Review: In the Flow

In the Flow
In the Flow by Boris Groys
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a set of essays by the art critic and theorist Boris Groys. Although each takes a slightly different slight, the overall theme is the nature of modernity and how the arrival of the internet brings changes to art and artists alike.

The underlying theme is that in the past art relied on the creation of static objects placed in the museum to be viewed by passive observers. Art in the modern age is instead about the ‘event’, something in which the observer is an active participant and which is recorded and recalled later.

Groys argues that the internet and the various associated technologies facilitate this shift, allowing art to be both decontextualised and placed within the flow of time. It allows these events to be recorded, made available, and also recalled and rewound. The observer becomes part of the art itself.

In this way the internet also therefore delivers on some of the manifesto of the original avant garde movement, which argued for the art of the past to be allowed to decay and disappear (or even for it to be actively destroyed). Groys picks out a number of examples of how the work of artists such as Kazimir Malevich can be fitted into this development and in many ways prefigures the arrival of the new technology.

If I have a criticism it is that this is very obviously a set of essays and often risks not feeling like a cohesive whole. It is not always clear how the discussion of the avant garde fits with the chapters which focus on the internet. But it is a fascinating and thought provoking read, and brings a new perspective to walking around a modern gallery.

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