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let's try to get our heads around this new media thing

Post #647 • October 18, 2005, 10:05 AM • 34 Comments

It came to pass that Kathleen posted several images of the Diego Singh show at Frederic Snitzer Gallery on her blog with a request for discussion. The gallery contacted her, informing her that she had posted the entire show, and could she maybe do a preview instead? Then the artist asked her to take all the images down. "He wants people to see the work in person," reported Kathleen.

New media make it possible to do unprecedented things in arts coverage, like, for instance, putting up images from an entire show alongside a discussion about it. All parties ought to welcome that - from an attention economy standpoint, that creates big real estate, and costs practically nothing. (The Attention Economy holds, with only mild overstatement, that just as currency replaced land as the primary repository of value 500 years ago, attention is about to do the same to currency.) Why oppose it, then? Because doing so runs up against some traditional concerns about how people should view art. Collectively, the gallery and the artist think that posting the images from the show will give a substantial number of people the illusory feeling that they have seen the work, and thus don't need to see it in person. Are they correct?

400-pixel, 72dpi representations of work axiomatically do not do it much justice. I'm going to assert that only people who do not like Singh's work in general (smoky drawings that make Pop references, or however you want to generalize it) are going to look at Kathleen's original post and feel dissuaded from coming into the gallery, and the gallery has very little chance of selling work to these people anyway. Everyone else gets a buzz on - the gallery, the artist, and the aficionados of his work. The press release can only inform people about the show. Kathleen's post could have made people think about the show, causing durable attention and more than factual awareness that the show exists.

The artist, on principle, would prefer people to see his work in person than via reproduction. By asking Kathleen to take his images down, he guarantees that, at least partly. But in that case, why advertise the show? Why even send out a press release? If the Herald wants to run color illustrations with a review of his work, will he stop them? Qualitatively these things may be different, but attention economics holds them as functionally identical. Here, at least, is a chance for a casualty - someone who might write the work off in reproduction who would actually like it in person. But the only way to prevent all such casualties would be to never allow reproduction of your work in any form. You have to weigh that against the possibility that the group of people who would like your work in reproduction and like it even better in person is greater, and I think that possibility exists.

But that's not what happened. Instead, the artist accidentally implied that the reproductions do indeed substitute for seeing his work in person. Kathleen's commenters carefully pointed out the ways in which the reproductions were inadequate, noting their large scale and irreproducible surface effects. Now they have nothing to discuss, at least in that regard. The gallery, politely and with good intentions, has administered a heavy dose of buzz-kill around the artist. I understand where they're coming from, but I don't think they understand where they're going.

Comment

1.

alesh

October 18, 2005, 11:16 AM

The same thing I asked on Kathleen's blog: where did the images come from? If they came from the gallery, then they should be politely told to piss off.

In any case, if the artist and the gallery can't coordinate (which they clearlt can't), then that's their problem. In my opinion, the second request should have been ignored. I understand why Kathleen wouldn't, but this starts to piss me off.

What's next, Snitzer telling people what they can write? Oh wait, he already did that, didn't he (didn't you say he attacked you for mentioning his air conditioning)?

2.

alesh

October 18, 2005, 11:19 AM

um . . . by the way, does this have anything to do with "new media" ?

3.

Franklin

October 18, 2005, 11:31 AM

We're talking new news media, not new art media.

We don't want to assume that the artist and everyone within the gallery are all of one mind about this. Kathleen was within her rights to tell the gallery to piss off, but these are all people that would like to have good relations with each other. Snitzer's not trying to control the media: I'm free to mention his air conditioning, he's free to tell me that I shouldn't, I'm free to ignore him - I just love this freedom of speech stuff.

Nevertheless, they would have been better off with Kathleen's post running the way it was. I hope I explained why.

4.

oldpro

October 18, 2005, 12:03 PM

I guess i didn't see the Dolphins lose last weekend because I wasn't at the game.

5.

Franklin

October 18, 2005, 12:06 PM

You lost me there, OP.

6.

olrpro

October 18, 2005, 12:27 PM

re: seeing something in person vs. reproduction, that is, on TV.

7.

Franklin

October 18, 2005, 12:34 PM

Oh. How do you relate that to the above?

8.

oldpro

October 18, 2005, 12:55 PM

Sorry, I did not mean to be obscure. I was just making an ironic aside about the legitimacy of evaluating an original through a reproduction, which I understood was an ingredient of the discussion at at hand.

This has been discussed often on the blog. Some people have insisted that it is not possible to understand anything about a work through a reproduction. I disagree with this, and my comment was meant to be an ironic comment that I could not tell anything about the Dolphins game because I saw a "reproduction" of it on TV.

Of course like any joke, or any art, everything is lost if it must be explained. Obviously I should have just not posted it in the first place.

