More VVork.

Sally McKay's comment about the blog's specialty--"elegant sculptural installations crafted well from non-precious materials with interesting but tidy content and an unquestioning relationship to art institutions," pretty much nails it. She says she loves/hates the site and that's what I've been saying but the unceasing tide of conceptual projects is starting to get painful. It's depressing because you see artists trying so hard, all over the world, to make their conceptualist schtick--based mostly on '70s premises but with a digital gloss--projects that document well and photograph well and might catch the eye of a curator (or omnibus art blog)--and when you show them all together like this it starts to look like a disease. Please, make it stop (or vary it with some videos of cats and sloths from YouTube)!

Update: The comment thread is now closed (to all but steve, who has magic powers) but worth a read, thanks to all who contributed, will try to synopsize some of what was said for a later post--the topic is bigger than just picking on VVork and gets into by-the-numbers conceptualism and its relation to computer workflow.

- tom moody 4-11-2007 8:39 pm

"you see artists trying so hard, all over the world, to make their conceptualist schtick" ...that sounds a bit more bleak than necessary. It does manifest as a syndrome when its all put together, but that doesn't mean that each artist is being calculated about positioning their work within it. Pull some of them out and put them in other company and you may get something very rich. (I'll go and try this when I have time).
- sally mckay 4-11-2007 9:51 pm

sloth blogging! (shoot the post productionist). this one is more in line with dmtree.
- dave 4-11-2007 9:51 pm

Thanks for the sloths. Here's the baby one I posted again, from [YouTube] F*cking aaaawww, as Amazon might say.

Sally, when I argue specifically (Chris Burden vs Fiona Banner) you go general (artists riffing on other artists) and when I argue generally (artists all over the world) you defend the individual, non-calculating specimen. I do think artists calculate and we can talk about it if you want.

I've already done my "new company for VVork artists" duty: you may remember within the same two week period I posted Michael Sailstorfer's drum kit made out of a police car (2 years before they did) I had a post on Knight Realms and a comparison of Olafur Eliasson's artificial sun at the Tate with a fireball from the movie The Black Hole.

Looking forward to your own VVork Content Improvement Project. I think it's needed.

- tom moody 4-12-2007 12:51 am

point(s) taken. I do take issue generally with your Attack of the Clones project, and that's where I was coming from in the Burden/Banner thread (which was a mess, I fully admit). In this instance I think we are mostly in agreement, I'm just trying to clarify my own position (since you quoted me directly) not to cast aspersions on yours. Sorry that it has taken the form of argument.
- sally mckay 4-12-2007 1:16 am

Hey, I said you love/hated it--it's not like any individual artist is going to get mad at you because of my bleak spin. Or maybe they will--touchy lot.

And we definitely don't agree about art world clones. Is it *really* OK to do an army ant colony in Plexiglas in a gallery twice in one lifetime?
- tom moody 4-12-2007 1:39 am

"and when you show them all together like this it starts to look like a disease"... i think this post is a very good summary of whats going on at vvork. in my mind ive started calling a lot of it "smart ass art", where the conceptual cleverness is the only content. (of course perhaps its more vvork's format and curatorial choices which emphasize the smart ass-erry)

sally, im curious to hear your issues with Attack of the Clones, and to hear tom's reasoning behind them :-)
- guthrie (guest) 4-12-2007 1:51 am

I had never thought of internet-folk-clichés in that context (officially)--"cats on the internet" as a digital pallet cleanser for saturated internet websites
- Jeff S (guest) 4-12-2007 3:17 am

maybe someone can help me a bit cos im failing to see all the cleverness in the art/concepts on vvorks front page...couple decent one liners tho. most dont seem clever to me in the same way that most mashups dont seem clever...hard to find the right language here...
like in the same way that simpleness gets mistaken as elegance with "lo-tech" computery art, cleverness gets mistaken for the fact that someone has bothered to make something with a bit of deductive reasoning.
"tha 70s would mash deez hoes." -- snoop dogg
- p.d. (guest) 4-12-2007 2:32 pm

Shortly after I moved to NY an artist/writer/gallerist told me "you do your thing here as as an artist but then you look around and there are 10 other people doing that thing because NY is crawling with artists. So you think hard about how to differentiate your thing from their things and in the process you think harder about what's important to you as an artist and eventually you become You, the artist. Whereas in less populous scenes there's only one person doing a thing and other artists give you lots of space to do that thing (while they do their things) and you're not in that pressure cooker evolution situation."

