Friday, May 19, 2006

I Repeat Myself When Under Stress. I Repeat Myself When Under Stress.

I posted this back in February around the time of all the Charlie Finch hubub. With all the recent discussions over at the Critical Edge at Arts Journal regarding the role of blogs in discussing the arts, I thought I'd repost it.

I'm grateful that this lively and entertaining conversation is taking place, but I stand by what I said 3 months ago: The influence portion of the debate is just catch-up and classification. As far as I'm concerned it is oh-so-very here already and there's not a lot to talk about. Of course, it is important to talk about how that power is used, and that's been the most fascinating part of the conversation.

Witness the fact that one of the curator's of the Whitney Biennial is obviously not only reading blogs, but she's also responding to them over at ArtFagCity. Also, there's an article in the NYTimes today about the online brouhaha concerning Stephin Merritt and Sasha Frere-Jones' reaction to him. The piece makes a point similar to the one I make below about the fact that, five years ago, these would have been private conversations amongst a small group of people. Not so much anymore. The future is, like, so yesterday.

From February . . .

There's been much discussion in artblogland over the last couple weeks about the importance and influence of blogs in the art world. Whatever. As far as I'm concerned, we're way past that conversation.

The influence is already there. It's just a matter of who is willing to exploit it. In the October 2005 issue of Art + Auction Sarah Douglas' disussed the issue of the increasing influence of art blogs in her "Dear Diary" column. Also, I've been receiving unsolicited (but very much welcome) invitations to private views and openings at A-list galleries. In other words, the money seems to be paying attention.

On the Smithsonian American Art Museum's blog, Eye Level, Kriston Capps noted that "Ultimately, I think artists will answer this question [re: the importance of blogs] by including (or not) hyperlinks in their resumes." To a certain extent I think he's right, but a variation of this is already happening. I've seen printouts of my own posts and those of other bloggers included in artist books at the front desks of many Chelsea and Williamsburg galleries.

Capps statement was in response to something that NYTimes critic Roberta Smith said when asked about blogs at a recent talk in DC. Capp reports, "But mark [Smith] up as a blog skeptic. He likened blogs to 'phone conversations,' as something 'stuck in the ether.'" I actually think that that's a pretty astute observation of what happens out here. However, I fail to see any negatives in either of Smith's classifications of the blogosphere.

Smith is correct in a narrow way in regard to blogs being like phone conversations. Being housed in a wire doesn't mean that phone conversations can't be really lively and smart, and the accessibility of blogs expands the possibility of how many people might be sharing that wire. The recent brouhaha about Charlie Finch is a good example of a conversation that would have been limited to party talk between a limited number of people a couple years ago. The other week that same discussion took place in front of thousands of people. And thanks to archives it's still out there, you know, in the ether.

Which, by the way, isn't a bad place to be stuck. There are a number of original voices stuck in the ether, and I've come to rely on them for insight, exhibition tips, and gossip. I'm still reading the Times, Modern Painters, October, Art Forum, Art + Auction, and I'm still visiting mainstream art websites. However, I'm also interested in what the artists have to say about their own art and others. I like hearing what goes on in the minds of collectors and gallerists. And I'm interested in hearing what other enthusiasts like me have to say about what they're seeing. These are voices that I might have only heard at a party or an opening before. In the end, art blogs provide me with more opportunities to get closer to the work. And that's all I really want. A blog's lack of permanence or official status is irrelevant to me. And increasingly, it seems as though it's irrelevant to a number of galleries and institutions.

Speaking of which, I'll be attending the press preview for the Whitney Biennial on Tuesday afternoon. Look for the pictures that night.

PS: For a quick lesson in how this has played out in other areas of the blogosphere check out Krixfort's brief history lesson.

PPS: Krixy digs deeper.

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