Two Types of Blogs

lucas blogging drawing

To follow on from my recent post about “good” blogs… I want to get down on blog-paper a few thoughts rattling around my brain about blogging…

Last year my friend Kirsten asked me about blogging – about how to go about making a “good” blog. She, of course, has a good blog of her own, but seeing as I’ve done a couple of very intensive art projects which use blogs as their primary medium, I do have some thoughts about the nuts and bolts of making them work.

There are a few different kinds of blogs that I keep. The first kind is “occasional” in nature. An example is the one you are looking at right now . I have tended to use this blog as a place to put up some notes about what I’m thinking about at the time, within the broad scope of “art/exchange/events/re-enactment” (as listed above in the blog’s byline). In other words, anything to do with my particular thinking/doing territory (which has no set boundaries).

On this blog, sometimes months go by between postings, sometimes I post twice in one week. I put no pressure on myself to blog with any regularity. I should add this – although this blog is primarily about art, I don’t consider this blog to be a “work of art” in itself. Rather, it’s a like a notebook where I jot down my thoughts before I lose them. The blogs attached to the Teaching and Learning Cinema site, and SquatSpace, perform a similar function.

The other type of blog I make (eg Bilateral Kellerberrin, The Sham, and the Bon Scott Blog) is what I call “blogging-as-art”. These blogs have a much narrower scope. They’re “project-blogs”. In other words, a new blog is created for a specific project, with the idea that it will have a (pre-determined) active period. During this active period, the blog becomes an intense site for collecting and cohering experiences related to the particular project.

So, for example, while I was doing my Petersham project (April/May 2006), I would write every day about what happened to me in my suburb of Petersham. I would not, however, use this blog to write my thoughts about expanded cinema, unless that subject intersected in some clear way with Petersham. In this manner, these project blogs can carve out a lot of space for – and generate an enormous amount of new material about – the particular subject matter which is their focus. I treat these blogs not just as a place to record information about an artwork, but as the site of art itself.

With these two different types of blog, I have two different methods for “running” them, as their primary author.

The first type – the “blog as notebook” type – is pretty simple to run. I write something, I post it online, and I forget about it. Sometimes, it just sits up there for ages, perhaps nobody reads it. Sometimes, years go by, and then, by some miracle of google searching, a stranger knocks on the door and writes me a comment to say, “thanks for that, I was thinking along the same lines as you”. This reader-acknowledgement is gratifying, and perhaps it helps begin to build a readership-community, but it’s not really the main reason I make this blog. My motivation for keeping this blog is because it is useful as a way of tracing back my own development in thinking about a certain subject. It’s a way to keep my thoughts in order. However, ecently, a small supportive and intelligent community seems to have assembled around the subjects I’m posting on this blog, and so I am able to “use” this community to help me think through questions which are bugging me – like, say, “What makes a good blog?” or “Should I give up the internet for a year?” And so the blog’s purpose is evolving.

Blogging – at least the first type I’m talking about – forces a certain level of formality, making me spell things out intelligibly enough so that IF someone else were to come along and read my post, it would make some sense to them. I think that is why I blog, rather than writing in a private journal, or an offline word document. However, the formality blogging encourages in my own writing should not be SO formal as to be intimidating or inhibiting to others. This is what differentiates it from, say, academic writing, which creates an expectation that everything needs to be “in perfect order” before you publish it (and which is static and immutable once published).

So much for the first kind of blogging.

The second kind (the project-blog, or the blog-as-art) is a bit more complex. In this kind of blog, what I actually think I am doing is a kind of interactive performance art. The blog-as-art usually has a speculative “proposition” with which it begins. For instance, in The Sham, the proposition was – “I must not leave my suburb boundaries for two months. I must write a blog entry every day about what happens”.

That proposition – like an “event-score” – sets up a scenario for something to happen. Blogging which follows an event-score instruction functions in three ways. First, the blog becomes a place to store the ongoing, everbuilding document of the experiences which are generated by the originating score. Second, the blog offers a guiding framework to ensure I continue to generate more such experiences. Third, interactions which happen on the blog begin to create effects in the “real world” – so experiences on the streets and behind the keyboard begin to bounce off each other. To put it in different terms: the blog produces a retrospective “account” of what happens, a way to make myself “accountable” – that is, to show others and myself how I have followed (or broken) the originating project proposition, and a means to build relationships with those who are interested in the (often rather silly) propositions which kick the blogs into life.

