Parker Cheeto: The Net Artist (America Online Made Me Hardcore)
Web and Cheeto Artist, Parker Cheeto is considered by his contemporaries to be one of the most outstanding illusionistic net artists of the 21st century, often cited as “the first artist to incorporate memesis and cheetos into his large scale paintings” and “the only artist my daughter can relate to.” -Contemporary Art Daily, 2014
I wanted to be a net artist
That's what I wanted to be
But now that I am a net artist
Nobody cares about me
Can you make it real? Can you make it more than real?
Is net art real?
The only criteria for being a net artist is drinking monster energy and having a Tumblr – now that’s trill.
I hate writing press releases. I tried to get several other people to write this press release for me, but oh well.
There are two types of press releases that artists write:
A. Ones that make sense to “everyone”
B. Ones that makes sense to no one (but the artist)
C. Ones that use the word “economies”
The last press release I wrote I got shit because I quoted Kippenberger, or people loved that I quoted Kippenberger and were like “OMG I Fucking LOVE THAT QUOTE! / Thanks for turning me on to that great Kippenberger Interview.” The truth is I’ve never even read that Kippenberger interview, so when people kept bringing it up to me I had no idea what they were even talking about. I read the quote in an essay titled “Painting Besides Itself” by David Joselitz, and I didn’t even read that essay either I just skimmed through because Gene McHugh brought it up in an essay he wrote about Paint FX on his blog Post Internet (RIP) (I read Gene’s essay though).
But if I really thought about it though I would say this trickle down filter + superficial awareness of something is in some ways the “essence” of my konceptual practice. I mean Paint FX was just a rip off of Poster Company, my 3M Scotchlite works were just an extension of Artie Vierkant’s Image Objects, and everyone and their mom has made art with, and about stock photography. And that’s why I love Instagram so much.
For this exhibition I kept changing my mind about what I wanted to do. Yesterday, after being in Copenhagen for a couple of days I finally figured out I’m going to make 28 paintings and show a video piece titled “America Online Made Me Hardcore”. I’m making 28 paintings because that’s how many 64” x 46” paintings I can make with one whole roll of 3M Scotchlite. Instead of making abstract paintings though, this time a company will be UV printing images onto the Scotchlite and then I’m going to screen print some drawings on top of that. I’m not going to tell you what the images are, other than that I promise there will be a Cheeto, but not a Dorito, Frito, speedo, or burrito (and no I did not make those Tumblr’s or the ParkerItosTroll Twitter account). I think that when you see the paintings you’ll “get it”.
“America Online Made Me Hardcore” is a film I made where I filmed 1.5 years of my life with a shitty digital point and shoot. If you’re reading this right now on Facebook, you’re probably in the film, and you’re probably wasted in the film, and you might be even doing something embarrassing. But really the film is 8 hours long and it’s so boring, but in a weird way it’s the only “real” documentary about YIBAs (Young Internet Based Artists) that exists. At least one person in the film is dead, this is really sad. And a couple of the people in the film have blocked me on Facebook, this is also sad. A couple of the people in the film aren’t even net artists anymore.
Also I gave Jeff Baij a stick-and-poke tattoo as an artwork as part of this exhibition. The idea came to me in a vision the morning after my last solo show (See Also: Kippenberger Butthole). The tattoo says “net art”. It was really easy to convince him to do it.
I don’t even believe in net art. I don’t believe in Paint FX. I don’t believe in Mark Zuckerberg. I don’t’ believe in Parked Domain Girl. I don’t believe in rich people. I don’t believe in new years resolutions. I don’t believe in JstChillin. I don’t believe in Grimes. I don’t believe in Klout. I don’t believe in drop shadows. I don’t believe in Sea Punk. I don’t believe in Rhianna. I don’t believe in New York. I don’t believe in post-irony. I don’t believe in sincerity. I don’t’ believe in pronouncing GIF the right way. I don’t believe that “Spring Breakers” will save culture. I don’t believe in Karma. I don’t believe in dog. I don’t believe in underwater photography. I don’t believe I’ll get in a car accident but I purchase full coverage every time I get a rental car anyways. I don’t believe you invented Google search results as art. I don’t believe in McChickens. I don’t believe in that Russian doll girl. I don’t believe in wearing all black. I don’t believe in deleting unread emails in your inbox. I don’t believe in private Facebook information. I don’t believe in saxophones frozen in ice cubes. I don’t believe in Contemporary Art Daily. I don’t believe in vegetables. I don’t believe in intellectuals. I don’t believe in hobo font. I don’t believe in Riff Raff. I don’t believe in Burberry. I don’t believe in having a Facebook profile picture that’s a really old picture of you and looks nothing like how you look now. I don’t believe in press releases.
I just believe in me….
The Internet and me
And true love
And white pants
And Nick Faust’s FB feed.
This is the last exhibition I will ever make (applause).
