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At the Rhizome.org panel tonight I recommended someone who I thought was a female blogger for a future panel--turns out that Amanda Congdon, while female, is actually part of a team. Rocketboom is a collaborative video blog produced by her, Andrew Baron, and Josh Kinberg. Congdon is an actress/comedian and the "face" of the project--not really "the" blogger, unless Rhizome were to invite all three of them. Still, the page is worth checking out--some very funny videos there in a fake news report format. Vote for Chris Christmas Rodriguez to Replace Santa Claus This Year and the news story on Topeka high school students abusing PHP are great. (hat tip to drat fink)
The panel was fun tonight, nice to meet everyone. Thanks to Francis Hwang for organizing it. And it was startling to see how many art world people turned out to hear about this hot phenomenon called blogging. Not. A few did, though--the cool ones.
The research paper on art blogs by Danish student Marie Omann, mentioned in an earlier post, has been published in PDF form on the MTAA blog. It's certainly relevant to the Rhizome.org panel on arts blogging tonight. I was flattered to see how much of her research came from posts and comments here, as well as to see all the input from the MTAA blog and Sally McKay's blog. Also on the MTAA site are questions posed to tonight's panelists by Rhizome Director of Technology Francis Hwang, and T.Whid's replies. I feel like I've been answering them all week so I'll save more specific replies for "meat space," as we unromantically call it. But here's just a quick recap of the last few posts on tonight's four panelists: who they are, what they do, and an attempt to make some connections through annoyingly brief summaries. (Oh, and before I forget, painter Dennis Hollingsworth also has posted answers to Marie Omann's questions on his blog. Dennis, no one said tonight's panel was going to be about "How can we use blogging in the artworld?")
David F. Gallagher
1. Photoblog of his own photos, and links to his big-media articles about blogging and other topics.
2. Subject of photoblog is New York City streets, but also travels elsewhere. Going to Italy with him vicariously was very enjoyable.
3. Interesting relationship between the photos as stand-alone art and the photos as components in a ongoing narrative. Occasionally the lines of his activities cross, as in his Slate article on the photoblogging phenomenon.
1. Photoblog documents activities of artist team MTAA (T. Whid + M.River), plus rants on politics and other subjects.
2. I'm shamefully undereducated on MTAA's total production, which is net art or new media work combining video and programming within a conceptual art framework--so I bluffed my way through a discussion of one recent piece and we had some back and forth about it on our weblogs.
3. According to M.River, the MTAA blog "has been designated to be 'not an artwork' but may contain some things that are artworks."
1. Sound blog that eschews recorded sound in favor of terse, poetic descriptions of sounds.
2. Subject is urban environment--New York City streets but occasionally other locations (e.g., someplace with beach sand and manatees). Incorporates "moblogging"--contemporaneous recording and posting to the Net of real world events through cell phones/handheld devices.
3. Blogging appears to be broken into discrete projects--bloglets? They are art, as opposed to documentation or work-in-process for something else. Net art using the blog medium, for want of a better description.
1. Blog is documentation of ongoing studio production. Art objects (mostly abstraction, but occasionally portraits and dumb cartoons) made with the computer, but also music, animated .GIFs, and initial tentative stabs at video.
2. Blog veers wildly into narratives and rants on other subjects--politics, movies, electronic music, science fiction, etc. Oh, yeah, and art criticism.
3. The blog is not art but art often appears on the blog. Which explains the appearance of more medium-specific (browser-oriented) work such as animated GIFs since the blog began in 2001.
Great post by Steve Gilliard on why the "big" blogs (Atrios, Sullivan, etc.) are becoming more popular than established opinion journals, and more successful than sites from the dot-com era. It is relevant to our upcoming panel discussion on blogging and the arts not for its discussion of the profitability of blogs--though there's more to say on that--but rather what makes them "work" as a vehicle for content delivery where the dot-com sites failed and where print journalism seems lagging. Much that he says feels right in the art context, although no clear leader is emerging the way the bloggers he mentions dominate political discussion. That's probably just as well--art would be better served by a network of micro-specialized blogs and a few aggregator sites, as opposed to some uber-critic who had the power to influence careers and sales. It was very disturbing to move to NY almost 10 years ago and discover that NY Times critic Roberta Smith had the ability to sell out shows, and that she and Jerry Saltz were perceived to be the only game in town in terms of an artist's or gallery's financial success. The last thing we should want is a blogger with that kind of influence. As for selling ads, it seems to be working for political blogs to give the writers the autonomy to say whatever the fuck they want, but the same would not be the case with art-related blogs. Galleries don't have much to spend and expect some return on their investment. It's not just about "eyeballs."
