Curation in the Expanded Field: Changing Expectations of the Art Blog
If the term "beautiful blog" hasn't been bandied about with much enthusiasm, it's because blogs rarely warrant such a glowing descriptor. Functional to the point of artlessness, art blogs in particular are woefully inept at recording something more than a scroll-down image-and-text archive of its author's whims, or an unedited pedagogical script. But well-curated blogs and forums with innovative design and concept initiatives are challenging the constraints endemic to the aesthetic of blogs, and recalibrating how one looks at art images online. What changes when sculpture becomes a .jpeg? What does it mean to be able to combine and re-contextualize those images at the click of a mouse, no permission from the artist necessary, and only a hyperlink as courtesy?
Christopher Higgs' Bright Stupid Confetti is a case for online image curation as a new form of visual poetry-he combines text and poems to create a free-form exploration of contemporary art. Folkert and Atley's But Does It Float is a conversation of images between two people exploring the infinite discrepancies between like minds. Farimani Forum, reposition online forums as multimedia art exhibition spaces that elegantly transcend the visual ubiquity of the blog.
Aleksandra Domanovic, Oliver Laric, Christoph Priglinger, Georg Schnitzer
VVORK was started April 2006 by Oliver Laric, Christoph Priglinger, Georg Schnitzer and Aleksandra Domanovic. Their previous project, "Mi Magazine" was a print publication that only existed as an insert into other magazines. As an online mega- (and meta-) gallery, VVORK presents artworks and projects—some found, some original works and some by members of the group. Most of the images have been photographed in international galleries and museum settings. These images are posted by individual members of VVORK, with the hope is that each subsequent post plays off the last one in some regard. "We never interfere with each others posts, but try to complement them," says the group. Explanatory text is minimal, though the methods and agendas of conceptual works are often fleshed out for the viewer. The site acts as an art weigh station, information hub, and online magazine/gallery in equal measures, with the VVORK team presiding as both curators and, in a sense, online collectors. As an art blog VVORK is akin to a scroll-down image resource bank-sort of a rarified google images. Which, in a way, is precisely the point, according to VVORK: "We reduce the content to the most emblematic information needed to communicate the work. The descriptions are technical, so the layout uses the strategies of exhibition spaces. The process of sequencing images is very organic and at times more or less successful in appearing as a continuous whole. It's very satisfying to find the right post at the right time, meaning that finding ones that correlate to the previous posts."
The group, who all studied together at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, now live in Berlin, London and Vienna and are currently working on individual and group art, music, theatre and design projects. Success for them in gallery and museum environments has been forthcoming. "We have done a few shows in galleries. Our first show was in Galerie West in The Hague, followed by a show at MU in Eindhoven and Platform 3 in Munich," says the group. And, online or off, they are continually challenging the expected notions of how art viewers view images. They are currently preparing a "public maze of images" for the photo biennale in Mannheim; and the next project to occur in real life will be a Variety evening at the New Museum in New York on October 30.
Bright Stupid Confetti
Christopher Higgs, Curator
According to Christopher Higgs, Bright Stupid Confetti started in December 2005, "But the website you see today bears little resemblance to that first incarnation." Higgs, a writer who has worked in the film industry and a PhD candidate in Twentieth Century Literature and Critical Theory at Florida State, also teaches undergraduate writing courses. He has never curated in a gallery setting, and maybe it's for that reason—an outsider perspective—that Bright Stupid Confetti is one of the more innovative and quixotic curated art websites in the blogosphere. A continuous scroll of contemporary art images are aligned with music videos, snippets of philosophical and poetic texts, and interviews culled from other online sources. The site is an interactive, sui generis online presence that challenges the hierarchy of the "insider's" art world. Higgs takes contemporary art images out of the hands of gallery and museum-sanctioned curators, and into the arms of a renegade whose way of uniting images and text feels more related to poetry than to the expectations of art curation. Only recently has he removed personal information from the blog.
While his site has a blogspot domain name, it's cultural content bears little resemblance to what one typically thinks of with blogs. Says Higgs, "When people call it a blog I usually don't protest, I simply bite my tongue and cringe inside because to me a blog is a place where people post personal commentary about what they ate for lunch or how much they dislike the Republican party or whatever. Which is decidedly not my project."
Michael Capio, Editor
Michael Capio, co-editor of Farimani Forum with Amir Mogharabi, is an independent curator and critic based in New York. His work editing the online component to Farimani, an internationally-distributed artist publication that explores critical, theoretical, and music-based art inquiries, is directly aligned with other curatorial models. Says Capio: "Early in the Forum's development, [Farimani's Founding Editor] Amir and I talked a lot about Jean-François Lyotard's "Les Immatériaux" exhibition for the Centre Pompidou in 1985. The exhibition has been described more as an "informational space," where sounds, projections, music and text become unified under the aspect of immateriality. The publication is very much about restoring the materialism of the text, while the Forum accepts the interchangeable or inter-contextual aspects of information-based systems." The online model features a grisaille palate with color images, and includes anachronistically subdued hyperlinks that direct readers to artist videos, and long-form theoretical and critical texts.
Capio says that Farimani is "first and foremost a publication," but explains that a print-based distribution model poses limitations for collaborative work between Farimani's far-flung editors. The online Forum represents an attempt to challenge the inherent constraints posed by the book format. And much—but not all—of the content on the Forum is original commissions, aligning the site with the world of publishing versus the world of gallery curation. Says Capio, "Although variable, the material-based component of Farimani insofar includes original work created specifically for our overall project. The work featured on our website thus far, has also been provided by the artists themselves. Although not always original, it is, by way of our montage aesthetic, available in an original format, often complimented in its interdependency with other elements in the Forum."
But Does It Float
Folkert Gorter / Atley Kasky
But Does it Float was started in February 2009 by two Los Angeles-based designers, Folkert Gorter and Atley Kasky, whose other projects include SpaceCollective.org, GOOD.is, and cargocollective.com. But Does It Float serves as a dynamic visual conversation between Folkert and Atley, wherein art and design images line up against vintage aerial photographs and other visual ephemera to form a seemingly infinite image scroll that chatters back and forth, creating a new form of telling. With an inquisitive, otherwordly drive to collect and show, Folkert and Atley have created an art blog that sits widely outside both the worlds of contemporary art and ubiquitous blogdom. The site began, says the two, "As an idea to organize and focus our meanderings around the Internet. We're both collectors of visual artifacts and use the internet heavily for finding, storing, and sharing. We felt that our joint sensibilities and appreciation of ‘good' work across all genres would make for a distinct filter, separating the wheat from the chaff. We started doing this not only for ourselves, on a purely archival basis, but also for the edification of our prospective audience. We have the time and the interest in sorting through the maze of internet clutter, most people don't." The resulting site looks and behaves like a cabinet of curiosities as viewed through an infinity mirror.
And while the duo hasn't ever curated in a gallery environment, says Folkert/Atley: "We're essentially hanging images on the page, and in that sense it's a bit like a gallery. We made it a priority to give as much space to the work as possible, to let it have whatever we feel it requires. Browsers and bandwidth limitations have been decreasing steadily, and we are taking advantage of that." And like traditional curators, their goal is to create a unified thesis through the disparate works that they feature "By putting things next to one another you create a relationship and begin to discern connections, intended or not. Additionally, the blog allows visitors to continue scrolling from the latest to the first post, without ever having to click. This seamless interactivity plays with the notion of a filmstrip, resulting in the feel of an endlessly flowing conversation. We've been trying to alternate our posts with an exquisite corpse-like notion, where part of the goal of writing a post is to let it be influenced in some way by the post that preceded it."