Monday, May 17, 2010

The Only Thing Worse Than Being Talked About Is Having It Permanently Archived

Probably two ideas barely connected, but flowing out of my fingertips as one post, so....

Perhaps its the longevity of it, I don't actually know, but I feel myself pulling away from social networks more and least when it comes to personal information. At one point I had thought that the sheer volume of highly personal commentary via Twitter and Facebook would neutralize the occasional poor choice or embarrassing revelations and render all the chatter more or less blandish noise in the end, but as the social networks age a bit I'm sensing a more skeptical awareness growing.

Perhaps it's an awareness that we've become susceptible to the plight of the politician. Anything you do can be dug up and used against you at some later point in life. For most of us, this is probably limited to having to admit we've matured and changed our minds about this or that. For others it might include an awkward explanation someday of why just because Mommy and/or Daddy wrote or were caught in a photograph doing something when they were young doesn't make it OK for YOU to do it.

There was a time when the foibles of one's youth were the tightly kept secrets of a small group of friends or acquaintances whose memory could be questioned if they later used such information against you. Now, even if you think you're being careful, full accounts of others' impressions of your actions can end up online. I do think the benefits of online communities outweigh the potential problems for the most part. The ability to learn, share, organize and become a part of a like-minded group has huge advantages...I just think a bit of mystery, if not good-old fashioned deniability, serves the human socialization process well.

I'd like to say there is no personal reason I'm musing about this this morning. It's simply an observation of what I've heard more and more recently as I talk with people: a growing sense that what had originally seemed harmless fun might not be quite so benign with time. (There actually are no scandals or breaking stories about me that I know of.) But I did notice a few comments about people I know and admire on another blog about the art world that made me cringe and wish the now only semi-anonymous author of it would grow a pair, reveal he's the one sponsoring so much venom spewing, and face the consequences of his creation.

Indeed, in my opinion, passionate freedom of speech is actually most useful when fear of being punched in the face (or being ostracized) encourages a more diplomatic expression of objections or ideas. There may be times when you don't care about the risks and bray your thoughts boldly anyway, but being able to spew whatever you like and not have to own it can't be what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they crafted the First Amendment. This is why anonymous caustic comments on blogs get under my skin...the person is cheating the system.

I think if you're gonna insist something has to be shared, that at least you have the guts to sign your name to it. This notion that "So-and-so is wrong, but I don't want to be subjected to their wrath..." reminds me of the scene in The Informant where Matt Daimon's character is asked "How can you stay there when you've just taken down the company?" He doesn't see why anyone would be upset with him, even though a government agent gently lets him know "Well, I think the corporate culture is going to change a little bit for you."

What Daimon's character didn't realize is that there's a big difference in effecting change from within (meaning in person, with your name attached) versus a sneaky push from the outside. Both have their advantages if the goal is change, but while it's noble to bring down a corrupt system and perhaps you'll be its new hero if it's clear you kept the baby and only tossed the bathwater, it's idiotic to expect a system to welcome you with open arms if you tear it down from the outside. Who could trust you again?

Labels: arts blogging, social networks


Blogger Duckrabbit Digital said...

There is a an anonymity in the internet that I think happens even if you use your real name.

The abstraction of the interaction (computer-computer vs face-face) makes it much easier to react from the gut. I'm thinking of Jerry Saltz, and how he gets a lot of criticism for basically writing whatever comes to mind. It is much less polished, and much more emotional, than his published pieces. It is interesting, because, really, he just doesn't censor himself. He talks like he speaks, But, in the past, public figures were more careful about the image that they presented to the public. It was a refined version of their opinions, with the emotional reactions carefully edited. But social media, and engagement with such, has created cases like Saltz' where a quick Google search of his name turns up as many articles about his Facebook rantings as it does his criticism.

5/17/2010 10:21:00 AM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

I certainly have a love/hate (well, a like/dislike)relationship with Facebook. I do like the way it allows artists to be casual friends, especially since so many of us are engaged in non-social activities during the day. But the model, which seems to be geared to 16-year-olds--who's now friends with whom--is annoying, and the endless requests to become a fan of Josephine Schmo, artist, or the local Nissan dealership (seriouisly!)is exasperating. The privacy issues, as you bring up, are serious and seem to be getting more so. Each time I post, I think, "This is the last one." Then someone sends a great reply to a post of mine, or everyone's favorite art critic instigates another interesting thread and I'm pulled back in.

So far I have resisted Twitter, which brings out the least interesting in people ("Going into the subway now"). And it's being archived by the Library of Congress?! It's not the privacy issue that concerns me here; it's that Twitter, having lowered the common deniminator of expression to the verbal equivalent of a burp, is being e-archived. E-eek.

5/17/2010 10:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Gam said...

then there are the doppler-gangers. I have at least two in two different cities. People are aghast at the realization they just hugged the wrong dude and still think I am him. Then I am aghast at the times when the dudes think I am the wrong dude. Life can be humorous!

