Art World Formula
October 23, 2015

Jonas Lund uses algorithms and social networks to playfully subvert cynicism and value systems in the contemporary art market today

Can computational power be used to quantify and measure an artwork as good or bad? With a database of hundreds of thousands of artworks, their metrics and their auction results, Jonas Lund is looking to see if there is a formula for determining what is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ within the art world. In turn, he seeks to establish if it is possible to manipulate success algorithmically in the face of a system that he sees as evaded by logic.

Lund’s artistic practice revolves around the mechanisms of contemporary art production, its market and the established art world. In recent years, he has focused on figuring out how this system works in order to expose, subvert and demystify its faults. From the economics of art flipping to questioning the increasingly important role of the curator, Lund navigates his way around the art world network with the intention of, as he summarises it, “just looking at this pretty fucked system and saying, what’s up with this?”

Sarcastic and grounded, his work sides with those disenchanted by the art world’s established markers of quality. The software-based works of various media are inclusive, from an installation which responds to the viewer’s gaze, wryly titled ‘VIP (Viewer Improved Painting)’, to ‘Studio Practice’, in which hired assistants produce works according to guidelines set out by Lund. There is transparency to his work, welcoming viewers to offer their own understanding of each piece.


Can computational power be used to quantify and measure an artwork as good or bad?


Tired of photography as a medium to produce contemporary art during his BA at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam, Lund started to work increasingly online, developing the interest in network culture and cybernetic theory that remains at the core of his practice. Transitioning from the online realm, his work is now primarily created and viewed in the gallery space, taking him beyond the screen and into the real-life dissection of systematic network situations.


POSTmatter: In ‘Disassociated Press’ (2014) you satirize the art world press release. To what extent do you feel the established English-speaking art world system should be subverted or improved?

Jonas Lund: The reason I find it so interesting is that it is one of many steps of gate-keeping and of maintaining the art world conspiracy of ‘this is better than this because you can’t understand it’. It should be exposed for its pretension. ‘Disassociated Press’ aims to do this as it’s mostly gibberish but it still sounds like International Art English, so it gets away with it. I’m wondering if anyone really gets it, or if it’s just The Emperor’s New Clothes.

PM: Could you elaborate on the current “bubble moment” in contemporary art that you are reacting to in ‘Strings Attached’

JL: ‘Strings Attached’ is 24 paintings with different terms on them that restrict the transfer of ownership in some way; if the market was normal you would just say, “This painting may be sold to anyone” because there wouldn’t be a high enough demand for this kind of manipulation or control. The supply and demand chain is interesting. What is your position as a person who wants to buy a piece of work, and how much influence do you have? The balance of people’s power is very tilted. It’s strange if you want to buy something but you can’t, like your money isn’t good enough. There’s something more to it than money alone, which I find fascinating.


The balance of people’s power is very tilted. It’s strange if you want to buy something but you can’t, like your money isn’t good enough.


PM: I read your story on ‘’, in which you say “The 12th of December 2012 I lost control over my domain, a core piece of my identity, through a series of unfortunate and ‘scammy’ events.” In the digital age, to what extent are we not the sole owners and authors of our identity?

JL: You surrender different parts of how you control it to various factors, and you’re more careful about how you brand your own perceived identity. I don’t think that necessarily changes your real identity, but the way that people experience you online is certainly very different to who you really are. We don’t determine our outward identity as much, it’s much more designed. It is a core thing that has changed since Facebook; people get depressed because all they see is happy times and happy pictures. It’s a very fake reality that fuels feelongs of jealousy and inadequacy. You have to recognise that this is not reality by going against the American company’s idea of how we are supposed to have a social life.


You’re not what you do; you’re not your artworks; you’re not your Facebook profile. You’re something else.


PM: How do you balance your virtuality and your reality?

JL: Stop using Facebook. The less I use Facebook the happier I become. It’s such an automatic behaviour, it's just programmed into your brain by a corporation based in California. It’s about realising that all these different parts of the online world control how you are perceived and how you perceive others. In the end, it doesn’t really matter. You’re not what you do; you’re not your artworks; you’re not your Facebook profile. You’re something else.

For more information on Jonas Lund's work, click here

Power and commerce are explored at London Art Fair
Emerging galleries question the future of the art market amidst the rise of new technology, as risk-taking artists confront the darker undercurrents of the digital age
Published on the occasion of Michael Craig-Martin's solo exhibition at the Serpentine Galleries in 2015, this catalogue focuses on the artists' drawings and paintings from 1981 to the present day which chart the developments in technology over that period.
This artist paints masterpieces with code
Japanese programmer ‘KYND’ generates watercolour simulations that revitalise age-old creative tools. Featured in our partnership with WeTransfer
Jonus Lund offers a fair warning
In a digital commission for the Whitechapel Gallery, the artist puts forward a tongue-in-cheek questionnaire that explores the value of our choices
Chris Dorland's digital scans distort pop culture
The artist creates post-modern assemblages for the internet age, mapping the chaotic network of images that we have become accustomed to online
Dennis Loesch's bold digital paintings
In a new exhibition from the Berlin-based artist gets the physical paintbrush and the digital brush tool working hand in hand
Targeted ads go rogue in this gripping new film
An algorithm is put on trial in Helen Knowles' dystopian tale of fraud and intrigue that cuts closer to our reality in 2017 than we might like to admit
Take a trip to new dimensions with Manfred Mohr
The enduring influence of digital art pioneer Manfred Mohr is made clear in new exhibition ‘Artificiata II’, continuing his 5-decade long investigation into the geometries of sound
Hayal Pozanti discusses her painted encryptions
The New York based artist draws on ancient alphabets to create her own painted language, telling a story of what it means to be human in a digital age
David Hockney: Digital Drawing
David Hockney has always vigorously embraced new technologies, whether it be the use of polaroid photography, the fax machine, photoshop, digital film or – more recently – the iPad. Coinciding with his retrospective exhibition at Tate Britain, the work on display here further explores his career-long exploration of the illusion of space and what he calls "the tyranny of one-point perspective”.