Marisa Olson, Postinternet, and Digital Culture

by Ivy Vance

Marisa Olson, contemporary artist, curator, and art theorist, spoke at Hampshire last Wednesday about her practice and questions that it has raised over the last 10 years. Olson is most notably known for coining the term “postinternet,” a term that describes a subculture within the art world and Olson’s own relationship with her work.

The term postinternet, as Olson explained, doesn’t necessarily mean that the work exists solely on the internet, nor does it it imply the death of the internet. Rather it is a categorization of work made after the birth of the internet and digital culture. This is why she insists that the word not be hyphenated, but kept whole in order to describe the current cultural context. This term along with her interest in how technology has rapidly evolved in the last few decades are the central ideas of Olson’s work.

Marisa Olson American Idol Blog
Still from The One that Got Away (2005), a reenactment of Olson’s Idol audition footage before she was cut from the show.

One of her earliest postinternet projects, and what Olson considers to be her first art piece, was a blog she started in 2004. Marisa’s American Idol Audition Training Blog is all at once a performance and a critique of digital and popular culture. Over 8 months Olson diligently tracked her progress in training for the hit reality TV show, American Idol. Unexpectedly, the blog took off and drew in huge amounts of traffic from the web. Most people thought that Olson’s audition preparation was a sincere undertaking, when in fact what they were looking at was an art piece exploring identity performance, autobiography, and the norms of participatory pop. This blurring between art, technology, and pop culture tropes is exactly how Olson raises questions about all three seemingly desperate fields.

As a theorist and an artist Olson’s projects are thorough undertakings that involve equal parts writing, research, and making. Although her work does not subscribe to any one medium she aims to create “centerpieces” which act as a way to bring people to the table and think about the larger cultural implications her writings and works invoke.

Olson currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

Ivy Vance 13F is a Research Assistant at the Institute for Curatorial Practice.

This post is part of a series of essays, opinions, and reviews written by students, faculty, and staff of the Institute for Curatorial Practice.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *