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19 April 2013

Spike Island, Bristol

Photography by Ben Owen.

The third and final installment of a series of nationwide events investigating art practices in relation to digital distribution and production, Rickroll took place over an evening at Bristol’s Spike Island.

As notions of public space have shifted with the advent of the internet, social codes have been separated from their ‘real worldʼ counterparts. This evening of screenings and performances explored forms of emerging online interaction, memes and virtual socialisation.

“And so something has really changed – and I think this is the real epiphany: the ways in which culture is distributed have become profoundly more intriguing than the cultural artifact itself.”

— Kenneth Goldsmith

For Walter Benjamin modernity threatened the destruction of public space. The increased speed and availability of transport would shorten the distances and dissolve the in-between spaces of the city. The Internet’s dissolution of physical space and the ease of ever-more rapid communication further this shortening of distance between sites of social and economic interaction providing a new manifestation of public space.

Cultures and ecosystems that develop online are particular to the social conditions of interacting globally with potentially billions of other anonymous users. Interacting on this plain is not subject to the same moral and social codes present in the real world and the traits that emerge form a new habitat.

Meme, a word first coined by Richard Dawkins in his book ‘The Selfish Gene’ to explain the evolution of dominant behavioural traits, has come to describe a phenomenon of social interaction over the Internet. The endless reproducibility of digital information leads to a condition in which cultural icons are re-shuffled and re-presented at lightning speed in ever – evolving iterations on forums such as 4chan, and then circulated via social networks. Severed from their context they reach a point of saturation where their status as ‘meme’ overrides the value of the content being reproduced or transmitted.

Rickrolling is a meme in which one is tricked into watching the video for Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ in place of some promised content.

What happens when the contextualisation of an artefact becomes a more important a source of meaning than the content being transmitted?

If the predominant outcome of human endeavour is a social product, what happens to ideas of community and society if more interaction takes place on a virtual platform?

A coinciding publication was produced by White Room Press featuring texts by Marialaura Ghidini and Tim Dixon.

The program featured the following works:

George Barber The Freestone Drone

David Raymond Conroy I Know That Fantasies Are Full Of Lies

Hannah Perry Kicking My Game

Jon Rafman Kool Aid Man and Second Life interview with Nicolas O’brien

Thomas Yeomans Eternal September