomes with more personal prerogatives.

Jonas Lund is looking at how the artworld works. He takes a methodical approach to a system that is difficult to understand, even as an insider.

Continuing to reflect on metrics, their use and value, Lund says that:

“Within the valuation of contemporary art, the desire for quantification poses a set of problems. It’s very difficult to measure the quality of art beyond an auction or market specified value. In a society obsessed with quantification and metrics of evaluation, how can the greater cultural value of art be justified and funded if it can’t be measured or quantified until it is sold?”
Lund, J, (2016, May 21) Email Interview

Further, how does polling reflect the divisive format of contemporary political systems? Polling is always a reductive act. This reiterates asking questions as a political act in the work of Lund and Haacke. Lund's methods attempt to reveal some of the workings of a very opaque market and system, while Haacke's polls reveal the social and economic underpinnings of the artworld. Collusions between artists, curators, galleries, and corporations are brought to light. Monetary value, in addition to conceptual or aesthetic value, is revealed as a more important component of an artwork than is often acknowledged. An attempt at seeing beyond both the market/hype, and romantic sentimentalism is made, suggesting other possibilities for artists and potentials for our own agency as audience.

As we become increasingly aware of the role of metrics and data in our lives and society a critical awareness of this situation is integral.

Jonas Lund asks,

“Can and should everything be measured and quantified? What is altered in the process of becoming aware of such information?”

Lund, J, (2016, May 21) Email Interview


Jonas Lund











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