Monday, March 16, 2009

He Out-Bopped the Buzzard and the Oriole

Finally got the chance to catch up on some museum shows yesterday. Not easy during art fair week or installation weeks, but Bambino, our dear friend Ondine, and I stopped in to see the Jenny Holzer exhibition at the Whitney (someone should set up a camera at the 4th floor to record how many jaws drop as new visitors step off the elevator). The exhibition is gorgeous, heartwrenching, and so ingeniously installed you know even as you're walking through it that you'll have to return at different times of the day to really experience it all. Next we dashed off to MoMA for the Martin Kippenberger exhibition, another triumph in my opinion, and another I'll need to return to, this time because of how dense it is. (We were dashing because we had tickets for the stunning Russian version of 12 Angry Men at Film about a day of sensory overload).

And so it is, in this multi-tasking, up-to-downtown traversing, culture consuming world we live in ... to really take it all in you'd need helicopters and machines that slow down you do the best you can and promise to return.

However, over the weekend, I also read what I think will become a new baseline in discussing how interconnectivity technology will impact how we view art. Ben Davis offers a paradoxically thoughtful response to his seemingly frantic Twittering of the New York Art fairs on
The experience [of an art fair] is one of colliding with people, having fragmentary conversations, being acutely aware that artworks are products in motion. Above all, it is an experience of registering fleeting esthetic impressions that jump out of the chaos and then melt back into it, like so many electrical signals shooting across your brain. . .

In other words, it sounds like a job for Twitter!

Yes, it's a handy conceit for reporting on yet another gaggle of fairs, but Ben's observations stuck with me as I saw dozens of visitors at MoMA and the Whitney snapping images and forwarding them on their iPhones:
Despite spending half of my time either slouched over my phone or thrusting it at things to take a picture, I have to say that I felt empowered to just inhabit the experience of being at the Armory week fairs in a way that I was not when I was trying to straddle being either a journalist or a critic at previous installations.
Here's the thing. Ben argues (accurately, in my opinion) that Twittering at a fair makes total sense, and even notes the important contextual difference between that venue and others:
The "as-it-happens" effect of Twitter adds something to your perspective as a writer -- it’s nice to give yourself license to cover artworks in their present, instead of squinting at them and abstracting them from the fair setting ("how would this look at the Whitney?")
But I found myself tempted to Twitter at the museums...if only as an experiment. This impulse was thwarted by the power of the exhibitions (as I pulled out my iPhone rounding a corner, another Holzer piece stopped me in my tracks and I abandoned the idea), even as other viewers were busy snapping photos and texting.

Ben reported a similar experience at the fairs, and it makes my chest swell with pride (really it does, feel it) that it was at our booth at Pulse:

As I turn my own experience over in my head, however, the moment that stands out for me is my encounter with an installation by Eve Sussman at Winkleman gallery.... The work consisted of a sort of countertop display of overlapping photos and texts. It was unclear immediately what I was looking at, except that it represented some kind of elliptical storyline. Dealer Ed Winkleman later told me that the pieces are connected to Sussman’s upcoming film, White on White: A Film Noir, an "experimental thriller" by Sussman tying Malevich’s esthetics to the Russian space program.

A heady project by a celebrated artist -- that’s really enough to produce some quick copy. But in the moment, confronted with the density of the actual object, I froze, trying to sum it up. And then I didn’t, moving on in search of something more immediately Tweet-worthy.

OK, so what's a dealer to do with this analysis?

We've brought plenty of Tweet-worthy art to fairs (it's a fun place to debut work that works well when multitudes are viewing it at the same time). And, yes, we've brought work to fairs that a certain high-profile New York art critic (who shall remain nameless) said to my face was the type he never stopped to view at fairs because he didn't have that much time. (Grrr....).

And so, for me, this changes nothing really, except perhaps adding some useful new vocabulary to the art fair lexicon. "Do you think we need to balance the booth out with something Tweet-worthy?"

What I am really curious about is how this might impact viewers' and collectors' experience. If everyone starts Twittering the fairs, what will that do to the already accelerating conversations and (G-d forbid) ability to close sales!?! ("Yeah, we're interested, but we're gonna wait to see how many responses our Tweet on it gets before deciding.")

Labels: Art Fairs, art market


Blogger George said...

And, yes, we've brought work to fairs that .... was the type he never stopped to view at fairs because he didn't have that much time.

It points out the shortcomings of art fairs and openings.

3/16/2009 09:20:00 AM  
Blogger J.T. said...


I totally agree with this assessment. In fact, on my recent trip to NYC (the week before the fairs), I wrote Twitter-esque thoughts about much of the art I saw and posted them as Facebook status updates. It was fantastic. Although I walked the streets by myself, I had at any one time a few people conversing with me about my statements. Some heated discussions took place and I haven't had the same thrill in many years of blogging.

