Thursday, 24 January 2008

Will blogging change the art world ?(part II)

So - here's how it began. Painter and writer Peter Plagens asked, in Art in America, where's the art criticism gone? *

In a lengthy article, he slipped in what might have been a throwaway comment:

More and more people in the audience for contemporary art would rather read Tyler Green snark somebody in his blog, Modern Art Notes, than ponder the considered judgment of Michael Kimmelman on a MOMA retrospective.

And the art blogging community went a bit mental.

So Plagens decides, seeing as he really knows very little about this whole art bloggy thing, and given there are dozens - nay, possibly hundreds - of these things out there, maybe he should read some and then write another article. And then he decides that maybe it might be even better to let some bloggers represent for themselves, so invites Ed Winkleman, Tyler Green, Jeff Jahn, Regina Hackett and Roberta Fallon & Libby Rosof to an email round table.**

It was published in the November issue of AiA, and - because the damn thing wasn't available online - I finally got round to reading it last weekend. I'd previously read a bit of blog response to the piece, including this about the experience, from Ed Winkleman.

You can see a list of the questions from the round table on Grammarpolice (who started a campaign to get other art bloggers to post their own answer) . Some of the questions were interesting. Some were just weird.

Why can't blogs go further, to the point where there's hardly any discernible difference between artist and critic/commentator, blog and work of art?
My newspaper column is also a painting.

In general, is blog art criticism more open and liberal, and print criticism more closed and conservative?
Yup - only left-leaning handwringers have harnessed the power of the interwebs.

Art magazines come out once a month. Newspaper art reviews usually appear once a week. Blogs appear more or less daily, and sometimes have updates by the hour. Do you think that the faster pace of blogs will start to affect the pace of art-making?
Oh, come on. Did the speed of art making increase with the introduction of the printing press?***

Some of the questions I would have liked to have seen asked:

- Do you get treated the same as print reviewers by institutions? Tyler Green's blog gets nearly 90,000 hits per month. Is he being sent press kits, invitations to press previews, provided asap with any images he requests?

- Before you blogged, did you do anything similar? And because you blog, is there anything you've stopped doing?

- If you went to work in an arts institution, would you keep blogging? Do you think more people in arts institutions should blog?

- Do people ever say to you at the end of a conversation - "OH - you won't blog that, will you?"

- If newspaper editors could track how many people read print reviews - do you think dead tree media would still host art reviews?

The best question (well - statement, 'cos it wasn't Plagen's observation - was this):

Tyler has cited Joy Garnett's NewsGrist blog as doing a great job of "placing art within a sociocultural and political context." What I see on NewsGrist is a magazinelike interspersing of short profiles, exhibition reviews, op-ed pieces on how other people are covering things, and Village Voice–like political takes. But what does Tyler's comment mean to you, and why are blogs in general better positioned than print to do what he describes?

And the best response was the briefest, from Winkleman: it's the links.

Now, blogs have many advantages over print media. First off, anyone can have one - you don't have to be picked by an editor to share your opinion (or hand out photocopies of your writing on a street corner).

You can put in as many images as you like, write as much as you like, be as plain-spoken or obtruse as you like. Depending on the kind of interpretation you're interested in, you can be as polemical or as mannerly as you choose.

But the power of the blog - and the web - firmly rests on the hyperlink. It allows, as I observed a couple of days ago, information and opinion to be indicated, intermeshed and made instantly available in a way that I personally find quite magical. So Peter - I don't think blogs are likely to turn into sculpture anytime soon, or to increase the speed of artmaking. But I think they're here to stay, and will evolve as the barriers of entry to technology continue to lessen, and the power of online communities continues to help like-minded people seek each other out.


*Because the confounded Art in America web presence is little better than a brochure site, that's a link to the ever-useful FindArticles.

** Private admittance: whenever the dialogue from a 'round table' discussion gets printed, I always naively assume that the publisher shelled out to get the participants together in a room for a real-time exchange of ideas (I can forgo the round table). Finding out that this one was conducted via email has shattered yet another illusion.

***Hey - maybe it did. That would be interesting.

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