Reactor

Following Up on Open Arts Journalism

by An Xiao on January 25, 2013

open-book-discussion-HOMELOS ANGELES — A few weeks ago, I wrote a bit about the potential for open arts journalism, asking if it’s a trend to watch. Journalists and those interested in the field have been discussing openness for a while now, but I’ve not seen as much discussion in terms of the arts. What could an open journalistic process look like in the arts?

In the spirit of open journalism, I thought I’d capture some of the sentiments shared in the comments. A commenter from graffuturism.com noted that the internet has enabled artists to bypass the usual channels:

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.

It sounds right, but what about validation? Could an artist who bypasses the usual channels receive the same kind of recognition as an artist who has found their way through the gallery and museum machine? It’s not clear to me; most artists I know who have embraced social media have also fallen back on the institutional model.

Danny Olda noted that there is a down side — maybe there are too many people talking than listening, and the ones talking aren’t necessarily the most qualified:

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

Randianart might agree:

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.

Hasan Niyazi had this insight to share, which I think is lovely:

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.

In my mind, moving from an observer to a creator is the promise of an open arts journalism practice. Not everyone will agree, of course, as quality can be uneven. But as NYU tech theorist Clay Shirky has noted, a creative act is a creative act, and you have to accept the LOLCats if you want to get some of the more challenging and inspiring uses of social media and the internet out there.

Opening up arts journalism to more voices represents a shift form the audience member as viewer to the audience member as part of a dialogue. If people like Niyazi can feel inspired to write, we’ve just gained a new critical perspective, and that sounds pretty cool.

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