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What Is An Art Blog? (2)
The "what is an art blog?" discussion continues in the comments to the previous post, and Cinque Hicks also has some thoughts on the subject. While some webjournals focus on work exhibited in museums and galleries (news and criticism) he kindly cites my page as a counter-example--in that it strays, and then strays from the straying, and maybe that's not so terrible. He has some good observations about art changing (horrors) into something more collective, fluid, and hybrid, and suggests that maybe blogs have a role to play in this. And he considers whether blogging can be an art, as opposed to just documentation.
Maybe, as with previous emerging media, we're still in the stage of figuring out what a so-called art blog is going to be best and worst at. Photography started out copying the formal strategies of painting until practitioners got a grip on its own unique properties; ditto film with stage plays. Blogs aren't art magazines; they have their own life and logic. For one thing, they don't have the same high production costs; you can post more text and pictures. If you can put up a music file, why shouldn't you? As for journalistic objectivity--maintaining a firewall between your creative and critical thoughts (this is assuming you're an artist)--forget about it! The print magazines are stifled by fake objectivity (like we don't know who pays the bills); people look to bloggers mainly for honesty. Also, thanks to Google, people do non-categorical searches, why should any blogger care about maintaining "evenness" or predictability? If anything the personal, diaristic nature of blogs makes random eclecticism the norm and tight, self-imposed parameters, well, not the norm.
This sounds like an argument for the (pretentious reference alert!) fox who knows many things over the hedgehog who knows one big thing, but reading a blog over time can also bring a "big thing" into clearer relief. I do believe, with the evil Greenberg, that visual art ought to remain entrenched in its area of greatest competence (as he once said about painting), that is, that there's something about the purely visual worth preserving and doing well, but to deny technology and where it might take the visual experience (via imaging software, Internet exchange, cross-pollination with other media) by replicating print magazine approaches to reviewing art-gallery art is pretty hard to defend at this point.
A woman in Europe named M_____ 0______ (name permission pending) is researching "artblogs" and sent these questions to artist & blogger T.Whid. He forwarded the list and my slightly edited response is below. All this stuff vomited out, probably, because it was so shocking to see this level of interest about something American galleries usually say "huh?" about:
After having done research on the artblog phenomena for a couple of months now, Im surprised to find that not many artists use this media. Personally I would find it an ideal space for artistic exhibition, exploration and exchange. Do you have an explanation to this?
What made you start blogging?
What keeps you blogging?
Do you perceive your blog primarily as a personal or as a professional project?
Does your blog affect your work process as an artist?
Do you know of other artists blogging (besides M.River)?
Do you know of artists reading your blog?
Do you feel part of the blogosphere? I mean do you feel part of a community of (art)bloggers?
Have you met any problems being a blogger?
Dear M_____ O______,
The non-responsiveness of the art world to blogging is a recurring theme with me. I write from New York but the syndrome is widespread. I attribute it to several factors:
(a) somewhat rapid change in tech--just as the galleries are getting all their fancy dot-com era Flash sites up and running, this thing called blogging comes along. Worse, some bloggers make fun of the Flash sites! Galleries and artists tend to rely more on tech experts to do their updating and even if they know about blogs, not everyone has (or should have) the personality for daily ranting.
(b) art galleries (and artists who produce for them) are still stuck in the era of steam trains and butter churns. In this world, it's all about print--hard copy reviews from recognized institutional authorities that can be sent to collectors and curators. Ethereal pixeled criticism is regarded as too impermanent and likely the work of lone cranks.
(c) institutions like the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council perpetuate the divisions between gallery art and new media art by requiring painters to send in slides for fellowships, residencies, etc., whereas a new media artist can just send a URL. This idea that a photo emulsion glimpsed through a Magic Lantern contraption on a metallic screen in a dark room is the "best" or "most accurate" way to judge physical work is très 19th Century. Once the medium of information exchange changes (to URLs, etc) then metacriticism linked or patched into those resources will seem more natural.
