Previous: Fra Angelico at the Gardner
Next: Art in the Age of the Internet, and Chuck Webster
Artblog.net Turns 15
Post #1814 • May 5, 2018, 7:32 AM • 2 Comments
Artblog.net posted for the first time on May 5, 2003. No link, it's awful back there.
That this thing is still going is a marvel. To give you an idea, in 2003, a few months into its run, this blog survived the collapse of an early version of its content management system, Dean Allen's Textpattern. In 2014 it survived the collapse of its hosting service, Dean Allen's TextDrive. And as of January of this year it has survived Dean Allen.
As far as I know, there are only three art blogs older than Artblog.net that are still running: greg.org, Artblog by Roberta Fallon and crew down in Philly (with credit due to co-founder Libby Rosof), and Tom Moody's.
I owe it a great deal. Back when commenting was enabled via an HTML form, it was the site of some of the highest-level discussion about art I've ever seen, much less participated in. (It was sometimes dispersed among the detritus, but garbage on an open platform is a given. That's partly why I closed it.) Having studied under Walter Darby Bannard as a graduate student, the conversations at Artblog.net constituted an informal postgraduate program, or really, an intellectual apprenticeship that filled out the experiential one as a painter. His colleagues, particularly John Link, were able to chime in to great effect. So were various characters who brightened up the joint, some of whom became friends, and a fraction of whom remain so.
It was painful to write and then rewrite the CMS, but thanks to that effort, this record is safe from the collapse of yet another platform, or at least less prone to mayhem. The move of Tyler Green's Modern Art Notes from Blogger to ArtsJournal to BlouinModern BlouinPainters to oblivion is an object lesson about the value of understanding certain digital matters. Too, it enabled me to build Delicious Line.
Above all, having this blog meant that getting sidelined didn't amount to getting silenced. It has been obvious for a long time that an artist with an explicitly aesthetic orientation, a critic with a modernist outlook, and a man with heterodox politics (I identify as a crypto-anarchist these days) is going to have to make an art world of his own. But as Darby demonstrated by example, greeting throngs at his 2015 opening at Berry Campbell and smiling like the cat that got the canary, all you have to do is stick to your guns, keep working, and outlive the bastards. Having a site at this URL is like being one of those people who buy a house and hang onto it for decades, frustrating the gentrifiers and mall-builders around them as the neighborhood grows more boring. Those folks always have the last laugh.
We who remember the Golden Age of Blogging from the mid-2000s look around at the social media landscape with earned disdain. Go look at what you were thinking about in 2011 on Facebook, I dare you. In February I started a six-month cold-turkey social media hiatus, taken because my mental health could no longer absorb the constant shocks of idiocy. #deletefacebook started trending a month later over the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and I felt pretty cutting-edge even though the timing was all luck. In the interim I've come to feel that while blogging like it's 2006 is not coming back, there is still a role for blogs to play that can't be filled by the current social media model in which you join for free and then let a corporation harvest your brain.
So, what next? Stick to my guns, keep working, outlive the bastards.
May 5, 2018, 11:32 AM
This post reminds me that for every seemingly universal proverb there is usually another one, equally universal, that denies the first. In this case "You can't go home again" and "History repeats itself."
Most of us have heard of the Cedar Street Tavern. Clement Greenberg once said to me he was in the process of advising someone about resurrecting that phenomenon, but, as in "You can't go home again," the resurrection never happened. Yet I submit that Artblog.net, in its time of ragged and often ferocious open commenting, did repeat the Cedar Street Tavern.
One good example is the 2005 discussion scalise and ware at dorsch in which 292 comments were logged, and its discussion of the "black hole" that had sucked up the art scene by the '70s. Flatboy, an MFA candidate, started it with: "Greenberg emerged as modernism was expiring with a few shooting stars of greatness and a lot of sound and fury about the many junky artists who typified the decline and death that was complete by the 70s. Genius that he was, he foreshadowed much of the thinking that was to come as culture tried to help itself out of the black hole of vacuous modernists like Steig." In response to Oldpro's objections, who always reacted to any negative about Greenberg, Flatboy added:
Modernism did not fade, it disappeared with a vengeance. Wham, it ran into a wall that swallowed it. You have Picasso, Matisse, Mondrain, Pollock, Rothko, Frankenthaler, and then what? BAM! Warhol, Baldesarri, Kosuth, Koons, and the like. The first group can be traced back to the Renaissance. The second group just appears from off the sidelines, if not from pure nowhere.
And who can forget AB/MB death march in 2006? At comment 70, George, who typically posted while drinking, introduced the river as a metaphor for how art works in our culture, championed the broadened delta as its finest expression, and asserted that the "delta" described the current state of art. Catfish, the older version of Flatboy, agreed but said: "...whatever the delta might have, it is lost to the giant homogenous ocean. An entrophy of sorts, that digests the dissipated tail of the river." Opie, Oldpro's new moniker, filled in the blanks: "I couldn't have said it better, Catfish. At one end fresh, clean, new, fast, bright, narrow, sparkling with energy and promise, at the other, slow, broad, foul, muddy, shallow, barely able to support life, hugely commercial, cluttered with parasitic appendages, dissipating into small nameless meandering streams and finally debauching into a huge, undifferentiated anonymous dark basin."
But the most profound remark of all came from Jordan, who posted number 154, the last comment: "...and yet george and opie could very well be the same person..."
Just like the argumentative rag-tag bunch at the Cedar Street Tavern, we were all part of the same thing and you ran the tavern.
May 5, 2018, 11:22 AM
Ahead of the curve you are!