Faculty of Interdisciplinary Arts
Columbia College Chicago
The panel: art blogging == global.exhibit(local); was held from 7:30 to 9PM at the Dallas Contemporary Gallery on February 21st 2008, just a few blocks from the Adam's Mark hotel where the CAA Conference was headquartered. It was a very good turnout with around 40 to 60 people showing up, many of them their first time to a New Media Caucus event. With seven speakers on the roster, we had a lot of ground to cover regarding a diverse field of inquiry.
The initiation of the panel stemmed from set of questions that aimed to explore how blogs are affecting art practice such as: Can blogs shift the space of studio practice while retaining its capability to be unstructured? Is the quest for site traffic inherently at odds with healthy periods of gestation and dormancy? What models exist for balancing these forces? Though there are many artists that use blogs strictly as a promotional tool, they are also a site for creative inquiry and exploration. Simultaneously, art blogging has been receiving increased attention within the broader realms of art criticism, appreciation and dialogue. Specifically, in relation to the November 2007 issue of Art in America that featured a roundtable entitled: “Report from the Blogosphere. The New Grass Roots” by Peter Plagens. For reference, that report can now also be found online While that article touches on specifically on the important areas of art criticism, appreciation and dialogue, I could see that within our own roundtable we might be able to concentrate on two areas left out of the focus of from the article, namely: art practice and artist communities.
A large number of responses to the call for participation allowed me to develop a panel that could address the breadth of these issues. The speakers: Katherine McInnis, Taro Hattori & Mayumi Hamanaka from the Kala Art Institute, Melissa Khoury, Lee Montgomery and Brian Andrews & Duncan Mackenzie from Bad at Sports podcast provided insight regarding a diversity of approaches toward incorporating blogs within art practice.
Katherine McInnis, a video and media artist who has taught conceptual information arts courses at San Francisco State University and who lives and works in both San Francisco and Brooklyn discussed the use of blogging within her teaching of studio art courses. Interestingly, she explained how students were instructed to keep an “audio/visual diary” in connection with a video art course she was teaching where “quantity not quality (!) was the rule”. By encouraging the students to see the blog as the site of a sketchbook, students were able to sharpen their familiarity with digital tools and more importantly to soften the difficulties that sometimes surround showing work, especially when it is in process. Katherine further explained how she offered to the students that she would join them in the assignment and found that it was incredibly challenging. The examples shown from the class illustrated how the episodic nature of posting to a blog encouraged students to practice and explore multiple iterations of thoughts needed to expand and diverge from initial inquiries.
Taro Hattori and Mayumi Hamanaka, both of whom are artists and who work at the Kala Art Institute in Berkeley, California where Taro is the Electronic Media Lab Manager and Mayumi is the Communications Manager spoke about Klog! - the blog they have been working on as an extension of the Kala Artist in Residency program. They also spoke about some of the difficulties that they have experienced over the last few years in trying to get others involved in the Klog!, especially in terms of encouraging dialogue. They shared many examples, including how they began using video in connection with their blog – rather than waiting for others to use a browser to visit the Klog!, they instead became correspondents, interviewing artists working in the Kala studio, at openings in the gallery and also those visiting the gallery.
Melissa Khoury is an assistant Professor at the Lebanese American University in Byblos where she teaches Graphic Design. Melissa's presentation Blogging, Art and War addressed how a group of “Lebanese artists used blogs to post their visual retort to the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict”. The presentation included documentation of how artists used their blogs as a form of political communication during the Israeli raids on Lebanon. The artwork shown from these blogs included drawings and writings that have an immediate, urgent and visceral quality to them. Melissa went on to explain how these blog-based sketchbooks became noticed beyond Lebanon and for a time were a primary source of information to an international audience that might otherwise not have had access to the events occurring or the impact on the lives of the individuals involved.
Lee Montgomery is an artist who works with radio in a collaborative, technical and social way; much of his work over the last four years has been with the collaborative he founded in 2004, Neighborhood Public Radio (NPR) whose radio / performative / collaborative work was included in the 2008 Whitney Biennial. His presentation began with a short history of blogs and artists who have used blogging including JODI, Mark Amerika and Marisa Olson. Lee spoke about how NPR has been using blogging, as he best explains: “rarely is our blog a community of it's own, in any way that we would document, but instead it provides context for incalculable community building”. Lee outlined that for NPR, the blog is not necessarily a form for art, but rather has been a catalyst for connecting audiences with artists, artists with one another and for blurring the boundaries between these individuals at an international scale.
Our final presentation was by Brian Andrews and Duncan Mackenzie, both of whom are artists, writers, professors – Brian in San Francisco at Expression College of Digital Art and Duncan at Columbia College Chicago. Brian and Duncan have worked together for several years – Brian as west coast producer and Duncan as founder and executive producer of Bad At Sports (http://www.badatsports.com) an arts and culture media blog / podcast. As Duncan explained “Bad At Sports is a weekly podcast about contemporary art. Founded in 2005, the show focuses on presenting the practices of artists, curators, critics, dealers and various other arts professionals through an online audio format. Some of the program's guests include Rodney Graham, Kerry James Marshall, Francesco Bonami, David Robbins, Carol Becker, James Rondeau, Jeff Wall, Hamza Walker, Lane Relyea, James Yood, Michelle Grabner, Gavin Turk, Dominic Molon, and Julian Myers.” Duncan and Brian had prepared an audio compilation from their podcasts as a way to familiarize the audience with their work – at the panel, a problem with playback became a happy accident as Duncan and Mackenzie instead held an impromptu interview of one another, “becoming almost like a live version of the podcast itself” (Andrews). The spontaneity of their conversation and their problem solving revealed an essential aspect of their approach toward blogging and dialogue that is improvisational and immediate. It was a fitting finale for the panel considering that one of the core values that each of the speakers touch upon is the notion that blogging is a site for experimentation and invention.
It should be mentioned that it was in this spirit of experimentation that one other aspect of this panel was developed. Specifically, several weeks before the conference, all of the panelists became authors on a group blog that was used as a tool to introduce one another and to begin the dialogue about blogging in advance of the conference. The pre-conference blog was a very useful way for the individual panelists to get a sense of the topics that were going to be covered by one another, though it also provided shape and context to some of the questions that we were able to discuss with one another. The multiple author blog remains online and can be viewed at www.artblogging.org. Additionally, audio from the panel, courtesy of Duncan Mackenzie and Brian Andrews is available online for your review.
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