Early performance art, happenings and fluxus often worked under similar conditions. An originating proposition or event-score set up a framing condition, and the “art” was in the carrying out of the instructional score, in order to see what happened. This is important. Although the work does exist as a conceptual proposition, it is not just an immaterial floating concept. It demands to be executed – to be followed through and experienced “in real life” to find out “what would happen if…”.

With a work like Mike Parr’s Hold Your Breath for as Long as Possible (1971), the title of the work is its own event-score. Parr needs only follow the instruction implicit in the title, which he does, filming himself in the process. The visible/material impact of Parr following his own instruction is somewhat paradoxical. His controlling proposition results in his body getting out of control, bucking and contorting, his eyes going all buggy. The film is “evidence”, it contains an imprint (an “account”) of Parr’s actual experience in that moment – the battle between mind and body as he tries to hold his breath.

A classic case of a propositional event-score is John Cage’s 4’33”, his “silence” piece. Presented in a music / concert-hall setting, the musician opens the score and plays – nothing – for four minutes and thirty three seconds. The performance of this score/instruction results in an incredible expansion of awareness, in the audience, about the nature of sound and noise and music and the social situation of listening to music. But it has to be actually enacted and experienced for this effect to occur. The great thing about 4’33” is that anyone can perform it (it is not restricted to the work’s author) and wherever it is performed it will generate an experience which grows from the particular architecture, social situation etc of this time and place.

What I am interested in doing is practicing an everyday kind of performance art – not in the theatres and galleries which are its usual domain – but in the spaces and rituals of my own life. The “what would happen if…?” proposition thus moves into my own life’s processes.

What results is a rather strange situation, in which I am “just” living my everyday life, and simultaneously, living my everyday life “as art”. The blog – as a site which gathers an account of my experiences, and which pushes me to have more such experiences, lends my ordinary activity a kind of supercharged attentiveness, which makes it exciting – even mildly thrilling at times – even though it is still … just … kinda ordinary. The “audience” for this performance art may not even know that what I am doing is art. Actually, it’s not important for me to have them know this. In fact, the advertising of an activity as art is often an impediment to ordinary interactions, and besides, art is only one way of thinking about what is going on in these blogs. Another way to consider them is as a tool to increase my ability to pay attention to my own process of experiential learning, developing relationships with people, places and cultural phenomena.

The residue of Parr’s execution of his event-score was registered on 16mm film. The residue of my projects are, of course, the blogs themselves. What’s the difference? The extended duration of blogging-as-art means that it can fall into step with the normal rhythms of my everyday life, rather than being (like Parr’s films) a momentarily shocking incursion into life. And, blogging offers a technology which allows (what we used to call) “the audience” to participate in the process of making the work. This is especially important in blogs like Kellerberrin, Petersham and Bon Scott, where the people who are the “subject matter” of the blog are able to speak for themselves, rather than always being spoken for by the authoritative voice of the artist.

I have a few more thoughts to throw out there about the nuts and bolts of running my blogging projects, but this post might be already long enough for today.

– – –

PS – Mike Parr speaks in an interview about his “following-a-task” pieces, as well as those of Abramovic and Acconci, over here’here.

9 thoughts on “Two Types of Blogs

  1. lauren

    having also dabbled in types 1 & 2 (1, better than 2), i was wondering if you think one needs to do part 1 in order to do part 2? or vice versa. can they ever be mutually exclusive?

    Reply
  2. Lucas Post author

    Lauren, if I understand your question correctly – I think you can do type one or type two exclusive of the other type. It just depends on how to establish the parameters…

    Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe, to be more precise – type 2 is a more sharply focused version of type 1?

    Someone like Diego Bonetto manages to combine the two in his ongoing weedy connection blog, which is both his “type 1” blog, and his artwork (which I suppose given my definitions above, makes it an elongated type 2).

    I’d be interested to hear about your adventures with the type 2 blogs, as I haven’t found many stories floating around of this sort of thing.

    Reply
  3. the weed one

    oh, i’m spoken of !?
    i’m afraid i would have to disagree on this one.
    thanks for mentioning my efforts lucas, and yes, under your ‘attempt at dividing one from the other (type 1 from type 2)’ analysis i would say that you are right, my blog is both personal and art.
    with that said, do you really think your personal is not art?
    do you really think your art is not personal?
    i do not intend to mess-up your phd resolutions (fostered by the need to write a conclusion), yet i cannot see how one could exist without the other, how could one be sporadic, introspective, not project focus and therefore ‘not art’?
    And the other be specific, project-driven, time-bound and purposely interactive not being ‘personal journal’?

    uhmm
    looking forward the ‘few more thoughts to throw out there about the nuts and bolts of running my blogging projects’ sequel ..

