Das Platforms / Contemporary Art

ROFL-UTION: Rolling and Trolling For the Lulz

by JDReforma

28 Jul 2011

I cite the revolving door as a metaphor for the journey of initiation into the language of Web 2.0, as it is at once an entrance and a passage. In order to achieve proficient fluency, one must enter and exit at the precise moment, or find themselves stuck in a prolonged revolution, all the while enduring the playful antagonism of those on either side.

Characterising the 'lulz' feels to me like a similarly rhetorical exercise and one in which internet-trolls - the mothers of such tongue - have never seriously partaken, for reasons that are self-evident. An abstraction of 'lol'- which is merely an expression of laughter in reaction to something innocuously funny - the vital distinction of 'the lulz' is asserted in the schadenfreudian quality of an individual or community's action and intent to attain them: hence, for the lulz.

For the Lulz, the collected works of six initiated internet-trolls curated by Sandra Di Palma and currently on display at Tin Sheds Gallery, endeavours to be exactly what its title infers. Imagine for a moment that the 'art-world' is a Michael Bay-filmed interpretation of 'the real world' -shiny but lacklustre, barren yet moist - and full of hysterically overwrought emotion that paradoxically induces numbness in even those with the strongest capacity for empathy.For the Lulz is like the casually invoked spirit of Steve Buscemi in that scene from Armageddon, in which he unloads a machine-gun at his crew members upon the asteroid: trollfaced the loom of the apocalypse, he inadvertently exorcises not just his own, but also the collective anxiety of his po-faced fellow heroes. Similarly, the mechanism of 'the lulz' are what enable this exhibition to 'roll-OFL'in 'gleeful sociopathy[1]' away from the current retro-sci-fi, dystopian thematic pre-occupations of an art community whose emotional equilibrium [2] has long slept undisturbed.

Appropriately, the artworks that comprise For the Lulz utilise the circular processes of repetition and replication - familiar to the cycles of both art and memetics - to simultaneously speak of andin language 'from the internet' [3]. The clearest advantage is that these techniques - so key to the significance and survival of the meme-organism - here retain nothing of the anti-intellectual angst from which they suffer in so much commercialised contemporary art a la modular installation, artist 'editions', most painting and so on. In the user-generated context of the web, the term 'modular' inherits new meaning. It is the modularity of memes that allows and encourages participants to alter and propagate their meaning, much as I have in the image accompanying this text, and much as these artists have in both their works and their modes of display-beautifully poetic gestures to collaboration both online and IRL.

Di Palma has here developed a unique framework through which the subjective, material, and conceptual criterion against which art is conventionally assigned or denied merit are temporarily dissolved; where revolution is enacted not sporadically through superficial stylistic upheavals, but minute-to-minute - by theprosumers of Web 2.0. In this post-FAILblog economy of humour, it is humbling to know that artistic output - user-generated or otherwise - can still be affirmed by such earnest intent, articulated thus: I did it for teh lulz.

Artists: Ella Barclay, Christopher Hanrahan, Andrew Moran, Michael Moran, Tom Polo, Giselle Stanborough. Curated by Sandra Di Palma.

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[1] Author unknown, Lulz. Oh Internet, 2004. Retrieved fromhttp://ohinternet.com/Lulz

[2] Mattathias Schwartz, The Trolls Among Us. The New York Times Magazine, 3 August, 2008. Retreived fromhttp://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/03/magazine/03trolls-t.html

[3] Regarding the eponymous meme, and paraphrased from the title of an essay authored by Patrick Davisson and Mike Rugnetta. 'On Being' from the internet' . Retrieved from For the Lulzexhibition catalogue, published by Tin Sheds Gallery, University of Sydney. 2011.