by Sarah Williams, Jerwood Visual Arts Coordinator
The new Jerwood Visual Arts (JVA) website has recently been launched and includes information about current exhibitions, artist opportunities, an exhibition archive with previous catalogues and event audio. Coming soon will be a directory of artists that have been involved in our programme since 2006 . Running alongside the JVA website the blog offers an informal area for debate and discussion inspired by the subject areas and disciplines that the JVA programme supports and will include posts from; artists, curators, JVA contributors and invited guest writers. JVA is also offering three Writer in Residence opportunities – more information can be found in the artist opportunities section of the JVA website. Forthcoming posts include: JVA Artist in Residence notes by Gemma Anderson and updates from artists and mentors from the Jerwood Painting Fellowships initiative. You are encouraged to respond and comment.
It is a cliché to say how important the internet is to our daily lives. It is as a huge resource; a space to gain knowledge, to feedback and comment, review and exhibit. We express opinions, create conversations, forge networks and showcase work and ideas. New media and the accessibility of digital technology has fueled the volume of content available to us. And with the recent boom in mobile technology the internet has opened up new levels of communication, access to information and networking opportunities. The popularity of social networking sites, online forums and blogs has allowed anyone to be a commentator, a publisher of thoughts and ideas. It seems fitting that the first JVA blog post should consider the wider context for artists using the web.
Blogs are so appealing because they allow more personal thoughts and opinions to be expressed by their writers. An essay by Jane Watt in reference to the development of artist blogs in the ‘artists talking’ section of the a-n website titled ‘The art of blogging’ explores this area further looking at how artists blogs provide unique insights into artists’ practice and experiences as well as an open forum for discussion and feedback. A hugely popular blog, written by artist and curator Stuart Semple, is published in ‘Art of England’. One of his recent posts is a twitter conversation between Semple and the artist Keith Tyson.
Previously blogs have been an important part of the shows that I have curated for Jerwood Encounters exhibitions as a way to record progress, thoughts and ideas. In 2008 I invited six artists to participate in an exhibition titled An Experiment in Collaboration. Each artist chose a collaborator to work with on experimental projects that looked at the process of collaborative practice. The project was collaborative on every level: curator, writers, design team, artists and associates, shared ideas, negotiated changes and decisions to produce work that had unknown outcomes. The blog ran along side the exhibition as a place to record and publish thoughts and discussions and opened up a dialogue between contributors.
Similarly a blog accompanied the Laboratory exhibition in 2009 and was far more ambitious in scale as it sought to document the entire process of producing an exhibition from its beginning to end as the show continued to change and develop. This unique exhibition focused on supporting three artists; Steven Eastwood, Jock Mooney, Mia Taylor, and provided an opportunity for them to work on site at the gallery for a 4 week period. It revealed some of the processes involved in making, hanging, curating, documenting and exhibiting. The blog, designed by The Partners, was created to document the changes that occurred and became an online archive of a live exhibition. A review of the exhibition, written by Charles Danby for a-n magazine, looked closely at the blog as an intrinsic element to the exhibition raising questions about the role of an online catalogue archive in recording a live exhibition.
In order to have an online presence, artists need to record, document and promote their work. I recently attended the ‘Living Archive’ discussion which formed part of the Performing Idea symposium. Performance artist Janez Janša spoke about an ongoing piece of work that forms ‘Name Ready-mades’ – an ambitious project by three performance artists who officially changed their names to that of the former Slovenia’s economic-liberal, conservative prime minister. All of their works, their private affairs, their lives have been conducted under the name Janez Janša ever since. This incredibly complex project was brought to life by the artist’s enthusiastic PowerPoint presentation followed by a question and answer session. It was interesting to visit the artist’s website after the discussion to see how the project translates to a web archive format. It was the combination of the live explanation teamed with documentation that brought the project to life, one format reliant on the other to give it meaning. The discussion raised many questions including practical issues about the strategies that artists employ to document and showcase their work.
In terms of promotion and selling work, it is now fairly standard for artists to have their own websites. Driving an audience to view a website can be a challenge however social networking sites, word of mouth, sending info through mailing lists and contact groups may be a helpful way to do this. In addition, artists often add their profile to websites that are dedicated to promoting artists work, allowing them to become part of a network which also assists in sourcing opportunities. For example Axis features over 2500 profiles of professional artists and curators, interviews, discussions, art news, debates and showcases the artists to watch. Axis also commissions artists, curators and writers to select and write about key artists and projects with online curated selections; ‘MAstars’ feature selected graduates from MA courses and an ‘Artist of the month’ is also selected and showcased. Artists hoping to sell their work have been known to use the website Etsy among many other sites dedicated to selling.
Listings and review websites are a good way for artists to promote their exhibitions and to find out what else is happening. Some listings sites provide an authoritative selection of what is good to see, selecting interesting exhibitions and events tailored to a specific audience. A relatively new and unique addition to this area is Art Licks, directed by Holly Willats who describes Art Licks as: “a free weekly contact, keeping its audience in touch and right up to date with what is going on in the London art scene – the art scene beyond the obvious. Art Licks is a creative and social guide that looks further than the commercial and the mainstream, doing the work for you by going and seeking out the best up and coming artist run spaces, artist collectives, curatorial groups, pop-ups, exhibitions, performances and publication events. Art Licks has a very strong online presence through its website which is updated every week, but also uses Facebook and twitter each day to create conversations with its fans. The Art Licks Tours and Magazine are two new initiatives for Art Licks, both of which have been received with great enthusiasm.”
Similarly review websites offer a chance to access information about exhibitions internationally. In a recent email conversation with James Smith, Founder and Editor of ‘this is tomorrow’ describes the motivation for creating the website: “http://www.thisistomorrow.info aims to become a comprehensive archive of contemporary art, providing those restricted by place or time with the chance to visit some of the most innovative and culturally significant exhibitions around the world. We believe that contemporary art has an intrinsic value for society that enriches people’s lives, offering multiple reflections on how we live and how our futures might be constructed. ‘this is tomorrow’ was born out of a wish to display art in the best possible way online and to provide in depth access to the largest potential audience the world has ever know It feels like a very exciting time for this medium as artists embrace not just the chance to disseminate their work, but to discuss the economic, sociological and political impact that the online world is having on our lives.”
It seems fitting to mention the effect of globalisation, teamed with the mass of information available on the internet, on artist practices. In a post on the Artforum website Lauren Cornell, curator at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York discussed her latest exhibition ‘Free’ which opened on 10 October 2010: “Today, what constitutes the fabric of public space is not only the expanded sociality we’ve come to experience with the Web, but a highly visual, hybrid commons of information. ‘Free’ attempts to illustrate how artists are approaching this radical change in culture to examine its possibilities, limits, and dilemmas.” British artist Charlie Woolley works across formats including; radio, text, collage and photography. He questions ‘what can be done with the images that we are confronted by everyday?’. Recent works have responded to images on television screens, frozen into photographs allowing us to experience the still beauty of these once flickering images. His popular ‘Radio Show’ uses the internet to stream his work live to a global audience and demonstrates how important the web is as a medium and a resource.
The internet is such a wide and complex subject area which I can only begin to introduce here. We recently held an event at Jerwood Space which began a discussion about the impact of the web on artist practice covering areas such as: networking, opportunities, copyright, selling and the web as a resource and inspiration for art production. The event was chaired by James Smith, editor of online contemporary art magazine ‘This is Tomorrow’ with guest speakers: Charlie Woolley, artist; Stuart Semple, artist & arts blogger; Sheila McGregor, Chief Executive of Axis Web. You will be able to listen to this talk on our audio archive page which is soon to be launched.