Art as public forum: the art of blogging by Laura Hindmarsh

Laura Hindmarsh, an artist from Perth, recently wrote an article for UN Magazine entitled Art as public forum: the art of blogging.

Laura and I met just over a year ago when I was visiting Perth and working on the Bon Scott Blog. Together with her colleagues Claire and Anna, she sometimes makes projects under the name Inter Collective. The collective runs a blog parallel to their ephemeral art practices. When we met last year, we shared thoughts about our various motivations for blogging alongside interactions “in real life” (or as Lauren would say, “IRL”).

For one thing, as artists operating within an educational institution (at the time Laura was an honours students at UWA in Perth) blogging gave visibility to her otherwise “blink and you miss it” / “you had to be there” practices – making those practices available for “assessment” by the university system. But of course there’s more to it than that…

You can download Laura’s article in UN Magazine here (but you have to get the whole magazine as a 12MB pdf). For ease of use, I reproduce it below.

Laura also has some interesting ideas about the effects of keeping a blog on the experience of time. In one email she sent me, she used the term “structural intervalling” as a way of thinking about how daily blogging breaks time down into chunks which become manageable… but there wasn’t room for such complexities in this essay. Hopefully we’ll hear more on these ideas from Laura soon…

On with her article–

Art as public forum: the art of blogging by Laura Hindmarsh
Globalisation, new network technologies and the dynamically intercultural nature of the contemporary world is transforming the social space we call art. This is perhaps best observed through the phenomenon of the nomadic artist-in-residence, who in such conditions is producing work that is often furthest from object-related activity and closer to forms of experimentation with communication. Frequently adopting the position of tourist – an outsider with a time restraint, limited contacts and resources – artists away from home seek new formats of work that will reflect their newfound position, often hoping to simultaneously establish an instant engagement with both a local context and a wider audience. This impulse, whether it be to overcome feelings of isolation, or as a way of interconnecting individual practices with established art communities has increasingly seen itinerant artists turn to the art of blogging, or is that blogging-as-art?

Melbourne artist Thea Rechner took up the framework of a blog (http://studio-berlin.blogspot.com/) during her 2008 Takt Kunstprojektraum residency in Berlin. Functioning as a virtual journal, Rechner’s blog offered regularly posted research notes, reviews of exhibitions, comments on her new surrounding and details about her ongoing work and its processes. With no obvious start or end, Rechner’s blog flows like an intimate conversation, acting as a stream of consciousness where a reader enters into her private realm without requiring a previous introduction to her practice, or her position as an artist-in-residence. Blogs like Rechner’s possess a sense of the utmost immediacy. The public forum of blog publishing can act to motivate the writer to think, communicate and make on the spur, in mind of the ever present potential audience out there even for the solitary working artist.

Rechner’s posts refer to her interest in the experience of duration and the structural interval of time. Her research and experiments explore growth, movement and change as perceptible markers of time. In her blog, everyday exercises are poetically recorded, and include such observations as plant growth, the formation of condensation and other distilled mappings and drawings. Each dated post forms a repeated observation, a regular action which in turn enters the process of timekeeping. The nature and method of blogging provides a structure that frames, and becomes integral to, Rechner’s research.

While Rechner’s blog initially operates alongside her art, blogging can also offer an art medium, a project rather than a process. An example is Lucas Ihlein’s blogging work which encourages dialogue and social exchange in the form of correspondence. The communication between Ihlein and his audience becomes the work, or as he defines it, blog-as-art. Ihlein has been working with blogs since their inception, often using the format, like Rechner, as a framework for a residency. In these collaborations, each post is directly effected by Ihlein’s contact with the local community, and a reciprocal relationship emerges as commentary is exchanged between author and audience. Blogging offers the artist the possibility to engage and involve a local community rather than merely make detached reflections on their environment.

The idea of participatory dialogue is central to Ihlein’s online work, which incorporates a form of authorship which aims to be democratic and egalitarian in providing audiences with a platform to interact, respond and participate in the art making process. There is a sense of the avant-garde in any intentions to create an active subject by empowerment through direct experience of physical or symbolic participation. In this sense, the communal and political nature of a blog can be related to antecedents such as Joseph Beuys and his notion of ‘Soziale Plastik’, in which art acted as a site of participatory process where thought, speech and discussion become core ‘materials’. In its reliance on a form of democratic participation, Ihlein’s work holds potential to reconstruct a social organism as a work of art.

The blog’s capacity to foster new levels of public discussion and interaction includes a forum for criticism, through which a viewer can comment on an artist’s work while remaining anonymous. Ihlein’s blog, Bilateral (http://www.lucazoid.com/bilateral/), explores and investigates this discussion and the open nature of work blogging allows. The character and conventions of such blogs encourage articulate and intellectual conversation, yet remain sufficiently informal so as to avoid intimidation. Blog criticism is a direct, immediate reaction to the work and hence responses can be subjective and impertinent. Unlike criticism in art journals here anonymity allows every viewer to take the place of critic resulting in feedback which resembles more so a comment one would make on viewing the work but never pass on to the artist or publish. Although risking developing a brazen and emotional form of response at the end of the day any reaction from a viewer is exciting and beneficial to an artist and a forum which encourages public and open discussion about art can only be encouraged.

