Asymmetrical Response

Posted by Cory Arcangel on

​Arcangel Surfware meets it’s body double Webmaster Summer in Cory Arcangel & Olia’s Asymmetrical Response @ the Kitchen, NYC. Press Release from the Kitchen below. Also, on the FYI tip, we have VERY LIMITED copies of the reader we published for the show. 


In military parlance, the terms asymmetrical and symmetrical have historically been employed in reference to political provocations and diplomatic démarches, escalation, and tension, as well as to power dynamics of the highest order. Yet today these terms are also useful for describing a set of relations that define our social and cultural connections to power, particularly as we take stock of contemporary media structures. In fact, this terminology is uniquely pertinent for any dialogue about the socio-cultural impact of the Internet as it has shifted in recent decades from a tool for military communication to an ‘information superhighway’ promising open and equal exchange, and, finally, the increasingly asymmetric ‘content delivery system’ that shapes contemporary experience.

On the eve of Y2K, Russian­-born Olia Lialina—who is among the best-known participants in the 1990s scene—first met American artist Cory Arcangel. Ever since, the artists have been deep in dialogue about such changing terms for the Internet. For their first collaboration in an exhibition format, Arcangel and Lialina present complex bodies of work that arose through their continuing conversation. The exhibition was curated by Caitlin Jones for Western Front, Vancouver (where it appeared last fall), and organized for The Kitchen by Tim Griffin and Lumi Tan. The exhibition runs from January 11 to February 18.

The New York presentation of Asymmetrical Response comes at a time when Americans are all too familiar with the question of asymmetrical responses, escalation, and power relations as they pertain to the Internet. Public dialogues are still unfolding around the role of disinformation spread through technology during and after the most recent Presidential election, signaling a historic shift in the influence of social media platforms and their users on not only on cultural life but also societal organization. In this respect, the homogeneity of one’s Facebook feed may streamline the most outrageous fabrications; the character limit of Twitter is more effective discursively when fewer people read beyond the headlines.

Arcangel and Lialina’s works directly address such shaping of public discourse—and, in turn, personal identity—through manipulated media and corporate limitation, creating an installation in which multiple digital temporalities exist at once with respect to form and content. For example, when it comes to such found media and its shaping of ostensibly personal expression: While the gallery floor is carpeted with a diamond plate pattern frequently used on as a background on personal websites in the mid-1990s (including Arcangel’s own first site), the walls are covered in patterns taken from early Yahoo templates whose aim was to channel and standartisize personal expression following their acquisition of Geocities in the 1999. A central work in the exhibition is Lialina’s (Nothing you can compare to your neighborhood hoe), an immense screencast of an existing Tumblr page that includes Lialina’s Animated Gif Model, a gif of the artist hula-hooping that has been circulated on hundreds of websites since its creation in 2005. Her avatar, now life-size, appears as merely one of many random images without attribution in a total rejection of template-based social media.

However, instead of looking back nostalgically on more innocent, amateur days of the Internet, the exhibition critically acknowledges a transition—or better, an abstraction—of power that Lialina has identified in her writing around the most fundamental linguistics of our digital life: from computers to technology, interface to experience, users to people. In the titular work by Lialina, two ‘empty’ browsers are opened side-by-side on a monitor. One browser displays a 1x1 transparent gif, an early web convention, but also a tool of surveillance with which companies track users; the other browser, a 400 x 400 transparent gif that users of the popular image generator site, distributed amongst their community to go around Blingee’s template restrictions. This ‘invisible’ response puts forth a canny strategy for resisting the increasingly visible modes of surveillance sanctioned by the technologies marketed in our service.

‘Asymmetrical Response’ will be on view January 11– February 18 at The Kitchen (512 West 19th Street). Exhibit hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10am–6pm. An opening reception will take place on January 11, from 6 – 8pm.

In conjunction with the exhibition, Olia Lialina will present the U.S. premiere of Bear With Me, a performance starring Kevin Bewersdorf on February 18, at 8pm. Tickets are $15 and available online at or by phone at 212.255.5793 x11.

About Cory Arcangel

United States-born artist Cory Arcangel makes work in a wide range of media: composition, video, modified video games, performance, and the Internet. Recently, he debuted the artist publication, The Source Digest at the 2016 New York Art Book Fair. In 2014, he worked extensively with a team of computer experts from the Carnegie Mellon Computer Club, in collaboration with The Andy Warhol Museum, to unearth and preserve Warhol’s lost digital experiments. Currently he is the CEO of the non-aspirational lifestyle brand and publishing imprint, Arcangel Surfware. His works have been exhibited & performed both online and at venues including the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Tate, London, The Migros Museum, Zurich, Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin.

About Olia Lialina

Moscow-born, German-based artist Olia Lialina has, for the past two decades, produced many influential works of network-based art: My Boyfriend Came Back from the War (1996), Agatha Appears (1997), First Real Net Art Gallery (1998), and Last Real Net Art Museum (2000), Online Newspapers (2004–2013), Summer (2013). Currently she is a professor at Merz Akademie in Germany. Lialina writes on digital culture, net art and web vernacular.

Her work has been exhibited extensively online and at venues including Ars Electronica, Linz; the New Museum, New York, Museo Tamayo, Mexico City, Transmediale, Berlin, Havana Biennial, Cuba, ACAF, Alexandria, the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, ABC Gallery, Moscow, ZKM, Karlsruhe, Madison Square Park, New York, Barbican, London, LEAP, Berlin, MOTI, Breda.

Funding Credits

Cory Arcangel and Olia Lialina: Asymmetrical Response is made possible with support from Cristina Enriquez-Bocobo & Michael Kantrow, Eleanor Cayre, Team Gallery, and Mo Koyfman; annual program grants from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and Lambent Foundation Fund of Tides Foundation; and in part by public funds from New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

About The Kitchen

The Kitchen is one of New York City’s most forward-looking nonprofit spaces, showing innovative work by emerging and established artists across disciplines. Our programs range from dance, music, performance, and theater to video, film, and art, in addition to literary events, artists’ talks, and lecture series. Since its inception in 1971, The Kitchen has been a powerful force in shaping the cultural landscape of this country, and has helped launch the careers of many artists who have gone on to worldwide prominence.




Press Contact

For more information, please contact John Wyszniewski at Blake Zidell & Associates: 718.643.9052, john AT blakezidell DOT com