Open Arts Journalism: A Trend to Watch?

by An Xiao on January 3, 2013

People-Talking-Profile-Image-320I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of open journalism in the arts. It’s an important question, especially in light of the increased role of social media, blogging, and a general web presence that artists building a career in the 21st century often must maintain.

Cited in O’Reilly Radar as one of the “14 big trends to watch in 2013,” the role of journalism is increasingly being questioned and redefined. What’s open journalism? In short, it’s journalism more open to engaging with the audience. Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger tweeted a few ideas of what this might look like. Here are two that stood out to me:

“It is not an inert, “us” to “them” form of publishing”

“It recognizes that journalists are not the only voices of authority, expertise and interest.”

Dialogue with the people formerly known as the audience, open to new voices and exchanges — what’s critical to open journalism is so radically different from older models of the art world, which have traditionally relied on authoritative sources, i.e., critics and curators, to report on what good art is and where we should be paying attention.

But how would principles of open journalism apply to the arts? Being open to artists’ own writings is key. Not just commenting on but sharing comments posted online. Using social media to create dialogue and not just as a promotional tool. Recognizing that great art could come from anywhere in the world, and how the internet is enabling their work to be seen.

What do you think, dear readers? Hyperallergic has always strived to present a more open form of arts writing. What more could the site and community be doing to make open arts journalism a more common practice?

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  • I think this is an excellent point and one that was also referenced in the previous post about the power of Non Experts. The masses have a voice and it is being voiced louder than ever before. I don’t know how far it will go or if the established gatekeepers will make an attempt to dismiss this new form of expression. Within art at least I feel it is more important than ever to recognize the voice of the masses. I find it ironic that artists of today seek acceptance of the 1%, excuse my use of the term when speaking about art but it does fit the current hierarchy.

    As an artist today I feel more relevant than ever before as I have the ability to bypass a curator, or a gallery and dictate my own audience. Painting in the streets for the public, and engaging the cities around the world today’s artists are competing with advertising daily. Messages are being broadcast from multi story buildings with murals from today’s top contemporaries. The art world might not always acknowledge this art and focus on MBA’s from prestigious schools of theory and pedigree, but the world knows our name. The difference between today’s artist is he self publishes, today’s art lovers self publish. The normal art lover doesnt know that painting is dead, nor should they. If you were to explain to the non-expert the theory of post-modernism would a painting all of sudden not move them? We are more likely to be engaged with art in the street, or on our computer than we are any other place today. Todays artists have taken art into the outdoors literally, outside the musuem, outside normal ways of digesting art, Internet, ipad, iphone etc.

    If you take a look at the Deitch fiasco for example, could this have happened if he didnt have a knack for engaging the non experts. Yes the artworld is in an uproar over it, but are readers and artists really upset. Is the 1% in danger of having to learn about Graffiti, and New Media art? Maybe the money will stay with the Musuems and Curators, I think we all know now that with money that big invested these institutions are too big to fail, yet I do see hope. I do think that younger curators, writers, critics, blogs, artists, who didn’t graduate with a MBA or intern under the most popular artists; they do have a chance. I think you have hit on something. All generations just want to be understood and acknowledged, when that isnt happening change is not only inevitable it happens in a revolutionary way.

    • Curious: how much more of a chance do young curators, writers, critics, blogs, artists, etc. have now, with the help of the internet?

  • The difficulty is quality. Glancing through the comments attaching to many articles, whether for blogs or major newspapers, it is astonishing how limited in intellectual rigor and breadth they are. Good examples fill the comments attached to articles by Jonathan Jones, one of the Guardian’s two main art critics (the other being Adrian Searle). Jonathan is a wonderful, imaginative, incisive, and amusing writer. But the reader commentary in England’s most famous left-wing and intellectual newspaper frequently crosses over into the most moronic, blind and ignorant conservative blather. Another problem is whether opening up discussion will simply lead to less rigorous critical analysis because contributors are not paid…or are paid without saying so. Two fundamental problems with art criticism in China are that the state actively discourages cultural education that promotes critical thought (for fear an errant art historian will start a revolution) and at the same time, those who do write, are either chaotic (say whatever you want) or paid so little that they need to augment their situation, usually with payments from conflicted interests. Those who aspire to something better frequently give up writing. This is how things are in China but there is a general risk. Quality matters and we should be prepared to pay for it, openly. After all, what are principles worth if you’re not prepared to pay for them?

    • Sometimes we find some of our best contributors through comments, so they can be useful for many things.

  • Wow, these are seriously long, convoluted comments. Maybe this is what Open arts journalism has to look forward to.

    I was just going to say, maybe more live twitter events?

    • Interesting! What would the ideal live Twitter event look like, in your opinion?

      • I know moderating twitter events is like herding cats but I guess in the idea event individual tweets would be worth reading (and less of a conversation where everyone speaks at once). Maybe an online panel discussion or interview that’s crowd-moderated. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but Art21 recently did an online twitter performance where they’re followers could simultaneously ask the artist questions that were later answered.

  • Thank you to Hyperallergic and to An Xiao for raising this topic into discussion.

    Rather than jump into the mechanics of comments threads, or the way forward for “open arts journalism” I would simply like to say that the quality of the content is always the most important factor. In my own experience, I went from being someone who “read a lot” to blogging about Renaissance art history and attributions. It has been 3 years since I started, and at the outset I was mainly doing it “for fun” but it quickly became much more than that. As an example of what blogging (as an independent) can lead to – I was honoured to be quoted between professors in a piece about a Leonardo drawing (at livescience and msnbc), and was recently invited to Florence as part of an official team of bloggers to cover the Florens2012 cultural event. These type of things happening to someone in my position were simply impossible before the web.

    With regards to the field of art history, the web, blogging, social media etc, many of us await with great interest Dr. Charlotte Frost’s “Arts Future Book” which is due this year and will be a seminal publication on the interaction between the web, art history and art production.

    Cheers to Hyperallergic and their writers for their fabulous work.

    many kind regards
    Hasan Niyazi

    • That’s very interesting and a great example of the doors that blogging has opened. Was that a unique event in Italy, or do other Italian arts events seem open to bloggers’ contributions?

      • Hello An Xiao. Sorry for the delayed response! The Florens event runs every 2 years. Its use of a blogging team was a new innovation for 2012. There are other events that invite bloggers in an independent sense, particularly common in the tech, tourism and fashion industries, but our being an “official” and international new media team assembled for this event seems to have been a first.

        Our presence there as bloggers, including the “tweet wall” provided an additional stream of information to that already being presented in the conference itself – with our efforts purposefully designed to “amplify” the content of the conference panels at a global level.

        Kind Regards
        Hasan Niyazi

        • It’s lovely to see how, kicked off by Hasan, the comments here are now longer than the article!
          The company I work for, Flod, was hired by Fondazione Florens to develop the blogger engagement contest and carry through with social media throughout the event. We remain pleased that there was more online participation than could have been created by a simple tweet wall, namely through the in-depth articles written by ‘our bloggers’. Quality AND quantity :)
          An Xiao, you ask if arts events in Italy tend to be open to bloggers. The answer is that we at Flod and I personally am working on it whenever possible. Bloggers are starting to be accepted at press events. But I do not know of any other major events (like the Biennale di Venezia) that actively engages bloggers in the way developed for Florens2012.
          Best regards,
          Alexandra Korey

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