Once I returned home I published the full list of status updates to my blog. You can see them here.

I apologize for not saying hi when I saw you during installation at the gallery. I didn't want to interrupt.

3/16/2009 09:48:00 AM  
Blogger kalm james said...

I think we have to consider the general direction this is leading. If Twittering and its ever shorting expressions are going to be the new language, we should leap-frog ahead and chop it down even more, to merely Twit.

We can all be proud Twits.

3/16/2009 10:40:00 AM  
Blogger Brandon Juhasz said...

Kalm James,




3/16/2009 10:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Oriane Stender said...

Acquiescing to the ever-shortening attention span of the consumer is another nail in the coffin of civilization.

For those who couldn't get through that sentence,


3/16/2009 11:11:00 AM  
Blogger Bromo Ivory said...

I have noticed a ever shortening attention span in our culture - I don't know if Twitter and IM are the chicken or egg in this situation, but the shortening ever-distracted culture we have has changed our way of thinking and undoubtedly has to be affecting the aesthetic. You can see it in the last 50 years to a degree, but given the exponential sense of acceleration in communication (less content but faster) - it is hard to sense the direction since it seems to be all directions at once.

I am not sure how an artwork that "pops" but has little else to offer will compare to one that is quiet but has a slow and subtle impact. I think there is room for both, and all points in between, in this new re-newing culture. I wonder what sort of art - what sort of art will win critical success, and what sort of art will win commercial success in this succinct, minimal, and immediate world.

I don't think our culture has risen or fallen - but the landscape of the mind is undergoing a periodic transformation - and naturally it isn't the first and last time. With extreme communication, where you are never quite out of touch, what sort of aesthetic experience are we going to move to?

(And what role art fairs, museums, etc?)

[As a side note - having been using computer networks since the late 80's - the impact of the easy, cheap and near immediate communication not bound by geography has, by and large, been entirely positive. I don't see that this new stuff will be anything but that, too]

3/16/2009 11:19:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Okay, so we've added one more way to share and communicate (with more ways coming in the near future). Is there a danger of art-information overload, and if so, what might the consequences be?

3/16/2009 12:45:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

Twitter encourages unedited, stream-of-consciousness comments on topics I don't necessarily find interesting. I prefer the longer forms: blog posts, and edited articles in print or online.

That said, there are folks who manage to do it all at once. My buddy Hrag Vartanian, for instance, has a blog (add dot com to his name) that incorporates blog posts along with tweets, flickr images and videos. Masterful.

And speaking of materful, Ed, your title reference is sublime.

Now for $1000, audience: Who is the singer of the 1958 doo-wop classic, Rockin' Robin? (Hint: He rocks in the treetop all the DAY long ...)

3/16/2009 12:57:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

you old people need to get with the program or face obsolescence.

By way of comparison look at the largely illiterate mob. Do they even care about art? No.

In the same way, those who do not Twitter, Facebook or otherwise engage face irrelevance.(I'm in no way privilegin' any one web site, social network or web community)

Sure, you might cling to some romantic notion that you are "holding out" against "philisitine hordes" of "Millenials" or "Cybertards" but what are you holding out against?

Shallowness? I beg to differ. Any conversation I've had in the art world (Chelsea) begings and ends with shallowness, mixed Twitteresque opinions. I'll bet you the information value of a Twitter meets or exceeds the average rant from anyone.

Oh no, you say, there is nothing like a face to face tete a tete. Person to person, mano a mano you always have deep discussions about the work while in your gallery, often with several very knowledgeable people with well thought out opinions that stretch to a thousand words or more, sometime three pages double spaced.

Right, and I have a bridge to sell you.

since when has anyone Titted about Bakunin's Carnivalesque? You say.

Well ditto for the art world. I bet most people just sit around getting high and talking about Ultimate Fighting (the best!) or what they ate for dinner a few nights back it was so wonderfull you should really try it BLAM!

(thats me, popping a cap in a babyboomer).

Carry on. But there's a whole world on the forest floor, and it doesn't charge admission, and doesn't care who you are.

Frankly I think you people are just a little bit intimidated by Twitter and the online culture you didn't grow up with and barely understand.

Oh yes, you cowards, lie all you want, but we know the truth.

3/16/2009 01:23:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

If only they'd invent an online lithium dispenser already.

3/16/2009 01:32:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

Tell me: do YOU twitter? I ask because the entries are limited to 140 characters, and I'm guessing you'd exceed your daily quota on one thought alone.

You old people. Online lithium dispensers are so last century.

3/16/2009 02:05:00 PM  
Blogger Bromo Ivory said...

Just Twittered re:Lithium. LOL. Ed, U R l33t!

