A Total Jizz Fest and the Colonization of the Internet

by Zoya Mirzaghitova

Jennifer Chan, A Total Jizzfest (video still), 2012, Courtesy of the artist

When I first saw *A Total Jizz Fest* by Jennifer Chan I didn’t like it. I always get annoyed at myself for jumping to conclusions like that but I found it hard to get past the 90s digital aesthetic. I thought the overwhelming effects were unnecessary just to show us that most of the big web developers are white men. We already know that, anyway. And, I am embarrassed to say, I never delved deeper in to the work but dismissed it as just another piece of video art I don’t want to watch more than I have to.

But then I was leading a tour and the discussion reached Chan’s video. Over the course of the exhibition, I have seen many groups go through the show and few wanted to talk about this work at lengths. This group, however, had a lot to say and the discussion forced me to think deeper about the work then I have in the past. I was struck with a seemingly obvious question—Why did Chan pick this ugly, outdated, 90s aesthetic to create her video? It’s easy to overlook the fact that in art everything is intentional. In order to create or choose something the artist has to make a conscious decision to include or exclude it, thereby likely finding meaning in the presence or absence of that aspect of the work. Here is the answer I could come up with, and I have to say that it greatly increased my appreciation of the video.

In the late 90s and early 2000s, when this aesthetic was widely used in videos, the general public was just discovering what computers and the internet could do. That is why videos in that style are so packed with computer generated images, animations, and effects. It was the exciting time when a new medium emerged and the possibilities were endless. It was akin to the primordial soup where all elements were present in the chaos but nothing had yet formed out of them. That is what this aesthetic symbolises to me—the excitement at a new medium. It uses all the effects that a computer can generate just to show that it can. It may look outdated today but then it was a wonder of the latest technology.

This is where the white guys come in. They imposed order on the internet by creating platforms for socializing, sharing videos and photos, shopping online, and listening to music. Along with those platforms came customs on how to behave and interact on the internet, they pioneered the creation of emerging aesthetics for digital production, and with rules and specifications channeled the way those elements were used and grouped together. The white men colonised the internet.

This video is reminiscent of the fan-made videos you find on YouTube, glorifying a celebrity. Now, I think that this video is not glorifying the men it shows but the medium it uses. The effects, picutes, animations, and colours are so overwhelming compared to the static portraits of the developers that it is fair to say that it is the primary subject of the video, not the people.

So where does this leave us? Is Jennifer Chan asking us whether it could have all gone differently? Or was it all fine the way it was? I don’t know—but I do know that I will keep thinking about it. It’s easy to say that contemporary art is amateur, something “my children can do,” and meaningless just because we can’t immediately grasp it. But the best art does not spoon feed us the answers, it makes us think and, hopefully, see the world in a different way. If that is the criteria we use to judge art—Jennifer Chan’s *A Total Jizz Fest* gets top marks from me.

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