When I left my silicon valley job to be an artist no evidence existed that this was something I could actually do.  Armed with the willfully utopian ideals of the software industry, my plan was to learn everything on the internet.

You can learn anything on the internet.

For  years I surprised myself with the truth of the claim.  I began by searching:

How do you stretch a canvas?

How do you paint clouds?

How do you draw hands?

How do you write an artist statement?

The resulting artwork led me to complete projects or exhibitions with The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The V&A museum in London, and the British Film Institute, and also convinced Billy Childish take me on as a studio apprentice.  

Then I started to hit walls. Critics of all persuasions sought opportunity to tell me:

  1. You haven't been in this game long enough to know how to play.

  2. You don’t know who you are as an artist.

  3. You lack the credentials.

I had found some open doors but those shutting in my face were concerned with an abstract idea of what I didn’t know, what they assumed I couldn't understand given the origins of my online education.  

I could not search, “What the hell do I do now?”

In college I’d been a varsity track captain on an athletic scholarship for the mile I could run in 4:40.  Running suited me because of how closely effort in related to success out.  My bias, the way I was raised reinforced by the mythologize stories proliferated in my culture,  is to believe that all such bootstrapping approaches to change, and advancement as change, are possible.   Initially applying this approach to art through more paintings, more time in the studio, more effort, seemed to be working out.  But then I felt cornered, if not stuck.  

No longer able to muscle through with an athlete mentality, no longer about to google “how to be an artist” I turned to the question of what can and cannot be learned through the internet, explicitly through YouTube video learning. The result is both performative and visual, physical (my increased flexibility, onions cut without crying, french braided hair) and digital (endlessly looping gifs documenting my actions). The gif is used as a medium of endless repetition suggestion the notion of “practice makes perfect” where time, energy, and motivation are the only limitations to success.

You can learn everything on the internet?

This project investigates the validity and shortcomings of such a claim.  What else have the the internet and technology promised? If it isn’t effort or access to information that limits us, what is it?  Undertones of genetic, social, family, and class privilege run through the question.


I began with a theory; the internet can make me an artist. I learned how to stretch a canvas on YouTube and how to replicate Guston’s brush strokes with MoMA Online. I made paintings, lots of paintings. Did that make me an artist? Another theory developed, that identities, although awkward and prescriptive at first, can eventually be formed through repetitive actions. If everyday I went to my studio, wore my smock and made paintings I would someday become an artist? I was going to act like an artist until I became one.

Such a “fake it ’til you make it” approach echoed in HOW TO HOW TO HOW TO inevitably raises questions of authenticity. Authenticity concerns the truthfulness of origins, but the information age has, as discussed in my essay on versioning1, has been disrupted:

Oliver Laric coined “Versions” in proposing that, “Present methods of creative production challenge the hierarchy of an authentic or auratic ‘original’ image. Rather than privileging a primary object, Versions suggests a re-direction for image making, one in which bootlegs, copies and remixes increasingly usurp ‘originals’ in an age of digital production2.” In such an image culture there is no relevant chronology, teleology, or hierarchy of images.


Just as Versions suggests no relevant original in image culture HOW TO HOW TO HOW TO suggests no original identity from which authenticity can be established. To consider identity in this way is to engage with posthuman thought, a questioning of humanism’s insistence that you are and have always been one person, and that you are obligated to your external cultural reality to be the same moment to moment and place to place. Cultural identity, being based upon difference, does not allow for contradictions to exist within a traditional notion of the humanist body, shell to a single self. Posthuman thinking criticizes this claim, extending the limits of the human to an expanded and unstable sense of identity.

Starting in 2012 I used wearable cameras to record in my painting process. As with Narcissister’s3 work, the body remains mysterious in terms of gender, race, and other cultural identities. This led to my use of search engine optimization and meta data to expand and confuse my idenity beyond the assumptive limites imposed by my traditional body. HOW TO HOW TO HOW TO continues my post human practice of complicating the single identity of the human by questioning the extent to which you can adopt culture identity through experiences.

HOW TO HOW TO HOW TO attempts to apply the formula of time + persistence + YouTube “how to” searches to become something different or other.  If you fulfill all the sacraments do you become Catholic? How male can you be if you have xy chromosomes? HOW TO HOW TO HOW TO explores the idea that, though actions, you can will yourself into heterogenous perspectives, fluidly changing and manifesting oneself through different identities.

In HOW TO HOW TO HOW TO I use the looping .gif medium to explore the link between doing and becoming.  In 2005 Olia Lialina created “Animated Gif Model” a piece of netart where she put herself into .gifs that were distributed throughout the internet.4  I wanted to reference her .gif project to make a statement about the canon of digital art, that it is established enough to steal from.  I did this by adapting the name of the of reality TV show Next Top Model, a modeling competition whose winners typically receive a contract with a major modeling agency.  In subtitling my project “Next Top Animated Gif Model” I am declaring my .gifs in the lineage of Lialina’s work.  HOW TO HOW TO HOW TO looks at the possibility that discrete and repeatable actions are the roots of identity. For this reason the .gif medium is used to exaggerate the repetition required if doing is to result in becoming.

As YouTube, founded in 2005, and the internet matures, the implications of this research extend to questions currently being asked the internet as a driver of change especially as it relates to economic inequality and employment.

Andrew, Gretchen. "Not But Also Not Not Billy Childish." Cybersalon. Cybersalon, 23 July 2015. Web. 12 July 2016. <>.

2 Laric, Oliver. "Versions." Seventeen. Seventeen Gallery, 2008. Web. 12 July 2016. <>.

Narcissiser. Narcissister Is You. 2014. NARCISSISTER. Web. 12 July 2016. <>.

4 Lialina, Olia. Animated Gif Model. 2005. 2005. Web. 12 July 2016. <>.

5 Grothaus, Michael. "The Internet Is Increasing Inequality, Says The World Bank." Fast Company. Fast Company, 14 Jan. 2016. Web. 12 July 2016.

PhD in Art at Goldsmiths, University of London Daniel Rourke’s work exploits speculative and science fiction in search of a radical ‘outside’ to the human(ities), including extensive research on the intersection between digital materiality, the arts, and posthumanism.

Postdoctoral Research Associate at King’s College London Doctor Rob Gallagher investigates the impact of new media on practices of self-representation and conceptions of identity. His research considers how digital processes of juxtaposition, aggregation, abstraction and projection allow a different picture of the self to emerge.  

Arebyte artist-in-residence Gretchen Andrew started painting in San Francisco after becoming convinced that the internet can teach you anything. Her practice incorporates traditional oil painting and related investigations of knowing and becoming.

Olia Lialina, Animated Gif Model