No I’ve changed my mind again (disappointment).
AND THANK YOU.
* I actually made 33 paintings, it only took me (us) 3 days. Only 22 were shown in Copenhagen though because there wasn't enough wall space to show all of them. Five of the paintings then flew with me to Dubai for a group show (picture below). During the process of UV printing unbeknowst to myself, 3M decided to send me a roll of scotchlite that had been chopped in half and tapped back together. This meant that one painting was chopped in half, which later was turned into 3 smaller works. Then there was enough excess material left over to make 3 baby paintings.
**Also the exhibition was supposed to feature 200 live rainbow roses, but rainbow roses are harder to get in Europe and the distributor stopped responding to our emails a week before the opening. :(
Parker Ito is a net artist. Parker Ito is an Internet artist. Parker Ito is a post-internet artist. Thus speaks Parker Ito himself. Parker Ito does not defy categorization. He loves categories and he loves to apply them to himself. This is why he is hard to pin down. The labels stick to him just as they peel off. Or maybe they simply cover each other archeologically like posters on a billboard. Maybe this is why people call him nicknames instead. Parker Ito loves that, too. When people call him nicknames, he adopts them. Therefore, Parker Ito is not simply a net artist, an Internet artist, a post-internet artist. Parker Ito is no longer simply Parker Ito. Parker Ito thus reappears as Parker Burrito. Parker Ito exhibits as Parker Cheeto. Parker Ito works in the name of Deke2 and Olivia Calix. Parker Ito tweets in the name of Parker’s Poetry LOL: “If I wasn’t me… I wouldn’t be me.”
It is not because Parker Ito has multiple identities. He does not have a second life. He is not – to use a much used word in art speak - schizophrenic. Nor is it because he seeks anonymity. On the contrary. “Yeah,” he says, “I’m into transparency.” He wants to exhibit, display, pose, collaborate – he wants to be present so he can participate. His names are more like the codenames you use when locking onto your netbank, your youtube account, your website. His characters are more similar than different. Ito is his given name, but the other names have also been given to him. A name is not something that sets him apart, but something that makes him take part. Parker Cheeto likes to exhibit the work of Parker Ito who likes to exhibit the work of Parker Burrito. Parker Ito, Parker Burrito, Parker Cheeto, and Deke2 like to show their works within each other’s works. Parker Ito is not simply part of a network. He has become a network. He is a network in a network where the first becomes difficult to tell from the latter. Parker Ito also exhibits with people who are not Parker. He shows online and offline with Body by Body, together they are known as Aventa Garden. He is part of and behind the digital platforms Paint FX and JstChillin. He collaborates with himself in the way he collaborates with others. He himself invented Deke2, when he started to work with the artist duo Body to Body, whom in turn invented the art critic Julia Rob3rts, who in turn wrote about Body By Body and Deke2. With ease Parker Ito lets himself go into a network because it is not other but also him – just as anybody else using the Internet today. This is also why it is difficult to say when he is creative and created, curating and curated – just as the title of his film America Online Made Me Hardcore with all his peers suggests, itself an echo of Mark Leckey’s film Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore.
The Internet has always been social and inclusive. This has always been the idea underpinning its development, but today in the age of Web 2.0 it is no longer just an idea. It has become so easy to use, that anybody can participate creatively. It is a playground that is developed by geeks and nerds in such a way that you no longer have to be a geek or nerd to use it. And this fact is something Parker Ito makes a virtue of because he is not a geek or nerd. In his own words, he is rather the opposite: “I'm not an Internet artist – I'm just a hipster on the Internet who makes art. DOI.”
Of course, Parker Ito does no consider himself anybody. But he likes to include anybody, for instance in his project The Most Infamous Girl in the History of the Internet, which he also calls Parked Domain Girl. A project, which serves as a reminder, that the moment anybody participates, anybody is no longer anybody. It is mass culture that is no longer mass culture since it is not made by an anonymous mass, but rather a lot of different people. The project started in 2010 and it is still running. It started when Parker Ito took over the probably most known stock photo of a woman on the Internet at the time. The photo was that of a smiling school girl who greeted all visitors, amidst various ads and links, to so-called parked domains bought by the company Demand Media – a company which had acquired thousands of domain names in order to resell them. Parker Ito asked the Chinese company orderartwork.com to reproduce the photo in oil. In turn Parker Ito would paint and manipulate the oil reproductions which he again asked orderartwork to reproduce while simultaneously making the resulting images tour the internet, inviting others to join in. The default image quickly became a meme, produced by a variety of people from the copists who try to stay as close to the original as possible to amateurs on the Internet who most often try to do the opposite. The girl got “parked” on more and more sites – by Parker and many others. In the process various of her qualities were enhanced. While Parker painted her over, others undressed her. Some made her younger, others older. And while she gradually changed into many different things, it started to look as if this was what she was about all along. To some she looks innocent, a nice girl - to others beautiful, an object of desire. In the end, her innocence also became the object of desire that more and more people wanted to touch and retouch. The more people who joined in, the more she became the artist-as-network’s. The more she got parked, the more Parker’s she became. No wonder the girl’s brother, who took the photo and uploaded it to iStockphoto, felt strange about it. No wonder he wrote Parker Ito an email, explaining that though he ceded the rights to the photo for 60 cents to iStockphoto, he had not predicted the direction it would all take. The girl on the brother’s photo looks both like a kid and like a teenager. She is caught between two things, which are rather similar - close to one. As the project developed she has became more and more what Parker Ito is becoming.