Passed along without comment (some might recognize it as a vernacular sped up version of how Modernist art works--your art is arrived at by working through and discarding the propositions of others.)

He was talking about art you have to physically see to judge. With VVork we're talking about art evaluated on the basis of jpegs and short summations, and the "pressure cooker" is the internet and the language of international globalist festival-style conceptualism. I have not yet drawn any conclusions--I'm just laying out some poles for discussion.

I'd rather not hear about how snobby you think New Yorkers are--the question here is whether VVork represents some kind of evolution in artmaking and discourse or whether it's just a simulacrum of art.
- tom moody 4-12-2007 9:52 pm

doesnt a jpeg capture an idea, almost as well as "being there" when the idea is the point of the piece. especially if they mention the materials involved. arches paper and india ink for instance.

- bill 4-12-2007 10:43 pm

sorry, my above comment is largely personal opinion (and i wouldn't be as peeved if vvork wasn't so massively popular..)

VVork makes 'clever' very unappealing, like some disease that art catches when it gets on the Internet.. It's usually: "hey, i did X to Y and now it's Z...get it??!" There's not so much smart ass stuff on the front page now, but the perfect example of what's representative of vvorkness is that piece where its a choir singing the NASDAQ stock exchange graph as music... Who cares? Is there anything interesting going on beyond the punchline? (..well, perhaps in the larger context of the artist's other work [which we aren't made aware of]?) VVork's format/context is ideal for one punchline after the other..

It's like Boing Boing for conceptual art. Boing Boing is to real life what VVork is to art.. But why reduce others' art into little nuggets that can be easily thrown around and reblogged and put into other random contexts on the net just like any other Internet garbage (i.e. YouTube vids of cats and sloths)?? It makes me sorta freaked out about art blogging in general (though others do it better, like this blog) ..
- guthrie (guest) 4-13-2007 5:17 am

all said VVork is an epic fail. I wasn't aware it was popular, and have been somewhat surprised by the debate here.

For a curated (if you want to call it that) artblog, it really should make some effort to write something on each piece featured. They have a clear aesthetic agenda (as does this blog), unfortunately it may represent all that is tired and cliched in contemporary practice.

Given the lack of writing it would make an easy target for subversion of it's intention. I wonder if they take submissions? I now a woman who crocheted the word "wit" out of yarn; appropriately titled "Knit wit". Do you think they would post it?
- robert huffmann (guest) 4-13-2007 8:28 am

VVork is popular because they show lots and lots of pictures of art from around the world without a bunch of commentary. I love that! It's kind of weird how rare it is. But the structure implies a promise it can't fulfill. Unlike, say, magazine editors, bloggers have neither the resources nor the mandate to represent outside of their own cultural constructs. I think the feeling of sickness comes from the fact that we feel like we are seeing some kind of general trend, but really its just some dudes posting pictures. There are masses and masses of other art options, not to VVork's taste, crowding in the wings. If they wrote on the work, the subjective filter would become explicit, but the unique aspect of the site would be gone. If they took submissions it might get closer to an evolutionary model, but without an editorial mandate it would make no significant difference. Maybe a post-your-own art wiki would do it.
- sally mckay 4-13-2007 4:10 pm

PS. Snobby snob snob! But seriously, is this modernist agenda stuff really still going on in New York? I thought there'd been some kind of purge.
- sally mckay 4-13-2007 4:29 pm

For Mos, poMos and nonMos a critical environment puts the edge on things, as opposed to an environment of back slapping and mutual support.

VVork does make choices but it's provincial in the sense that it conveys the impression, through its sheer relentlessness, that anybody in the world can be a player as long as you're making "elegant sculptural installations crafted well from non-precious materials with interesting but tidy content and an unquestioning relationship to art institutions."

Getting seen on VVork is an alternative to "moving to New York" (which people still do, in large numbers, sorry) but everything starts looking the same because of the lack of criticality within the vehicle itself.

