Post-Internet Rapper Yung Jake’s Solo Show “New” at Steve Turner Contemporary
The cold, disinterested reflex of unfollowing an ex-lover on Instagram – that’s the feeling Yung Jake provokes in his video, “Unfollow.” Maybe they were a little bit of an internet stalker, reading into the meaning of your post break-up posts a little too much, or maybe you just don’t want to see them anymore, as simple as that. If you keep following them it’s not really a clean break, is it?
There is something uncool about Yung Jake’s music videos though, maybe because their focus is the means and not the meaning of the internet. Like the Tumblr/glitch video “Datamosh” – so literal it dates itself. I’m reminded of a comment my friend made about Sofia Coppola’s (boring) film Somewhere, how it seemed unrealistic because not a single cell phone was shown in the entirety of the film, which was set in contemporary Hollywood. To have no phone appear in the film seems careless, but were a film to be made entirely of people using their cell phones, it might lose our interest, or at least, would be net-art but not post-internet art.
That’s where Yung Jake’s solo show, New, at Steve Turner Contemporary in Los Angeles comes in. Yung Jake, “Born on the internet” in 2011, has had work screened and performed at Sundance (2013), the Hammer Museum and Redcat (2013), MOCA (2014), and received a BFA from CalArts in 2012.
The press release for New explains, “in this series Yung Jake considers the nexus between the overlooked and the ever-present, both in real life and online.” A bit of an obvious tie-in to the found metal sculptures, but not unforgivably glaring. New moves into the territory of post-internet rap, deciding on wall-mounted metal containers with layered vinyl images of Youtube thumbnails and shutterstock images.
Vinyl and metal, Jake’s mediums of choice, seems to reference rap’s fascination with tricked-out cars, drawing attention to vinyl’s sheen and malleability on metal. Music is as much the object it is played from (the car in this case), as it is the composition – and Jake seems to get that. Vinyl and metal are then infused with the printed internet in a very post-internet sort of way, providing a web of associations that nonetheless come together into objects which borrow meaning from the internet, but don’t use it as their crutch.
The presence of the printed internet in this work could be a point of contention, as the image has been taken out of its context. But in this case, the printed Youtube videos and shutterstock images have become part of Jake’s trademark use of video/Tumblr/Instagram-aesthetics across any and all media he seems to work in. Jake references Youtube and car culture in one fell swoop, reminding me of those good times using 3G to look up songs on Safari with the iPhone cassette adapter on my lap.
I didn’t go to the show in L.A. because, well, I live in New York. But I can write about it nonetheless, having seen the high-res images of it online in the way that most of its viewers will also take it in. In New, Jake moves away from the syntax and drama of communicating online to offer inanimate media that offers something more perceptive than the slacker-glitch rap videos he’s mostly known for.