One advantage of blogs for artists is that they work interstitially, in that it operates within the prevailing system of social relations yet suggests possibilities for alternate exchanges. Readily accessible, these spaces offer an opportunity for viewing and exchange distinct from the standard art experience. As “blog art” is not collected or preserved in traditional exhibition environments, the work is open to further reflection and discussion on the web, long after the project may have concluded.

Perhaps it is in this interstice of art and exhibition that the blog offers the potential for navigation and negotiation of the compartmentalised and delimited sphere of art in general. VVORK (http://www.vvork.com/) is an online pseudo-exhibition space. Updated daily, this blog claims to offer a carefully curated collection of contemporary work. Scrolling down the page is not dissimilar to flicking through current art journals, yet, being web-based takes the work out of research, by providing direct links to an artist’s website, and allowing space for critical comment in the same forum.

Simultaneously private and public, the blog exists in an intermediate social inter-zone. Despite the risk of fractured communication through further isolating and potentially separating artist, audience and work, blog spaces offer a dynamic alternative to contemporary practices of relational art, being unreliant on the institute or formal exhibition space. Blog spaces generate an art which is centred around the social context of human interaction. This expanded approach to art is entirely dependant upon the level of the audience interaction with the art-as-process, and it is idealistic to believe that networked environments create an equally accessible platform for all. If we believe in art as a site that produces a specific sociability, then the non-site of a blog allows a viewer to see and respond without direct physical connection with an art object. Multiply available to act as a form of exhibition space, a virtual journal, or an interactive artwork-in-process, the enticement of a blog is self-evident for an artist out-of-place.

Laura Hindmarsh is a Perth-based artist and writer.

2 thoughts on “Art as public forum: the art of blogging by Laura Hindmarsh

  1. laura

    Hi Lucas,

    Yes I’ve had this idea of ‘structural intervalling’ on my mind lately as it seems to keep cropping up as my main motivation behind blogging. As with Thea’s work which I discussed in the article much of my own practice is based around the experience of duration and the interval of time, be it through movement, process or observed change. In previous projects with the inter collective, blogging has worked as a form of timekeeping – a structural framework overlaying a project in order to break it down and inevitably make more sense out of it for ourselves and potentially more accessible to a viewer. Throughout university and now post art school by sitting down to articulate my practice and surrounding thoughts into a post I feel myself understanding and consolidating things that otherwise would get lost in the mix.

    I feel like blogging is a direct way to break down research and projects into bite size pieces, recording thoughts and opening them up for discussion as they occur and more so in a direct form than the postproduction/documented work of ephemeral art practices of the past. It gives a visibility to practices like Thea’s, that is otherwise potentially ‘quiet’ and short-lived in nature.

    Blogging allows for an artist to make conscious their status and artwork as an object unfixed in space and time and has the unique capacity to represent that consciousness and communicate it. I very much agree with yourself Lucas, that it creates an open forum for dialogue and conversation that can result in unique criticism surrounding contemporary projects whist in progress. This commitment to dialogue no matter how self-reflexive signals the reliance of these projects on some common system of meaning within which the various participants can read, respond and interact. It can be seen as opposed to long established resistance in modern and postmodern avant-garde practice to a concept of shared discourse.

    However as I have recently encountered on the inter collective’s trans continent blog this ‘open forum’ can go in very diverse paths. As with most blogs there was the occasional pat-on-the-back, keep-up-the-good-work comment but early on in trans continent we managed to attract the attention of a self coined ‘troll’, who repeatedly responded to posts with backlashing criticism. Although in my article I discussed the advantage of the ‘public sphere’ which the blog allows for in creating an open forum for anonymous criticism, I was shocked to confront a participant who didn’t adhere to the certain performative rules I expected. The discursive space of a blog I understand differs from other more constrained interactions in normal daily life – however here we came across someone so openly critical and destructive. They did not offer their work up for discussion nor any criticism with which we could constructively take on and feedback into the project and meanwhile laced the site with booby-trap links.

    This arises some interesting self-conflict for us as authors – such as what is our right to censor. If we feel the criticism is destructive or irrelevant do we have a right to remove it and/or block the user? We decided on responding with a post that outlined the situation, our position and asked others to comment, resulting in a debate around the trolls motivation and eventually the legitimacy of such criticism and the very nature of the practice we are perusing.

    With the egalitarian nature of blogging every subject with the ability to write is able to take part in the discourse and question assertions and offer opinions – however in this case rather than cultivating a sense of solidarity and communal understanding between ourselves and the viewer here there was a jarring difference. Through blogging we are attempting to present our views to others, to articulate them more systematically, as well as to internalise and react off our audience responses. Is there a way to utilise this kind of response to at least be more critical and self-aware of our art making?

    Reply
  2. Pingback: To follow things as I encounter them: Blogging, Art, and Attention – Lucas Ihlein « 127 PRINCE

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