Essay by Lorna Mills, Toronto

VVORK (april 2006 to the present) is a web based project edited, collated or curated by four artists: Aleksandra Domanovic & Oliver Laric in Berlin, Georg Schnitzer in London and Christoph Priglinger in Vienna. The VVORK project led to an invitation to curate an exhibition at West in Den Haag. The title of the exhibition is a list of the participating artists’ names: Bad Beuys Entertainment, Boling, Bruno, Chisa & Tkacova, collectif_fact, Matsoukis, Mirza, Prévieux, Rungjang, Zucconi.

The logic of the title extends directly from the illogic of the VVORK site.

The cranky art historian, Aby Warburg (1866-1929) devoted the last five years of his life to producing a picture book that contained a massive amount of images of varying quality, without commentary or captions, that he titled the Mnemosyne Atlas. One of the other titles he sometimes used for this unfinished project was Picture Book for a Critique of Pure Unreason. That’s the title I prefer.

The VVORK site is simply designed and continuously updated with isolated images by contemporary visual artists. The first remarkable aspect is a total lack of commentary apart from brief descriptions for those images that may not clearly convey their content. No statements of intent from the editors, no reasons for their choices, in other words a total failure to inoculate the viewers from the art we are looking at. The second remarkable thing is that these are art works from all over the world, an art world not limited to London and New York, presented without any sense of critical or market hierarchy, cross-referenced only by city of origin. The third remarkable thing is the excessive volume of work they have managed to post in such a relatively short time period. And it grows daily. Though ultimately, when visiting their site, we are looking at a collection of nothing but jpegs of art chosen by four individuals with unspoken motivations, this simplicity is deceptive. I think of their project as propositional, with some art works posted at the speed of impulse – obviously constructed in linear time – but with occasional odd convergences of similar materials, subjects or approaches. It’s the sporadic bunching up of these parallel art works that resonates the most for me. A run of artists from all over the world working with neon, fabricating human skulls, piling books or making chessboards. The burden is placed on the viewer to come up with a method of understanding this stuff. That’s an exercise that can be both frustrating and attractive when the volume of work and VVORK’s unvarying editorial distance invites enough art theory to make total nonsense of our usual critical apprehensions. A clusterfuck. Really. And one can easily resent VVORK’s refusal to clean up the unholy mess they make by showing artists who participate in the culture at the same time and who might even share the same methods, ideas or materials. Its left up to me (or you dear reader) to decide what works are structurally unsound failures and what works are rich and expansive enough to survive these sometimes deflating comparisons. That said, there are instances where, in spite of all the similarities in a run of individual works, each piece is distinct and strong – a paradox, but it’s not impossible. It’s as if an argument is made that no one artist truly needs to own an idea or a form. (a totally ridiculous claim anyway, but some markets and myths demand it) The VVORK platform places certain works at a severe disadvantage, and further, as someone pointed out to me, most of those jpegs are like a cartoon hand pointing at or towards the work. The little deal we make with the internet devil is that most of us will never see all of this art as it exists in space or time. (but we still want to know what it looks like) The arena of reproduction used to be just a place for the discussion of art. Browsing and scrolling through a site full of nothing but art images, no matter how marvelous some seem, will not sustain any of us as artists or viewers of art, but then again all the chatter around art has never sustained us either.

The greedy barbarian in me still loves, with maybe too much ardor, the idea of an gigantic open ended visual listing of discrete objects and projects. It’s the illusion of getting to see everything, but it’s more about being intoxicated with potentials. VVORK’s ongoing web site project and their gallery curating are not an either/or proposition, an on/off binary. As their onsite choices attempt to reflect trends and patterns of practise, they do not as a group unanimously endorse, support and ‘love love love!’ every image on their site. The exhibition at West gives them an opportunity to state some of their preferences. Lacking an interest in thematic curations, they have opted for works from very young artists they describe as ‘using information technology or contemporary media which they believe employ innovative and unorthodox approaches.’ All their prior dealings with the work and the participating artists have been mediated by information technology, the work has been selected based on nothing but reproductions found on-line, most of the shows conception has been discussed via skype. Their undertaking is a conversion from the virtual to the physical.

For an artist, the making of a work comes down to dealing with what is actual. For curators, the final choices, the peculiarities of space & location, and finally, the negotiation of the relationships between the different works also finally comes down to what is actual: no longer imagined, estimated or guessed.