During last Saturday’s The World’s First Tumblr Art Symposium, Hyperallergic intern Arianne Wack talked to the people who attended the event and asked them what they thought of when they heard Tumblr and art. Here is what she found:
We’ve heard the argument that everyone’s a curator online by means of blogging and reblogging, but what about the professional curators who are responsible for producing major physical exhibitions — how are they using social platforms? The ability to publicly explore new theories, archive research, and participate in creative communities, has signaled a new era of openness and transparency in curatorial practice. One example is the research blog that accompanied Paola Antonelli’s Talk to Me exhibition in 2011 at the Museum of Modern Art. The site, stunningly bold and rigorous in its approach, chronicled projects to research, readings, and inspirational ideas for exhibition design. By providing visitors with a backstage tour, Antonelli and her team aimed to shed an honest light on curatorial process, revealing over a year’s worth of research that lead to the exhibition.
On the eve of web 2.0, there were a few sites emerging like Zing.com, an early place for photo sharing. The technology of self-surveillance wasn’t up to speed at that point to make them stick though. Facebook and smartphones would go on to complete the social shift to “sharing.” “Overexposed Dancing” was one of our early works that anticipated this change.
From 1997 to 2003, we worked together on a series of internet art performances, all of which were archived on Cary’s website, Restlessculture.net. Our performances took place on eBay, Evite, Ofoto, MySpace, and a host of other early social media sites that no longer exist. Taking off from Marcel Duchamp’s concept of the readymade, we called these performances “digital readymades.”
This brief essay will focus on something that I think is important to Tumblr — the need to negotiate with media already in circulation. It is a desire that has been expressed variously throughout the 20th century by other artists and writers who negotiated, or thought about how to negotiate, with a world overflowing with images. Already in the 1980s you have media theorist Vilém Flusser describing a “telematic society of image producers and image collectors.” Before that Susan Sontag had already discussed how just about everything had already been photographed. Today, Hito Steyerl emphasizes that “postproduction has come to take over production wholesale.”
For centuries, images were a fairly quantifiable, classifiable thing. One could, if one wanted, generally divide them into two categories: those made by artists and those not; artworks and everything else. There were always complications, of course — where did photojournalism fall, or works made by bad artists, or family photos — but the lines were pretty distinctly drawn: no matter the content or method, art images were those created by artists toiling away in studios or monasteries or workshops; they were shown in galleries and museums and sometimes books, framed very clearly as capital-A Art. Plenty of artists have worked to undermine or discredit this system, like Richard Prince, who upset a lot of people when he started rephotographing Marlboro ads in 1980. Theoretically, the question with Prince went: was this art or copied advertising? The work, however, was shown in specifically designated art spaces, with Prince’s name clearly attached to it. It was undoubtedly art, even if people at first didn’t agree on its qualifications.
One of the unique things about the internet is that it’s a quantifiable space. Every action that takes place online is basically an exchange of data, codified in ones and zeroes. Everything you do on the web is increasingly measurable and trackable, which is one of the reasons we’ve come to live in the age of what is being called “Big Data.” With metrics being such a pervasive part of internet culture, the net has developed its own unique value system, which tends to favor and reward two things: the size of your audience (number of eyeballs) and that audience’s level of engagement (how deeply people interact with your content).
A little over ten years ago, when I started blogging about photography, most photoblogs were presenting a single photographer’s work, one photograph at a time, usually per day. They were maintained by the photographers themselves. The scene was very small, and there was maybe a slightly naive earnestness about how it was done, which made following those blogs an appealing experience (even though, I should add, I had other things in mind).
So back in the late 15th century, Ottoman people started gathering to drink together. The beverage they consumed? The magical elixir and arguably the greatest drink known to humanity, coffee.
This Saturday, March 9, starting at 6pm, hundreds of new media and Tumblr aficionados will converge in East Williamsburg to discuss Tumblr, art, and the shifting realities of the world online at The World’s First Tumblr Art Symposium, which is co-presented by Tumblr and Hyperallergic. The following is the symposium schedule …
Can you imagine ads being sold on a Mark Rothko canvas? Sponsorships, perhaps, stuck discreetly to a corner of the canvas? After all, artworks get a lot of eyeballs, and that audience isn’t really getting monetized as much as it could be.
Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of commissioned essays for The World’s First Tumblr Art Symposium on Saturday, March 9, 2013.
I created my first internet artwork in 1993. At the time I was trying to have my work shown by various galleries but without success. The piece was titled “BKPC” (1993), or “Barbie and Ken Politically Correct.” It was a series of 12 photo-vignettes that told a story. This was before the World Wide Web and browsers. Most people accessed the internet via 1440 baud dial-up modems. I was a member of a computer BBS (bulletin board service), called thing bbs, which consisted mostly of text forums, although you could upload low-res GIFs that other members could download. I decided to present my artwork, one image a week with a short blurb, on the bbs.