(And ZIP, I don't "understand" Twitter? I was in the group and time frame that invented that medium - and as a consequence, I am more of an amphibian than a fish in those waters. Happy about it, too! Ribbit! LOL)

3/16/2009 02:28:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I accidentally rejected a comment from Zipthwung that I meant to publish. My apologies.

Here it is.

Again, this comment was added by Ziptwhung:

Old Media. Roll it around like a good Chianti. Spit it out! You don't want to get drunk on nostalgia. Eat some cheese and try the next one: Ambient Awareness.

Who's party is it anyways?

I missed the digital Yacht as well, never pays to be too early, even when adopting - took the Commodore 64 Chris-Craft out - still trying to get to the State Room, bro. Harsh realm. Totally Steam Punk. The internet is tubular, and yet not. 140 words. Piece of cake.

Twitter is so dumb though, what about the term "草泥马" everybody is talking about? Polysemy. Don't uncork it until it's time.

3/16/2009 03:01:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

Thanks ed. I just set up a WEP password on my Wifi. 64 bit hexadecimal encryption (I used my phone number as it is conveniently 10 digits long). I'm not that paranoid, and besides it takes more processing power to go higher, which would cut down on performance. Necessity is a mother. What a waste of my time.

In other news, the foam topping the wave in my painting is making me insecure - my question to gallerists and conoisseurs -

if the painting has a sweet spot (with 20-30 vision) of about three to four feet, do I have to worry about those a-holes who get right up on it and go "the paint doesnt hold up when you get close".

thanks in advance.

keyword "later"

3/16/2009 03:26:00 PM  
Blogger joy said...

sweet spot

note to self: don't forget to twitter "sweet spot" as a good title for a show.

3/16/2009 03:45:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Edward, you've probably seen this. I like it, even though the author's view is conflicted ("I'm kind of aghast" ... "I genuinely look forward").

3/16/2009 05:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Oriane said...

Did Zipth actually say "What a waste of my time"?

Commenter, heed thyself.

And how do you know how old people are?

Also, everyone faces obsolescence. Some of us just get there faster.

3/16/2009 06:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

I just ran into a couple of comments by Zip at the blog of why the lucky stiff, which is interesting, because Zip is what you'd end up with if you started with _why and subtracted talent, sincerity, and joy.

An object's artistic success doesn't correlate to the number of words it caused people to write, and that holds as true as when the publishing medium produces whole books as when it curtails expression to 140 characters. I tend to think that a finely crafted tweet might sum a work up perfectly, even a complex and thoughtful work. One would need quite a talent for brevity, of course.

3/16/2009 10:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

I am surprised that they let people take pictures at the Whitney. They're nearly the most uptight museum I can imagine (apart those in Canada) on the snapshot issue. I often critique how badly the past Whitney biennials are documented, because the catalogs are published before the events (it's not what you see), and no efforts are made
to show the art online during or after the event, unless you're lucky enough to get a topo by Vernissage TV.

My impression is that the youth will not be so obsessed by issues of copyrights, and I really can't wait to see how that will affect archives services that have been hiding their jewels for so long. I was writting to the Lumière Institute recently that I can only think of 85 films from their catalog that have been released on DVD out of 1408! That's old people for you.

As far as time is concerned, I can see that the Sussman piece is complex, and I was forced to abandon the viewing of her work in another biennial because it was lasting 2 hours and they were 120 other artists to see (it really was just a movie, something that should be presented in theatres). I'll admit I try myself not to visit shows anymore if their PR reads that there is a huge quantity of materials to peruse, or 4 hours of videos to watch (unless they are simple, slow-evolving matters like "24 hour psycho"). They are exceptions.
The last Sophie Calle show was thorough but there was a nifty publication that went with it that delivered everything (including all videos on DVD). Publications are a must for demanding projects like these. Otherwise only the artist (or buyer) gets the fun of browsing the archive of their own work, and I'm left as a viewer with very vague souvenirs such as "I remember there were 1000 drawings on a wall...", which is not very enthralling.


PS: Oriole makes me think of the Cocteau Twins. "At times I've seen you from the oriole, at times I've seen you from the balustrade" (pre-raphaelite bullshit rock).

3/16/2009 10:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

The Eve Sussman work I am referring to is the Rape Of Sabine which confusingly have been represented both in film festivals and museums (I mean, in exhibit spaces).

I would gladly look it on a DVD some day.


3/16/2009 10:40:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Dunno about tweet twits, seems like short change for something even slightly worthwhile.

I spent Sunday afternoon at MOMA, the Martin Kippenberger exhibition is a killer, awesome attitude rules the day. A point worth noting.

Go zip, ornate sound of velcro in the dark while lithium batteries the light.

3/17/2009 12:35:00 AM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

I dont care what my fans think bro.

They are


Kathy Grayson is ok in my book. If you want to talk datamoshing or my suckiness maybe I'll start a blog or something.

3/17/2009 03:19:00 AM  

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