Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Art in the digital domain

Every now and then I feel the need to remind my son, who is 29 years old and knows everything, that it was old farts like me that invented and developed the Internet and WWW, and that the sophistication (and I dare say usefulness) of things like HTML, cascading style sheets, online relational databases etc, are far more interesting and likely to be remembered than the ability to be able to Tweet from your smartphone. Of course pronouncements such as this fall on deaf ears to the Me++ generation who, in an attempt to find relevance in a world where everything of interest has already been done, have formed the spatial ability to arrive at the conclusion that the universe began in 1980, and that anything prior to that is therefore irrelevant.

I mention this in relation to art. When people ask me what kind of art I do, and I respond that I work in photomedia, photomontage, video and predominantly online in the public domain, their eyes glaze over, the bottom lip starts twitching, and the ensuing silence seems interminable. Young artists just stare with incredulity that someone of my age can even mouth these words, while my peers mumble stuff about the tactile nature of art. Unless it hangs in a frame on the wall of a gallery then it can't be taken seriously. I understand their point, for many of them computers are things to be feared and used only under sufferance, and when it's a sunny day in paradise who wants to be inside anyway? And, there is always the question of money...

So, what is it and why do it? Just about every major gallery in the world has an online presence, in some case their entire collections are available, as well as research or commentary. Past criticism of online galleries has been image resolution. The Google Art Project aims to bring together high res pics from major collections. Wikipedia's Arts Portal is worth bookmarking, particularly for more detailed information about creative culture across the ages. In an earlier post I have featured UbuWeb, and I cannot reiterate enough how good this site is for anyone interested in 20th and 21st Century contemporary culture and the avant-garde. It continues to amaze and inspire with every visit...

For the artist two sites deserve mention. First Wikimedia Commons is a vast repository of public domain images, sound files and videos made available through the GNU and Creative Commons licences. And there is The Internet Archives, an equally if not more outstanding resource in the public domain that contains video,  live music, audio and texts. Many artists are now drawing on these resources, and some, like myself choose to work almost entirely within the public domain. Why? Exposure is  the answer. While it is nice to be  a legend in one's own backyard, ultimately not many people get to see your work, let alone participate in thoughts or discussion. Starting this blog and a new way of working this year I had no expectations of what might happen. Now, over 7000 page views, 800 looks at my profile, discussions with artists and organisations around the world later, to go back to the white cube with 20 visitors a day seems a little, well, quiet.

For me working in the public domain is exciting and challenging. I am always learning, or having to learn something new. This is rewarding because, unlike my son, I know very little.

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