(d) the economic (collector/donor) base of the art world includes many tech-savvy people, who stare at computer screens all day for a living and by damn, when they want to relax they don't want more screen stuff, they want to immerse themselves in the healing balm of the "old ways"--viewing pigment-impregnated vegetable oil smeared on coarse cloth; standing in a clean quiet room having elevated discourse about exquisite, handmade objects; reading elegantly typeset reviews on solid paper stock with good offset printing (see (b) above). Dealers and artists tend to follow the collectors' preferences.
(e) as T.Whid mentioned [in his response to you], many artists are quite simply tech-phobic and/or uninclined to check in on a blog. Some are excited by the idea of jpegs of their work being viewable all over the world and the subject of ad hoc critical dialogue while their shows are still up; others don't give a hoot and would rather avoid the computer and wait 9 months for an Artforum review (possibly) to come out.
PS There is an emerging community of art blogs out there that tends to draw its lines of
subject matter narrowly, chewing over news of museums, auction sales,
gallery gossip, old school art
appreciation... I'm more interested in the crossover of visual art, tech,
electronic music, film, science fiction, and politics than just replicating
the art world online. I sometimes get linkage from the pure art sites when I
do something "out there" like
criticize the Whitney, or one of the major magazines, but rarely when I just
talk about a show (in Williamsburg or wherever), and never when I stray
outside their specialized field of interest. I'm happy for the traffic, of
course, those are just some patterns I've noticed. I do read and link to some of
those blogs. As for blogs causing me "problems," I
was a print critic for years so I'm already screwed. Actually the blog has
been quite helpful in clarifying that my art practice and thoughts about
other artists are intertwined--it was a way voluntarily to take the
institutional edge off my writing.
I just contributed my first photo to the Street Meme database: a stencil of a smiling Gary Coleman captioned "Gary vs Giant," spotted on a Jersey City lamppost. Enlarged versions of the image are here. I guess a review is pending whether mine is a true first sighting of this meme, or whether it should properly be categorized as a related meme, submeme, or subsequent sighting of an original meme. There are only 100 pics in the database and I saw no other Garys. There may be legitimate doctrinal disputes as to whether (a) all stencils of Gary are considered one meme, (b) "Gary vs Giant" is the meme, or (c) (highly unlikely) that the style and caption of this image are close enough to the powerhouse Andre the Giant meme to subsume it within that meme. Of course my vote would be for (a), making my sighting very weighty and prestigious indeed.
The image in the previous post is a "virtual" version of a series I did in the early to mid-'90s, of acrylic and gouache molecules painted on giant, taped together sheets of doodled-on, throwaway paper. I did quite a few of these pieces (detail of one above--full sized one in progress below) before moving to New York and getting minimalist religion.
I mean, I like the ability of avowedly maximalist work to upset people. Collectors prefer elegant black and white abstractions that fade into the background, and the bad kid in me wants to make something they'll totally hate. And these are bad--there are a lot of degraded, half-finished pin-up girl drawings you can't see in the scanned polaroid, and bug-eyed caricatures, just the worst stuff. I'm compelled to do this kind of work (still) but once it's finished and I step back and look at it, I sometimes wish I hadn't.
My Loop Collection. The following are looped fragments of pop and electronic music I've been collecting. They could be karaoke or mashup fodder, or minimal art pieces suitable for playing in a gallery on a jukebox knocked off from Sol LeWitt. More will be added as I come across suitable material. Credits are withheld to discourage art-hating lawyerbots. Any or all will be removed at the least hint of trouble.
The Techno Loop [mp3 removed]
The Proto-Trance Loop [mp3 removed]
The Psychedelic Rock Loop [mp3 removed]
The decapitation of Paul Johnson in Saudi Arabia brings together two recent themes of this weblog: beheading by Islamic militants and mowing down Arabs from the sky in Apache helicopters. According to this ABC news story, Johnson "worked on Apache attack helicopter systems for Lockheed Martin." While his death is horrible and deplorable, so are the sophisticated weapons the United States uses to turn Arabs into bloody piles of hamburger, in the course of our unprovoked war. Graphic photos purportedly documenting the Johnson killing are here: the big sword in one image looks more plausible than the knife used in Berg video. These thoughts and links are offered not to be flip or titillating but because we really need to be thinking about this stuff instead of Laci and Kobe. Interesting that this Talking Points Memo discussion of al-Qaeda violence in Saudi Arabia never mentions Johnson's occupation.