    Reply
  4. Lucas Post author

    hi dieg –

    oh yes, of course it’s personal! the whole reason for doing the artwork-as-blog is personal: the desire for personal transformation through action in my own life, which the blog is able to help focus and document.

    and the reason for doing this bilateral blog is also personal – the argument I think is not about whether it’s personal or not… but perhaps about a different strategy of engaging with the performative aspects of blogging – the way that time is chopped up and regulated much more clearly with my art-blog activity…

    as an artist i am interested in blurring the boundaries between the flow of life, and the demarcated zones of art. that’s the underlying desire of the whole of my work… so i don’t want to get carried away with the whole art versus not-art thing.

    except for the interminable arguments between artists (and universities) the fact that what we do is art is kind of irrelevant. The idea of the thing we do being “Art” can often be an obstacle to the action of the project in the real world (I think you and Mickie discussed that with Andrew Frost on the Art Life recently in relation to the Tour of Beauty, right?)

    of course art can be – as you say – “sporadic, introspective and not project focussed” – you just have to decide that your artwork is like that and voila, it’s art! My post here was mainly just about looking at the differences in the way my blogs operate and trying to notice some of the qualities of the two types…

    i think the main difference is the quality of experience that results for me and the readers. this blog is very casual, it has a slow burning effect. the other kind (type 2) is intense, it really makes me (and the readers) aware of the here-and-now in a charged way. both are valuable.

    Reply
  5. Lucas Post author

    Hi Lauren

    thanks, it’s really helpful to have these sorts of stories because they reveal your parameters of “pass and fail” – what you consider to be success in blogging – which is an area not really much explored. When you describe your blog as as a “pretty dead kind of space”, what criteria are you using? (and what is “meta magic”?)

    I have posted some more thoughts about the nuts and bolts of writing blogs – specifically my own reflections on developing a blogging “voice” over here.

    Reply
  6. Lucas Post author

    ah, “meta magic”, i see.

    you know, perhaps following on from my thoughts about good blogs being like good friends, i might suggest that all that stats stuff – the quantity of “hits” and how good you look on the google top-of-the-pops hit parade – is nothing compared to the quality of your blog experience. better to have 2 good buddies than 50 false friends.

    i mean – first of all, it matters little if very few people read your blog – the main thing is whether it is a useful tool for you to shift your understanding of life and your experiences in the world from “nebulous” to “concrete” (yet malleable). if the blog is doing that for you, then it is worth it. in a way, the main relationship that counts is not between you and your (potential) readership, but between you and your self (via the blog).

    if popularity is the goal, I have no idea how to advise anyone on what to do. My “hits” are invariably low, but that’s ok.

    oh, and I have another terminology question: what is “IRL”??

    Reply
  7. Skanky Jane

    Hi Lucas,

    Really great reading here at Bilateral as per usual! Just a quick note on the blog stats stuff – Skanky Jane’s Bargain Box is a popular blog that gets lots of hits and has a good page ranking with Google – me and the crew have worked hard for that and it is imprtant to the type of blog that the Box is – ie we specialise in free publicity for artists and therefore we want to be able to disseminate information as widely as possible. How/where does our blog sit in the good/bad blog frame you posit?

    SJ xx

    Reply
  8. skanky jane

    why do we associate money with whoring? in art, if we really want to break down barriers between art and life isn’t all that grimey stuff we do a part of thing? it seems the commercial is a definite ‘this is not art’ area? These are broad questions posed after reading these great conversations! a better question – how is the Bbox posited, where is it posited in the art/blog model..continuum?

    Reply
  9. skanky jane

    i think maybe my first question needs some clarification…i mean when the worst of capitalism, say like the situation now with top execs., banks, tra la… or….to give an art example – the guy who puts his work on fabric…(god i’m losing my memory….ummmmmm….what IS his name…..???) That’s it: Ken Done…(“i’m off to the chemist to get my ken done now luv”)

    yeah, why is it that when this sort of stuff is discussed, and represented, that whores become an instant metaphor? money and the root of all evil. there is a connection, even though it doesn’t sound like it, but we do diss certain forms, rather than observing their aesthetic differences…? oh i hope that this makes sense to someone other than me!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.