Saturday, 1 January 2011
Four Propositions Concerning Art Blogging
My first proposition is: Blogging is about being stupid.
It is accepting that I do not know what I should know before starting to write. But wait! "Should know"? Let me rephrase that: blogging is accepting that there is no required knowledge to write. In part, it is accepting Beuys' affirmation that everyone is an artist. Everyone is an art-writer. Everyone is a potential member of the art milieu. And this everyone also means different aspects of me. Suddenly, the quickness of the form, it's simplicity, encourages me to move forward. To take risks. To dare write something I am not sure of. One could say this is the continuation of the beautiful tradition of Montaigne's Essays (which translates into Attempts). Yet here, the very way it is created and shared encourages the risk, encourages the attempting to see where the thoughts, the words, took me, take me, might take me. But that is just the first step. Because the consequences are quite far-going.
My second proposition is: Thanks to the internet, writing about art can become closer to making art.
The problem with writing is what is usually considered it's greatest advantage: it stays. Letters form words which form sentences which are a pest - they do not let go. So anything you write can and will be used against you, be it literally or metaphorically, by someone, or by yourself, reading what you wrote many years ago.
Writing, then, must become serious. You have to weigh your words. You become responsible. Meaning, what you write needs to pass the test of an imaginary future reading.
The internet may not seem different, because here things also stay (you can find all the internet publications from the past at archives.org). However, there is so much happening, and what you publish has so little apparent weight (you don't feel it, hold it in your hand, share it physically), that even the concept of a "virtual" world seems logical. And yet the beauty is that "virtual", here, is quite real. The letters still turn into meaning - and practically instantly, they turn into social meaning.
But maybe because of the lack of weight, as opposed to other circumstances, when writing the blog, I don't feel obliged to anything. My distance to what I write about can change. I can be a distant observer, and then suddenly move close, challenge the work, ask it questions, see where it takes my thinking. This limit of private/public allows me to think to myself, but in a way that creates a new type of space, a new type of relation. Am I still writing about the work, or am I writing myself into the work? After all, I have no obligation to be a critic. Because I define what the blog is, I do not need to correspond to any criteria - and so the writing can become more personal, more experiential - sharing the experience I am living. And, as my experience is often related to creating new works, the limit becomes blurred - the work I write "about" (or "from" or "out of") is working its way into the one I am (sometimes unconsciously) thinking about or preparing.
My third proposition is: The models of participation in art change because of the internet.
This new type of sharing has other consequences. As opposed to most art writing, it becomes difficult to define what exactly is my position in the (traditional) world of art. Am I reviewing, creating, alluding? It is up to the reader to define what role my text plays in his experience of the art/world.
But also on the scale of the art milieu, the situation becomes more fun.
Am I a big, important fish, or an insignificant lost fish? Reading the blog it is hard to say. And that is, because it really is hard to say. The art market tries to establish market rules - artists have values that either go up or down, and if the art businesspeople had it their way, art would really be an extension of the art market. But this model is greatly inadequate for art, and I am the proof. After a few years writing the blog, I had more and more people contact me. One of them was a curator at the Warsaw Centre for Contemporary Art. He wanted to link to me on the Centre's online (and sometimes offline) review called Obieg. Suddenly, people from the milieu now considered me as an insider. Several people asked me "How did you manage to convince them?". Apparently, they were not used to a model which goes beyond traditional, linear processes. Of course, these new models are far more complex, which can be quite exciting: I can participate in a review and be written about, my work can be the subject of my own analysis picked up by someone from another site, the blog could potentially be published in a paper edition, it becomes a sort of a one-man-show that keeps evolving. Galleries start considering the blog as a serious partner, they become interested in the person, other artists contact me, first as a publisher, then as a person, new unexpected projects come up... All this has been happening. And every time it does, it seems the definition of what I do shifts.
My fourth and last proposition is: Blogging about art can be an exercise in moving.
The great and crazy composer Cornelius Cardew once wrote: "Notation is a way of making people move. If you lack others, like aggression or persuasion. The notation should do it. This is the most rewarding aspect of work in a notation. Trouble is: just as you find your sounds are too alien, intended for a 'different culture', you make the same discovery about your beautiful notation: no one is willing to understand it. No one moves."
A similar thing happens with writing my art blog. This is one way of changing the conditions of living, or appreciating, art. When it works, you feel how it takes you elsewhere. "You" meaning me, but also you, the potential reader. And yet, every once in a while, you, no, I discover that the reading remains on a level I am not satisfied with. It becomes a reading of another text, and so, once again, I have written a different text to the one I was writing. This happens, of course, with every creation. However, the blog, the internet, has this wonderful capacity of allowing for the exercise to be constantly exercised. I go back, I rewrite, I answer myself. I enter dialogues. Exercise. Yes, that is what blogging is for me - an exercise in moving.
The above text first appeared (in a Russian translation) in the Korydor online magazine, as part of the Kyiv Offline project.
The picture is Seeing Got Us Here (A Bunch of Leaves), 2010, by Wojtek Ziemilski.