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May 29, 2014

Redefining the internet: Art Vs Reality

South Australian film-makers Peter Drew, Ronnie Chin and Frazer Dempsey go to the heart of the internet medium with new web series Art VS Reality.

  • Words: Farrin Foster
  • Images: Courtesy Peter Drew, Ronnie Chin and Frazer Dempsey

The internet is, theoretically, created and maintained through perfectly logical systems rooted in the laws of maths, science and technology. The reason certain stuff floats to the top of the internet pool, however, is confusing, mysterious and illogical.

Some things become internet sensations and some just stay as internet humdrums. The distinction between the two doesn’t exist – there is no definitive characteristic of a successful meme, although cats do feature heavily. Instead, the best way to look at the internet and its varied tastes is as a reflection of humanity – very, very weird and often totally inexplicable.

People who work hard and send their creations out into the ether of the internet are brave and misguided.

Sometimes, though, their output is of a quality that creates hope the internet will one day make coherent sense as a medium in its own right. South Australian film-makers Peter Drew, Ronnie Chin and Frazer Dempsey go to the heart of the internet medium with new web series Art VS Reality.

A contemporary gallery artist, street artist and art writer who has worked between Australia and Scotland, Peter is well placed to assess the state of the art industry.


A still shows Peter doing what he does best.

The six-part YouTube series, which is aimed at the everyday art consumer (or even someone who just bought art that one time at Ikea), takes us through a rapid art history lesson and then analyses various facets of the modern machinery of art – ruthlessly cutting down institutions such as galleries and fairs and de-basing philosophies like conceptualism.

The internet is no stranger to providing a forum for the opinionated and in-depth diatribes of intellectuals, but only rarely does it see a diatribe that strikes such a perfect balance between thoughtfulness, humour and trust for the audience.

“It wasn’t until we actually made a pilot for the series that featured a more earnest character and didn’t have much irony that we realised we needed to change the tone,” says Peter.

“So I thought we’d have this character who was a parody of the televised art critic and as soon as we went down that road it just was so much more fun, and it had to be fun if it was going to be online.”

Peter, as well as writing each episode, stars as the erstwhile art critic who presents the show while Frazer and Ronnie are responsible for sound, direction, post-production and storyboard development.

Together they have developed a visual and written style that incorporates the best of the online medium’s potential – with doctored visual art classics serving as funny backgrounds for pop-up written information that elucidates the overdubbed narration.

At the conclusion of each episode, the viewer is challenged to react to what Peter has said with the promise he will deal with the major criticisms in a “response video” posted a week or more after each episode is released.

“I don’t know whether it’s important or not (to interact with the audience),” says Peter. “But, why not? The medium allows it. You can’t do that with television. The first televised art critics were innovators. They were getting art and putting it on TV and that was a new thing.

“Then that new thing becomes normal and then it becomes cliché, so we wanted to point out those clichés but also figure out ways that we could make art criticism new again for the online space.”


An alleyway serves as the home setting for the series.

Beyond the on-point tone of the episodes, their effectiveness lies in the purpose and passion of their message. Avoiding the trap of being funny and engaging but saying little, Art VS Reality is a succinct catalogue of the challenges of an industry which is at once without any cogent standards but also mythologised as being so highbrow that it is intellectually out of reach for most people.

“The aim of the series is really to save art from the curse of luxury imposed by a corporatised artworld,” says Peter. “The way to do that is not so much to re-establish the role of the art critic but to equip everyone with the tools to question the core myths that protect art’s cultural authority.


You’re not too late – Art VS Reality has so far only released two of the six episodes planned for the series. Visit the series YouTube channel to catch-up on Peter’s diatribe so far.

“Ultimately, I’d like art to be judged and appreciated with the same ease and enthusiasm that we approach all other forms of culture from films to books, fashion and cartoons. The only thing preventing that is an industry feeding off the illusion that art possesses a magical quality that eludes all other forms of culture, and that’s just bullshit.”

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