The artists' blog Loshadka lets members get quick feedback on the fragmentary, conceptual, computer-made work posted to the site. Everyone in the community likes each other, so messages in the comment section tend to be positive, if oblique. When Thomas posted Jupiter Temple -- a collage where a triangular swath of a photo of the largest planet makes a pediment atop two white columns, above which an eyeball and animated, chameleon triangle form a central altar -- Billy responded with an image of a rapt evangelical; while Petra indicated her approval with a simple "yes," her signature was complicated with unreadable characters.
Loshadka means "pony" in Russian, the native language of founding member Ilia Ovechkin. It's a twee word, coded in a foreign tongue, and constantly rearranged in gibberish anagrams on the title bar of http://loshadka.org/ -- a compounded transformation that makes a neat metaphor for the group's activity. Members take YouTube home videos, naïve digital art, advertisements and other online junk, then tweak and recontextualize them. Loshadka is one of a handful of artists' group blogs, also called "surfing clubs," since the posted objects come from rambling sessions of Web browsing. New media theorist Lev Manovich has compared the net surfer to the flaneur, and Loshadka's giddy, dark sense of humor shares a certain detachment with Baudelaire's perceptive dandy.
Unlike other surfing clubs, Loshadka uses tagging, the classification system that both professional and amateur news blogs use to make sources of fresh information function simultaneously as archives. A click on a word tagged to a new post draws up older ones on the same topic for instant cross-referencing. Loshadka's tags aren't keywords, but chunky little icons drawn by the founding members -- their use is characteristically subjective and chaotic. While the cat's head can be applied literally to posts containing still or moving images of cats, the purple wizard hat is open to interpretation. A favorite of Loshadka members, it has been used to tag everything from screen shots of hapless marketing campaigns for Bic pens and Advil on Facebook, to a collection of found, digitally manipulated reproductions of Turner's painting The Fighting Temeraire. Loshadka's tags turn a system of organizational logic into way of letting its audience travel down forking paths of nonlinear viewing.
The surfing club concept relates to the unfinished, open-ended forms of art and exhibition making that became widespread in the 1990s. Critic and curator Nicolas Bourriaud named the trend "relational aesthetics" when Loshadka's members were in grade school, and they digested its lessons in art-school history classes. Now, it's an idea that lurks in the background while they do whatever they find funny or cool. Subsequently, Loshadka is vulnerable to the same kind of criticism recently hurled at the artists in the Guggenheim Museum's "theanyspacewhatever" exhibition, namely that their alternative structures for displaying and disseminating ideas are insular and cliquish: they are always playing to the same sympathetic audience. Without a pretense of facilitating social change (or any intellectual pretense at all), Loshadka makes a more elusive target.
On Wednesday, March 25, Loshadka's members will give a presentation at Light Industry, a space dedicated to experimental film and new media located in a complex of artists' studios in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Titled "Treasure Room" -- or "τRξΔSVRΞ RθθM," in Loshadka's obfuscated spelling with characters from the extended ASCII set -- the event is planned as a kind of a show and tell, where the artists will take turns presenting their offline work in mediums such as video, film, and prints, translating their group practice of sharing treasures into physical space. Comments are welcome.