I've been checking out a recent Rhizome proposal and related blogs by sound artist Kabir Carter, the fourth panelist in the upcoming blogging and the arts event. Carter's sound blogs (a term I'm using, not entirely accurate--more below) are linked to and described there as follows:
I say the term "sound blogs" isn't entirely accurate, because unlike, say, David F. Gallagher's photoblog, which also records urban details in a diaristic way, Carter's journals don't document sounds via regular posting of .mp3 files, but rather verbal descriptions of audial phenomena. Many of these short, pointed, often poetic statements enter the journals "moblog" style--as the artist notes above, he types them into a handheld device, on the spot, from the locations where they were heard. The entries resemble a foley artist's deadpan record of sound effects in a movie or TV storyboard. Many of the "sounds" are actually visual descriptions of sound-producing activities, followed by the word "(inaudible)."
Effects is my first net project. Originally posted as a "stealth" LiveJournal blog, Effects purports to be a diaristic account of my life, but instead only offers dry accounts of sounds that I have heard, or imagine to have heard. While attempting to make LiveJournal friends who can track my accounts, I have periodically contributed to an ever growing catalog of acoustical accounts that never reveal much about me, but hopefully say many things about how I have experienced sound.
Walking In The City
I am presently realizing Walking in the City, a project commissioned by Subtropics, a Miami based music festival. I moblog (in real time) written descriptions and accounts of acoustic occurences that I audit while walking around New York City. The project was launched during Subtropics' festival opening, where 4 hours of my updates from the city were projected live in an arts and performance space in Miami. Until early April, I will continue to intermittently add to the initial log.
SFX: Two Street Signs Affixed to Same Post Vibrating against One AnotherI'm reminded of the Kenneth Goldsmith piece where the artist transcribed every word he spoke for a week and hung the transcriptions in a gallery. Like Goldsmith's work we take it on faith the artist isn't making stuff up. But Carter's blogs aren't as obviously sequential: he's moving around the city, and readers often must rely on their own deductive faculties to tell how (or whether) the sounds relate to each other--especially in the subtropics blog, where there's no timestamp. A run of posts gives you a feeling of momentary total immersion in a cacophonous, slightly unhinged street scene, and then you're abruptly transported underground, into a subway environment that feels equally random but has its own characteristic sonic events. The sheer amount and complexity of detail paints a cumulative impression of the city not ultimately that dissimilar from Gallagher's far more "accurate" (as in verifiable) photographic record. Both conjure a teeming world beyond our normal mundane powers of observation.
SFX #234 SFX: Bell Struck
SFX #233 SFX: Two Small Dogs Barking in Unison
SFX #232 UNKNOWN PERSON: "Not my fault the watermelon tastes like..."
SFX #231 UNKNOWN PERSON: "Police officer, can you go to the end of the train? There's a guy with a bag and blue jeans."
SFX #230 SFX: Droplet Falling from Small Bent Conduit (Inaudible)
Reading Carter's blogs is highly recommended, although they would doubtless have a different kind of interest if you were one of those baffled LiveJournal Friends experiencing them in blog time--that is, following the posts as they appeared.
Artist and blogger T. Whid, a fellow panelist in the upcoming Rhizome blogging and the arts event, is part of the art duo MTAA, along with M. River (their blog is here.) A Globe and Mail article on MTAA's current online artwork 1 Year Performance Video is here and I reposted it here. 1 Year Performance Video revisits a classic conceptual-era work by Tehching (Sam) Hsieh, where the artist locked himself in a cage-like cell for a year, and arranged for friends to bring him food and take away his body waste for the duration. (Shades of Wladyslaw Szpilman in The Pianist, minus the plumbing.) Recreating the work online, MTAA has made fake cellcams showing the two artists sitting in separate sealed rooms--fake because the pair aren't actually in cells, only posting video loops that show them doing things they might be expected to do at appropriate times of the day. As the artists explain it, they use computer technology to take the suffering out of Hsieh's performance and put the onus of the one-year commitment on the websurfer, who uses a cookie to literally log time watching them.
Pieces that refer so specifically to known, past artworks, satirically or otherwise, are problematic--more on this below--but there's much to think about here. Unlike the Globe and Mail, I'd discuss the work in terms of voyeurism, and artist recuperation of the part-guileless, part-sleazy home webcam phenomenon. In real (Internet) life, the only reason a surfer would stay with a site like this for hours was in the hope that the subjects might do something kinky. I know there are people watching this for art, but why? Perhaps the presence of white plastic buckets in the rooms creates some morbid curiosity about how the artists handle basic elimination needs, but frankly I didn't stick around to find out.