It's a blog, as you say, not the Global Museum of Great Art. Just because they are popular does not mean they are an institution that has a responsibility to anyone. As bloggers we are free to put in our two cents about their program and they are free to listen or not as they see fit.
- tom moody 4-13-2007 8:46 pm

seems to be two thingies going on here, one is vvork's presentation [sally] the other is the guthrie's nicely phrased "X - Y - Z" style of archetype vvork art.
the XYZ thing is, to me, natural to computers...the data comes in, who cares from where/as what, you can do something to it, and then the data goes out - also who cares to where/as what. so you wanna take stock market info [x] and turn it [y] into music [z], or you wanna use your atari joystick [x] to change the color and placement of text [y] on a tv screen [z] or you wanna take your whatever "physical computing" sensor interface [x] and use it to turn [y] lights on an off on a building [z]'s like every single piece ends up being just an iteration of the same translation excercise.
i suppose im describing something as much NYU ITP/MIT style art as vvork art, but regardless it's one of the reasons why i don't pay much attention to any of it...and i dont make that stuff [or any interactive art] cos i dont wanna to get stuck using the rest of my life in an attempt to make the "best" XYZ. i also teach one day/week on an "interactive digital media" masters course and my students use the this XYZ form as justification for why their pieces should exist, if it fits the XYZ and uses a computer then it's cool, but for the most part they could be rolling dice for what X Y and Z are supposed to be and their work would be just as un-engaging. i keep telling them that they are only to use this stuff as thought excercises and that, at the moment, i see it as a model for making art that has no upside, but it's not working :(
- p.d. (guest) 4-13-2007 9:50 pm

Thanks for covering this--it's true that in addition to the elegant sculptural installations crafted well etc VVork's specialty is the type of digital one-liner you're describing. (Choir singing the NASDAQ)

To quote myself about the Whitney's BitStreams show from a few years back:

"Too many projects seemed incomplete, as if the artists had followed the letter but not the spirit of Jasper Johns's advice to "take something, do something to it, and do something else to it." (Subtract information from photo in Photoshop. Print photo. Frame.)"

That sounds like "defaults" in retrospect--but that wasn't what I meant at the time. I was talking more about the XYZ imperative. Just enough extra steps to be obnoxious, not enough to be transformative.
- tom moody 4-13-2007 10:06 pm

thanks you just gave me an idea - "100 wack pieces of new media art in 24 hours". altho we've been dressing down art about art on here lately...
- p.d. (guest) 4-13-2007 10:31 pm

whoa, totally perfect comparison to MIT/ITP stuff... "algorithmic" to the extreme... how a computer would interpret conceptual art

im all for "100 wack pieces of new media art in 24 hours" ... is it like one of those VH1 countdowns to #1?
- guthrie (guest) 4-14-2007 3:52 am

I hadn't actually thought of vvork this way, and it's a little like noticing Shannon Doherty's got one eye that's crooked. Once you see it, not only can you not unsee it, but you wonder how you never noticed it before. That said, I still think this is incredible. Maybe it's art about art (since I do look at those things and think of Corot drawings), but they're much uglier than those. I think the wall of trees is great.
- Paddy Johnson 4-14-2007 8:35 am

Nah, art about art leaps out at you and says "I've been to college!"

VVork deserves props for a lot of the imagery--I wouldn't say those pics you linked to are ugly, I'd call it deadpan beauty.
- tom moody 4-14-2007 10:09 am

I agree with Paddy, the Woodland Trilogy is a stellar piece.
- L.M. 4-14-2007 10:36 am

guthrie i was thinking more like a performance/ i'd set up a little system - rolling 12 sided dice or a modified Boggle game or something - to randomly determine what X Y and Z are going to be, and then make the pieces one by one as fast as i can...hopefully making 100 wack pieces of new media art in 24 hours. then leave them all installed as a show.
realistically if i drank enough red bull i could probably make 50 provided i had all my templates set up for the different X/Y/Z's...just turning the whole thing into busywork. hard part would be getting the 50+ computers and projectors i'd need to display all the works.
- p.d. (guest) 4-14-2007 3:37 pm

If it's any help these have already been done:

Choir sings NASDAQ average
Database on popularity of specific numbers
Digital birds follow world currency flows
Keyboard plays Jackson Pollock
Personal statistics converted into Mondrians
Every frame of Titanic color-averaged
Pixels in Colors stretched vertically
Face converted to General MIDI
Dust mote trails translated sonically
Every icon generated pixel by pixel
Packet sniffer detects Boo-Yah Tribe (good one)
Mouse movements while doing taxes
Name burned into plasma screen
Please Wait burned into CRT
Satellite photo of giant actual pixel
Orchestral score from audience glowstick waving
Performers trigger audience's ring tones
Brainwave etch-a-sketch (an oldie)
Abstractions from email phonemes
(I'll add more as I think of them.)
- tom moody 4-14-2007 6:31 pm

And as if inspired by this discussion, today's XYZ from VVork:

Black Spot, 2005, was a process in three stages. The first stage was to obtain a Satellite image of an area - in this instance Hyde Park, London. The second was to pinpoint a single pixel on that photograph and replace it with a black square of Polythene. The third was to take a second satellite photograph of the same area.
"A process in three stages" is a quote, I didn't add that.

Added to my list above.

- tom moody 4-14-2007 7:16 pm

I would be tempted to simply link to VVork.
- robert huffmann (guest) 4-14-2007 10:11 pm

thats amazing - keep em comin t.m.
taking all the XYZ's from existing artworks makes the whole thing even more bleak

- p.d. (guest) 4-14-2007 10:48 pm

"I would be tempted to simply link to VVork."

- bill 4-14-2007 11:40 pm

Choir sings every frame of Titanic color-averaged
Digital birds follow NASDAQ average
Mouse movements converted to General MIDI

Boo-Yah Tribe burned into plasma screen :)

- guthrie (guest) 4-15-2007 12:00 am

forgot about all the more literal data translations too...
satellite data/RAM/text/flickr images/random numbers/etc mapped to sound/quicktime movie/bitmap/cross stitch/knitting pattern/8-bit video/etc

- p.d. (guest) 4-15-2007 3:48 am

Most of those would just be XY, but yeah.
- tom moody 4-15-2007 4:30 am

XY chromosomes too
- p.d. (guest) 4-15-2007 5:38 am

this are all interesting but pretty obvious criticisms. may i add to the list of grievances also that there is certainly a preference at vvork for art with ambiguous or uninvested use of ready-made cultural signs. but this is like antlers or deer showing up in contemporary drawings. it's just a sort of silly trendy on a wider scale.

all this is little hard on the vvork kids. why are eastern european 20-something art kid bloggers a target? are they dealing out grant money or shopping prospects to art dealers really psyched for and a new 21st century conceptualism? i imagine what they do to be in the spirit of starting a journal, writing a manifesto, or organizing a group of colleagues: things people do, sometime, when they are 20-somethings with ideas.
- /bxk (guest) 4-16-2007 7:11 pm

Antler drawings rock.
- tom moody 4-16-2007 7:36 pm

the other end is useful too.

- bill 4-16-2007 8:46 pm

Good God--very Bataillean, or should I say butt-alien.
- tom moody 4-16-2007 8:59 pm

dennis oppenheim kind of owns art deer.

- bill 4-16-2007 9:11 pm

Thanks for reminding me--in case I see any deer sculptures with gas jets for antlers from artists who didn't google first.
- tom moody 4-16-2007 9:16 pm

Let's not forget Bruce Nauman's deer-head grinding carousels.
- steve 4-17-2007 9:25 am

Update, June 11, 2010: Am reopening this thread to respond to bxk's question ("are they dealing out grant money or shopping prospects to art dealers really psyched for and a new 21st century conceptualism?"): Vvork has organized at least two gallery exhibitions of the work it shows on the website. Its members are no longer anonymous and are showing in galleries and museums. "Eastern european 20-something art kid bloggers" isn't accurate now and it's doubtful it ever was--not that age or nationality should be a reason for suspending criticism.

If the thread gets spammed I'll close it again, otherwise, let's discuss.
- tom moody 6-11-2010 7:40 pm

The thread got spammed again (in cyrillic!) so....
- tom moody 1-30-2011 11:22 pm