Interpassivity is a video piece by net artist Jennifer Chan. In the video, which is a 4-minute sequence shot, Chan is in a park spray painting a cardboard box silver, while commenting on the object as well contemporary art. The video is shot by Chan and therefore gives the viewers a “point of view” perspective, from Chan walks around the boxes, rearranges them to get the “right composition” while spraying it with silver paint.
The box is used as a prop that allows Chan to discuss her views on contemporary art and her experience of it. She explains that, when the video was shot, she was dealing with a painful heartbreak. The box represents “a poor attempt at work”, relevant to the way she was feeling at the time. Her view on contemporary art is that it is often conceptually detached from artists’ emotions, or sterile in her own words, and it needs to be re-contextualized, as the way the artists really feel (on an emotional level) should translate into their work. Through this piece, she claims to “spit out creative truth” about the art’s context and the artist’s acculturation. She also makes a general statement about the perception of art with this video. She is using it as “the instance of something cueing an audience to feel a certain way, such as canned laughter to stand in for humored social reaction to jokes in a sitcom - even when it’s not funny” (furtherfield.org). She is then showing a subject matter that is not inherently artistic, but plays with its contextualization in order to make the audience feel like it actually is art.
This piece of work is culturally important as it is relevant to the changes brought by the internet to the field of arts. As anyone can express their opinions about art pieces online, and sometimes these opinions can have relevant credibility if they are well thought-through and gain enough exposure (which is the case here), the hierarchy of tastemakers and the monopoly they used to have on what is considered “good” art is becoming obsolete. Internet allows for a new form of universal and unfiltered sincerity where norms can be challenged without the supervision of art authority figures, and therefore unlock the potential for new, alternative forms of art that can be shared and created by any internet user. As explained by Marc Garrett from furtherfield.org, the internet is “a world where the scripting of official art definitions loses its power”. Referring to Chan’s norm-questioning work, he explains that
“people have exploited technology to facilitate new behaviours where the artist or art amateur redefine what art is on their own terms. We are now in a post-art context. It reflects a very real, societal shift. Mainstream art culture no longer owns the consciousness of art, Chan and others like her are pulling it apart”. (furtherfield.org)
Critics have associated the statement Chan makes about art’s sterility with Donald Judd’s work. Chan denies having Judd in mind when making the video, but acknowledges that Judd’s work could be an example of the “sterile” art she refers to. Donald Judd’s work can be described as minimalist structures and objects.
Donald Judd’s Marfa - Florania interiors
Another piece from Chan that is a direct critic towards the lack of emotion in contemporary art is A Pizza Box Plinth. She stacked up a pile of pizza boxes at the 2016 VSVSVS Toronto show and used it as support for a laptop onto which her video work was being displayed. She then explained that it was her “fuck-you to geometric minimalism and boring white plinths” that are usually used to display contemporary art.
A Pizza Box Plinth. Jennifer Chan. VSVSVS Toronto. March 16 2012.
The video was part of Chan’s work self-promotion for the 2012 VSVSVS Toronto show.
Both the video and the A Pizza Box Plinth piece were shown at this same show.