9.

mono

October 18, 2005, 1:27 PM

I think oldpros dolphin game irony is right on...People can buy or download their favorite albums and listen to them a thousand times yet they still go to the concerts. If the opportunity to see something in person is available, is rewarding and is worth your time you will most likely take that opportunity.
Must not be so scared, if people like what they see on the screen, and they are able to see it with their own eyes, chances are they will. Or maybe you’ll save some people an unnecessary trip to downtown. Whatever the case, don’t be scared.

10.

wwc

October 18, 2005, 1:28 PM

Franklin,

Didn't you mention in a post a little while ago about it being important to have work (or at least a part of a body of work) that reproduced well on the web since that's becoming more and more important to how an artist is seen? My bigger work can't be seen well online and the whole "click for detail" solution is inelegant, so I make sure to have smaller work that does show well online up on my website.

It seems this artist either thinks internet viewers can't understand the difference between a crappy online image and the actual work, or he wants to keep some sort of aura of mystery about the work. His loss, because I'm far away and have no chance of seeing the work in person and I may have liked it online.

11.

Gnumiami

October 18, 2005, 1:41 PM

Franklin you get 1000pts. for this post.

I think many galleries and artists have not being very savvy about the internet. They use strategies that seems to place a burden on a potential audience. Like you said images, those images, 320x400px at 72dpi, will not satisfy anyone. maybe the problem was that the images were elsewhere. So, the logical thing would be to have nicer reproductions on the artist's or the gallery's website. as of today, the website isn't current.

There seems to be a lot of 'attention' being paid to this show. The strategy should not be a counter-productive one, where the conversation is shifted from discussing the works.

12.

J.T. Kirkland

October 18, 2005, 1:50 PM

Good points Franklin. This is a ridiculous request on the part of the gallery and artist - less so the gallery than artist. I think it has been summed up well here.

When I think about posting images of my work online two things come to mind:

1) My work looks much different/better in person than on the web and those who see my work in person recognize this and comment on it. However, the digital image gives the viewer a "sense" of what I'm doing and this provides the opportunity to think about my work more. Or so I like to believe.

2) In a gallery setting, you may get a few hundred viewers (typically all local). On the web you can reach potentially thousands of people all over the world. People can learn your name and follow what you do, if they're interested. This can have dividends over time (I know from personal experience).

Ultimately this decision is ill-informed and I'm confident that the artist and gallery will eventually change their minds. They won't have a choice really.

13.

that guy

October 18, 2005, 1:55 PM

This is more a publicity stunt which by attacking the only media they might get is really counter productive. Now I really won't go to the show that I wasn't planning on seeing anyway. Way to go Snitzer you rock at censorship. Maybe they haven't yet heard that any news is better than no news.

14.

another artist

October 18, 2005, 2:08 PM

perhaps the artist's own ego has something to do with taking down the images.

15.

Jack

October 18, 2005, 2:46 PM

The phrase "tempest in a teapot" comes to mind.

16.

diego singh

October 18, 2005, 2:55 PM

to the bloggers:
i just read your posts, and i would like to explain why i have decided to take the images down:

i did not photograph them properly before they where framed, so
the plexiglass made it very difficult. the images kathleen got where very poor reproductions and where not supposed to be posted on her website (i did not specify this).

that's the reason why the gallery website does not show any images of the show yet.

i hope you forgive this (plus my english), no censorship from here.
thanks a lot,
diego singh.

17.

Juaninamillion

October 18, 2005, 3:07 PM

The works in person and posted on-line, though short lived, were basically the same quality. So was the reception I received at the gallery compared to my computer monitor.......oh wait, i have speakers that make noise now and then. I know Fred, Kathy, and Tyler and they're not deaf mutes. "Fred, you had me at .......(blank stare)." Remember to say this in your best, annoying Renee Zellwegger voice.

Asking people to come view the work in person is one thing, but just remember to say hello. It's not hard and it could be good for business.

18.

Franklin

October 18, 2005, 3:20 PM

Diego, y'all have had one heck of a misunderstanding down there if what you describe has turned into Kathleen's rendition of "He wants people to see the work in person." If this was all a big, goofy mistake, so be it, but if so it would be worth clearing up things with Kathleen and the gallery.

19.

diego singh

October 18, 2005, 3:23 PM

yeap franklin i have worked on that. i also need to photograph the work properly. anyway, thanks again. diego.

20.

oldpro

October 18, 2005, 3:25 PM

it is a tempest in a teapot, Jack, but the bloggers have not had much to hassle about lately and they may be itching to get something going.

Don't worry, Diego, this has been characterized as the unfriendly old "authority" blog, where everyone has an opinion and likes to argue about it. Just remember, publicity is publicity.

Juan, you sound like you got some of the fabled Snitzer put-down treatment. This is a gallery with a double whammy: you get to see bad art and then you get to be treated like dirt. Isn't the art business wonderful?

