Awhile back, we asked OPP’s Facebook fans what types of articles they wanted to see us add to the OPPblog. Topping the list was the idea that we should invite art critics to write about OPP artists. We know a good critic or two, and of course, were more than happy to oblige . . . but since OPP artists are from all over the globe, how would we set up studio visits?
Instead of having the critics visit a show or do a studio visit, we decided to ask them to look at artists' websites and write about the online experience of the work. Unconventional perhaps, but it makes perfect sense for OtherPeoplesPixels, especially since these days our art is probably seen more often on our websites than in any physical setting. Though this may be an unusual challenge to pose to an art critic, these experimental essays aim to address an important facet of the contemporary art viewing experience.
We all look at art online. We spend time on artists' websites, search artists' names on Google Images, lurk on their Facebook pages, reblog and heart art we like on tumblr, and organize collections of our favorite images on our iDevices.
In fact, most of us probably encounter a great deal more art online than in museums, galleries, artist-run spaces and as public art installations. We think of the work of our favorite artists, but perhaps we've only seen it on the Internet, never IRL (that's "in real life" for Internet newbies). Nevertheless, this work continues to be inspiring and meaningful to us.
But we haven't really come to terms with whether or not this is a valid way to see, experience, and understand art . . . or have we? Is this a discussion we still need to have, or is the discussion already over simply because we've all implicitly accepted that we can understand, be influenced by and judge art that we see online?
If we assume we can readily understand a painting or photograph we see online, what about performance art, time-based works or installations? This is not a new issue, since these media have always faced the issues of documentation, but when we don't experience art firsthand, and then mediate further through a screen, how does this alter our experience of the work? One thing we know is that documentation becomes increasingly important, since we all know bad photography can make good work look bad, and poor presentation can make complex works hard to understand.
In the spirit of continuing to explore/explode Mr. Walter Benjamin's idea of the "aura," OPP is tackling this idea head on by asking art critics to look at artists' work—not at a show in a gallery or museum—but through their artist websites.
The Critics Series for the OPPblog will see some of our favorite art critics writing about OPP artists' work, the challenges of online art viewing, and the website as gallery. Keep your eyes out for our first post on May 14!