Like Penn and Teller explaining a magic trick, the artists reveal--on a related web page--quite a bit about the scripting and webserving mechanics behind their simulation. This geeks-only backstory actually makes for fairly fascinating reading. One guesses the commercial voyeur sites do something similar--calling up particular loops at particular times of the day to fool the rubes. There is also the cliche of a hundred spy thrillers where fake footage of a surveillance subject is inserted into the bank of video recorders to confound the watchers. For sure the technology changes Hsieh's piece quite a bit, which did allow observers, but only at specified times, like a prison visit. Ultimately the MTAA work's relationship to current tech-shaped behavior patterns and pop culture tropes feels more compelling than its parody of the Hsieh performance, which is almost by definition an art world in-joke, with a singular interpretation: that when computer-age art revisits the physically demanding, emotionally wrenching work of yesteryear, an insincere, fast-food facsimile inevitably results. Sorry to leach the humor out of it, but there it is.
Addendum: And speaking of webcams, dave found this article about "net or remote hunting" of animals, an example of life trumping art for sheer fuX0red weirdness. (Assuming it's not a hoax.)
David F. Gallagher, one of the panelists in the upcoming Rhizome blogging event, wears two hats: committed photoblogger of his own punchy, artfully composed images (I linked to him a few weeks back when discussing the artists "trashing" Terminal 5) and media journalist covering the controversies and mutations of the emergent blogosphere. If you knew about the schism between crazy right wing "warbloggers" and the rest of us, which became apparent when they got a book deal and we didn't, it's possible you first learned about it in an article of his in the New York Times. Ditto the failed attempt by Warner Bros. to co-opt .mp3 bloggers. As I mentioned earlier, the first appearance of the term "web log" in the Grey Lady was in an article of Gallagher's, on December 28, 2000.
Occasionally his interests converge, as in this Slate piece on photoblogging. He invokes the image of cigar store owner Harvey Keitel taking daily random photos of the same section of city street in the movie Smoke as a metaphor for the demotic, "anyone can do it" aspect of photoblogging. That definitely comes across, but I've often thought about what a novelistic contrivance Keitel's picturetaking was. Within the film's own logic, he has this slightly kooky personal hobby that just happens to resemble a rigorous conceptual art project. The purpose of the conceit--besides the obvious plot point of Keitel "accidentally" photographing William Hurt's late wife, and thus ending Hurt's period of grieving--was, I think, to present Brooklyn as a place so steeped in renegade art style that even the man on the street had internalized it.
Photoblogging, on the other hand, isn't local, or particularly bohemian--it's a worldwide, bottom-up phenomenon, where practitioners are as arty or as artless as they want, or have, to be. The conceptual element comes in deciding on the parameters of the blog (on the practitioner side) and what value the practice has, on the consumer or curatorial side. Is the photoblog factual documentation or personal vision? At what point does a John Cagean interest in the aesthetics of random urban phenomena ("I am standing on this street corner shooting these buildings") intersect with the need for accurate images experienced by, say, a historian or a police investigator?
Photoblogging is photographing but it's also "databasing," and changing the subject slightly, I note that ex-Walker Art Center new media curator Steve Dietz has an exhibit coming up on that subject, which looks to be the typical analytical, anecdote-driven new media event. My general beef with such shows is that they privilege the rational over the intuitive. Instead of flouting viewer expectations, looking for disobedient, ecstatic, Dionysian uses of the computer, curators love to emphasize the data-crunching everyone already knows it does well. Whereas the more interesting story is how it's misused as an art-making tool, in hiphop, "dirtstyle" web design, etc. Fortunately, at a certain point homegrown, tribal, "amateur" efforts begin to overwhelm more earnest, grant-conscious, faux-sociological production. "Life finds a way," Sam Neill marvels in Jurassic Park, on discovering mating dinosaurs in a supposedly sterile environment. And so does art.
Untitled (Clear Evening After Rain), 2004, HTML, 365 x 550 pixels, from Look, See, Chris Ashley's weblog. A CD-ROM was recently published of the HTML drawings that appear daily on the blog. I continue to be intrigued and impressed with Ashley's use of the weblog as a medium for abstract art made in the same language as the medium. It's transparency in every good sense of the word.