Sunday, February 19, 2012

Are online galleries just fancy tumblr communities?

I know this totally looks like I'm ripping off Tom's post from a few minutes ago on the same subject, but I swear this has been on my to-dos for today since last night. I'm on a small mailing list of net art aficionados (...................yeah, it is what it is), and recently we were discussing Nicholas O'Brien's latest article, "Observations on the Proliferation of Online Galleries." One of the more interesting points made (that for some reason didn't show up in the thread?) is the similarity between how O'Brien discusses these online galleries and his analysis of  R. Gerald Nelson's (tumblr and 4chan have killed the image <_<) Image Aggregators (IAs) in an older article. O'Brien is in on the list, so I responded to him with a few questions, hoping others would chime in as well. No one has responded yet - I'm pretty sure I'm a thread killer by nature :( - but I thought that it might be a good thing to blog about to open up the discussion a little more, just in case. The points below are slightly reworked versions of my original questions.

O'Brien speaks initially about an overlap of artists between online galleries. I wonder if it's a question of who is seeking "real" institutional representation that determines this crowd. This kind of goes against what he says later about the "willingness [of galleries] to support the programming and curation of an underrepresented scene."

O'Brien also mentions that these artists are engaged in "long-term processes... exploring their craft and culture," and that the online galleries' programming fosters this by encouraging the creative process over a period of time. This creates a certain closeness between artists and gallery, resulting in a tightly knit audience. This seems circular to me - I'm reminded immediately of tumblr communities with endless reblogging/permutations of posts - Image Aggregator feedback loops. I wonder if that is what we're seeing here, albeit in a more delayed (temporally), professional-looking skin.

If this is the case, the online gallery then could be considered to function more as an IA with a greater degree of transparency in intent than a brick-and-mortar gallery, but a greater degree of restraint as well in content than your average IA might provide. This answers the "framing" question (Why put net art on a webpage other than its own?) - the work of one artist in the loop of the gallery requires a peer context. This also seems to suggest the (general) failure of the standalone webpage. [I've been thinking this over and I now disagree, what we see is that these select artists prefer the context an online gallery provides.] Net artists trade autonomy of intent to be part of a collective aesthetic - a network, rather than addressing the totality of the web directly. The online gallery, then, breeds less spontaneity, a clearer message, and a limited audience focused on a specific aesthetic-based form of discourse.

Extra credit: Where does Tight Artists fit in?

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