There is a strain of Net art referred to among its practitioners and those who follow it as “pro surfer” work. Characterized by a copy-and-paste aesthetic that revolves around the appropriation of Web-based content in simultaneous celebration and critique of the Internet and contemporary digital visual culture, this work—heavy on animated gifs, YouTube remixes, and an embrace of old-school, “dirtstyle” Web design aesthetics—is beginning to find a place in the art world. But it has yet to benefit from substantial critical analysis. My aim here is to outline ways in which the work of pro surfers holds up to the vocabulary given to us by studies of photography and cinematic montage. I see this work as bearing a surface resemblance to the use of found photography while lending itself to a close reading along the lines of film formalism. Ultimately, I will argue that the work of pro surfers transcends the art of found photography insofar as the act of finding is elevated to a performance in its own right, and the ways in which the images are appropriated distinguishes this practice from one of quotation by taking them out of circulation and reinscribing them with new meaning and authority.
Olson, Marisa. “Lost Not Found: The Circulation of Images in Digital Visual Culture.” In Words Without Pictures, edited by Alex Klein, 274–284. Los Angeles, CA: Museum Associates/LACMA, 2009.