Often in Parker Ito’s works the artist juxtaposes two things – two things, which might have been opposites earlier on, but are becoming more and more similar. It could be the real and the virtual. Or photography and painting. It could also be Parker Ito’s incessant use of the language of abstract painting juxtaposed with or enmeshed in flowers. The latter is even where all the above comes together for Parker Ito. On the one hand we have flowers in the still life tradition from Spain and the Netherlands in the 17th century, which equals hyperrealism, today redubbed photorealism. On the other hand, abstraction, which in the 19th and 20th century grew out of a negation of figuration, of a realist representation of reality. Parker Ito walks in the tracks laid out by these two traditions and then again he is the heir to neither. Or rather, he is the heir to Edouard Manet, who in the words of Georges Bataille treated still life as “a pretext for the act of painting.” Nowhere is this idea more convincing that in the syphilis-ridden and partly immobilized Impressionist’s last paintings, a large bulk of which where mere flower paintings. If he was by then still a painter of modern life, modern life was by then but a composition of colors. Later, in the 1950s Clement Greenberg would trace modernist painting back to this man for whom painting was nothing but paint. But Parker Ito can also be backtracked to this sort of painting where paint is not simply painting but modern life. The flower Parker Ito likes the most is a flower, which is in itself like a bouquet, a composition of different colors. It is the rainbow rose, whose stalk is split in order to draw up different colors. It is a flower that is split to become one, just like Parker Ito is made up of Parker Ito, Cheeto, Burrito, Oilvia, Deke2, and so on. In this rose the painter, the painted and the painting become one. It is thus a flower which does not look more or less unreal when Parker Ito exhibits it as such, reworks it in Photoshop, with the gradient function, screen prints it onto reflector fabric, rephotographs it and leaves it circulating on the Internet. It is a flower, which does not only blossom one time, but continues to blossom – whose process of dematrialization is accelerated by being split just as its process of rematerializations. If the flower is an abstract painting, it is not because it can be reduced to pure paint. It is rather abstract because it cannot be reduced to one thing. And this is probably why it makes sense that Parker Ito has written in a press release that he doesn’t “believe in pronouncing GIF the right way,” nor ”in wearing all black”, nor “in press releases” – but rather “me… The Internet and me.”
As Parker Ito’s presence on the Internet grows, his presence in the art world also grows. But his presence in the latter is more than just a presence, because the Internet not simply expands the art world, but also supplants it to a certain extent. It not only enables and facilitates, but also habituates artists to take matters into their own hands. At a time, when the art world has become professionalized and specialized, Parker Ito is among a bunch of new artists who move in the opposite direction. He sometimes writes his own press releases while claiming he does not believe in press releases. On his iPhone he translates his PR into the language of picture characters, emojis, which he in turn reintegrates into a painting, which is sold to a collector while also circulating as an image on the Internet. On various websites he curates shows. Sometimes he also sells the works online. On the Internet he shows photos of himself posing in front of his own works, making selfies, which imitate his own self-portraits. He exhibits pictures in gallery spaces, which are made to be multiplied. The professional art photographer might shoot his photos, but Parker Ito might change them – either afterwards or preemptively. He makes reflector paintings which shortcircuit the idea of one good photo per work. These paintings change according to the light and the position of the viewer. Though they are flat, sealed with a layer of vinyl, they behave as sculptures, which are experienced on the move. Except now it is no longer the body of the viewer, which is on the move, but the image itself. It looks in many different ways in the gallery room. It looks in still more different ways when photographed. And as it travels from camera to Photoshop to various websites, it keeps changing. Parker Ito takes on the role of all the other agents in the art world. He can be the curator, the art writer, the dealer, the photographer. He can even be the collector who commissions works. And yet, Parker Ito does not replace all these different players. He simply plays them in order to play with them. He is not interested in institutional critique. If anything, he is into institutional change. In this way, he becomes an art world onto himself – an art world within an art world just as he becomes a network within a network where the former becomes difficult to tell from the latter. It might seem a complete mess. But it might also simply be another order.
Toke Lykkeberg, March 2013
^^ limited edition screenprint available here
Toke you've done it again!!!!!!!