21.

diego singh

October 18, 2005, 3:42 PM

oldpro, thanks, i have been trying to post this but i can't, you might see it 3 times?
for the bloggers: kathleen suggests paying attention to the hurricane. anyway, let's see if i can post this one well and i don't start a domino effect again.

22.

oldpro

October 18, 2005, 3:56 PM

Yes, the Weather Underground computer models have Wilma heading right at us this weekend.

Just what we need.

23.

mek

October 18, 2005, 4:23 PM

what new media thing is anyone trying to get their head around? i believe the correct expression is "arms around". singh asked to not have repros of his work on view. it's his perogative. kathleen took them down. what's the issue?

has anyone heard of pulse miami? verbage: PULSE Miami will open its doors to the public on Thursday, December 1, 2005. PULSE will take place in a 30,000 sq. ft. tent in Miami's Wynwood district on NW 2nd Avenue within blocks of Miami's leading galleries and the Rubell and Margulies Collections.

that's a big-ass tent.

24.

hans

October 18, 2005, 5:08 PM

Sometimes the digitally reproduced work looks even better than the original work. It is manupulated, sharpened, some contrasts here, some there...

I think the future of original artworks will lie in his ability to get adaqually reproduced. I even think the time for a single artpiece as a single piece will be over soon. Who cares wich artpiece rotts in this private collection or that, it lives, if its online.

Sometimes the lights from Plexiglass are part of the work too.

25.

Juaninamillion

October 18, 2005, 5:44 PM

OP: I've known Fred for years and have never experienced any put-down treatment. However, I do wonder if his being in a bigger pond would change his tune.

26.

oldpro

October 18, 2005, 6:13 PM

Juan, what I understood to you to say seemed consistent with what others have written about here previously. Sorry if I misunderstood you.

27.

stylo77

October 18, 2005, 7:54 PM

I encourage everyone to see diego's show. not only is it a noteworthy solo show, the works require an attention to detail. This seems like a misundertsanding!

28.

klee

October 18, 2005, 11:03 PM

www.artsjournal.com/visualarts/redir/20051018-59916.html
Interesting piece, no?

29.

Franklin

October 18, 2005, 11:50 PM

I disagree with much of it. I consider my aesthetic conservative, but I don't see my disagreements with conceptual art, such as I have them, reflected here. When she says "People who complain about conceptual art always do so on the grounds of craft," which people does she mean? She refers to them repeatedly; I don't think they actually exist except as a presupposition in her head.

And the last paragraph is a howler. My visual education extended all the way to age 26, and I concluded that visual art should be good visually. I don't think that "a little evening class" will make much difference at this point regarding my feelings about conceptual art.

30.

klee

October 19, 2005, 12:10 AM

What if "conceptual art" were considered a medium seperate from "visual art," thus freeing it from your basic requirement for "visual art"? Conceptual art could use only sound. What are these catagories anyway?

31.

catfish

October 19, 2005, 12:33 AM

klee: if conceptual art used "only sound" then it might be music, or poetry, or prose, or perhaps theatre, and would be judged accordingly. Most of it would fail those standards as thoroughly as it fails visual ones. That's because "conceptualism" is a cover for avoiding aesthetics, an excuse that is trumped up into an seeming asset. Post-art art, Harold Roenberg called it. And he was not praising it for that. He said these artists had gotten too big for their britches (even as he admitted some of his theories were probably responsible in part for its existence).

It does not have to be this way, of course. In fact, if "conceptualism" succeeded in incorporating aesthetics into itself that would be a remarkable and worthy development.

32.

Franklin

October 19, 2005, 12:56 AM

Well, it's already free of my basic requirement of visual art. Art is free to be really, really bad.

The categories are just ways of talking about different impulses in art. There's already something called sound art, and it is not necessarily conceptual. So could you split off conceptual art from visual art? You'd have a mess on your hands in terms of how the terminology has already been applied, but I suppose you could try.

Concept runs through all styles of art. I have no issue per se with art that emphasizes its conceptual component, but that's not where quality hangs out. It is very difficult to make good art. It is even harder to do it when you're not trying. So if an artist's effort goes towards concept, much of that labor will run parallel to quality, and therefore high-quality results are far from assured.

33.

oldpro

October 19, 2005, 7:45 AM

A hundred years ago innovation in visual art became a matter of first importance in art, and over the course of the last century this led naturally to a proliferation of "arts", like a bunch of squabbling baby birds, all in one nest, grasping for the same worm.

I predicted in writing almost 40 years ago that these arts would each go their own way and find their own territory and their own audience. It hasn't happened. I wish it would.

34.

catfish

October 19, 2005, 8:59 AM

Whatever is contemporaneously important about art is one of the worst predictors of its future. I have lived long enough to be wary of predicting art's future, but not long enough to swear off the endeavor. As far as I can tell, art remains stagnated, much as oldpro suggests. Perhaps that is an indicator that something will happen soon that refreshes the scene. I hope so. And I doubt it.

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