Art Blogs: A Questionaire. Part One of Two

by Art Fag City on November 1, 2007 Events


Image via: Art In America

Kriston Capps over at Grammar Police responds to Peter Plagens interview with bloggers in Art in America by making a meme out of the questions asked. Even if the response is, as Capps points out, very 2003, it’s hard not to feel warm nostalgic feelings for the form and complete the survey. My responses below.

What’s the purpose of your blog?

Underlying premise of Art Fag City probably matches those of most other blogs in the profession: To talk about art and encourage conversation. Past this, I try to give emerging artists and galleries in New York exposure they might not receive otherwise. I cover a lot artists without representation including those working in the field of net art, whose community still feels unnecessarily separate from the larger New York Fine Art world.

Although I’m not sure AFC has the media watch dog status Capps refers to when he mentions the original purpose of blogs, pointing out bullshit is also part of the blog mandate. I don’t want to over state the blog’s interest in such work, but it’s also not a bad part of the job.

What are the boundaries of your blog?

Art Fag City boundaries are largely determined by subjects I don’t know too much about. For example, I don’t cover American politics, because I didn’t grow up here and therefore can’t begin to understand why the past two elections yielded such disastrous results. I also tend not to discuss the economics of the art market here, and museum news because I don’t follow it that closely and there are other people who do it better.

Tyler has cited Joy Garnett’s NewsGrist blog [hyperlink added —ed.] as doing a great job of “placing art within a sociocultural and political context.” What I see on NewsGrist is a magazinelike interspersing of short profiles, exhibition reviews, op-ed pieces on how other people are covering things, and Village Voice—like political takes. But what does Tyler’s comment mean to you, and why are blogs in general better positioned than print to do what he describes?

Blogs aren’t inherently better at “placing art within a sociocultural and political context” than print; in the case of Joy Garnett I suspect it’s simply a matter of interest and chosen medium. It’s probably useful to point out however, that while reblogging content is common practice on the net, books reprinting found material are a specialized genre. While I suspect these types of books will eventually become less rarefied, I doubt republishing will ever have the currency it does on the web due to differences in user navigation.

Why can’t blogs go further, to the point where there’s hardly any discernible difference between artist and critic/commentator, blog and work of art?

Blogging isn’t a magic elixir with the power to transform its practitioners and products into one super product.  The professional art world works in much the same way on the net as it does in real life; critics are critics, artists are artists, and cross overs are rare. Probably the closest thing resembling cross over to appear on AFC, was published last spring when I inserted a Dana Schutz portrait into a celebrity look a like application. But it still didn’t turn my blog into a work of art.  It simply changed the percentage of artistic content contributed by the editor.

What scope and degree of editorial control do you exercise over your blog?

It’s all mine…for better or worse.

What about posting comments from readers, and what about anonymity?

I generally don’t allow anonymous posting, but I’ll wave the rule for someone who’s writing something interesting. Conversely, those who are acting inappropriately don’t have their comments approved regardless of whether a valid email has been provided.

What’s “trolling,” and why don’t some of you allow it?

A troll is someone who posts provocative statements simply to get a rise out of me or my readers. Since these statements sometimes take the form of death or rape threats, I don’t allow them.

Is trolling really so easily identified and universally bad? Is having posters register a solution?

Yes. Most trolls are very obvious, and their comments do nothing but waste a bloggers time. Art Fag City has unfortunately had to manage trolls in the past and have found that the best solution is to sign them up for penis enlargement spam and block their IPs.

What about liability coverage?

What the hell for? Carpal tunnel?

What’s the economic model of your blog?

Barry Hoggard and Jen Bekman are probably the best person to answer this question, since they’ve actually managed to make the web pay. As for myself, Art Fag City costs me more money in time, hosting and design expenses than i’ll ever make back in traffic and advertising. However, I do receive quite a bit of work as a result of the writing I do here, so in that way I probably come out ahead.
How do you see your blog’s relation to the established print art media?

I see myself as a web writer, so I feel like I’m working in a slightly different field. I don’t actively pursue print art media jobs, and tend seek out stories that are best suited to the web. I suppose it’s a matter of interest more than anything else.

How do you attract readers/posters other than by word of mouth?

It sounds more impressive to say that content and word of mouth is all I do for readership, but anyone who tells you this is omitting all the other work they do for readership, which can be quite significant. Like any other profession, networking online and off usually only increases your profile. This can take the form of linking to others; a practice that essentially lets people know you’re out there, joining social networking groups such as facebook or myspace, (bulletins sent out on these sites tend to generate a lot of traffic), and even general email correspondence can increase your readership. In the real world, speaking on panels, going to art openings, attending any number of blogging events tends to help raise your profile.  Basically, anything that keeps a story tip from being automatically routed someone’s junk mail helps build a readership.

In general, is blog art criticism more open and liberal, and print criticism more closed and conservative?

Print criticism is edited more than the average blog entry, which can result in more conservative writing, but I’m not sure thinking about print and web media in such binary terms is all that useful. The major differences in medium, to my mind come from linking, and editing (publishing time is over valued as point of contrast in my opinion, since it mostly tends to effect editing anyway.) Speaking to the subject of editors, in an offline conversation I had with Tom Moody last year, he told me that for all the good print magazines did in fact checking, they usually undid it by compromising a writer’s specificity of intended meaning for flow. In other words, the subtle difference between one adjective and another means something to the art critic and often shouldn’t be messed with. That said, my edited work tends to be far better, so unless I meet a truly horrible editor, I’m usually happy for the revisions.

Some people say that there’s a dearth of art criticism at length on blogs. Is this true? If so, does it have more to do with reading on a computer in general, or with art criticism in particular?

This may be true, but I suspect there’s more around than is credited simply because those who write longer pieces often break them up into multiple postings. Speaking of which, this seems like a good place to end on. Look forward to tomorrow’s post Art Blogs, Part Two of Two.

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