Then there are those in cyberspace whose persistent peccadilloes you have to hope others are discerning enough not to confuse with yours, but that doesn't necessarily hold true when you need it the most.

The cyber mask of anonymity has a confusing companion mask of doppler-identiities to add to the ir-reality of the internet.

Identity crisis is a cyber norm.

5/17/2010 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger EAGEAGEAG said...

You don't make up the rules. You can complain about them, but that is about it. The art world is not immune to harsh criticism, whether it comes from a semi-anonymous source, a completely anonymous source (if it exists), or a known entity. As you so succinctly put it in other posts, there are any number of reasons why certain people who post content on the Internet choose to remain semi-anonymous. If you are saying that whoever does so is "ball-less" (I guess that leaves women out of the equation) you are making a sweeping generalization. If you are saying that it is understandable, only in certain circumstances, to remain semi-anonymous when posting content online, then you should say so. Semi-anonymous comments won't go away, just because they are critical in nature.

5/17/2010 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger Iris said...

I'm very curious to know what you are referring to, but of course you don't want to give it more attention.

The surest way to avoid conflict is to not allow comments at all, as in some blogs. However, that is really throwing the baby out, and not even full proof prevention - comments can still be posted in other places on the internet.

Personally I would rather keep quiet and say nothing if I'm too afraid of the consequences of stating my true opinion, but I can understand preferring to state your opinion anonymously rather than not at all. I would not agree to punches below the belt, but there's a reason voting is confidential. If you are allowed to vote anonymously, you should be also allowed to express your opinion in the same way (though not signing your name may be considered less reliable - there's a price for everything). But of course I don't mean defamation, and since I don't know what you are referring to I'm not sure if that's the case.

5/17/2010 11:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is a pen name? Is that okay with you? Did you know painters often used pseudonyms" The 20th-century art historian Bernard Berenson methodically identified numerous early Renaissance Florentine and Sienese workshops under such sobriquets as "Amico di Sandro" for an anonymous painter in the immediate circle of Sandro Botticelli."

What about Voltaire and Ben Franklin?

Be real will ya!!!!!! You know how political the art world is and that's why no one writes things that need to be said without being anonymous. A few writers in the later part of their careers (who have already "made it") have come out strong on issues, but otherwise there would be none )except for one in particular that you have publicly went after more than once). There are tissues that need to be talked about and for now there is no other way to do that.

Read this if you want to do some research, a normal thing writers do before writing an article, book, or post??? There are many other good sources of information too on this topic.

Anyone who enters the public eye should be ready to be criticized, it is the law of the land btw.

Anon and proud of it.

5/17/2010 11:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what about graffiti artists who use pseudonymous tags? is semi-anonymous vandalism ball-less?

some of the best artblogs have been anonymous/pseudonymous... it's a capability of the medium... an artist would be derelict not to exploit that.

what you say annoys you - that "the person is cheating the system" - is rad.

5/17/2010 12:03:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...


first, I never mentioned can be challenged to "grow a pair of ovaries" too...your read of my text as being sexist is probably my fault, but I assure you it's a red herring to pursue it.

second, ironic that you would demand that "then you should say so..." Is that one of the rules you allude to? The rules you seem privvy to but insist others don't get to make up? :-P

The art world is not immune to harsh criticism, whether it comes from a semi-anonymous source, a completely anonymous source (if it exists), or a known entity.

Another red herring (I never suggested harsh criticism was off bounds). My point is that if you want your harsh criticism to be truly constructive rather than destructive it helps if you sign your name to it...if you work with respect toward the others you're hoping to influence...if you want them to treat you with respect afterward as well....

The part of this that really annoys me is when someone I know writes truly horrific things anonymously online will then be polite to my face, assuming I haven't connected the dots. Their viciousness online make their cheerful obsequiousness in person all the more revolting.

I'd respect them much more if they had the conviction to be rude to my face and not just anonymously online.

I mean it's not like I intend to ever lend them a hand professionally anyway, so what are they hiding for?

5/17/2010 12:15:00 PM  
Anonymous EAGEAGEAG said...

Sorry but I think I dealt directly with the subject you brought up. I personally have no interest in helping the people I criticize on my blog. I don't plan on writing reviews of any exhibition they have anything to do with and I certainly don't plan on sending them my portfolio or asking them for help networking, etc. The semi-anonymity of bloggers and people who leave comments on blogs will always be around. I remain semi-anonymous because my job and life has nothing to do with the art world and I want to curse and include nudity in my cartoons. That is why I don't plaster my name all over the blog. In terms of having a fair fight with my targets, they are welcome to leave concise and biting comments on my blog. Attack the attacker all you want. It is brain versus brain so do your best. Regarding your complaint about two-faced people in the art world, good luck with changing that.

5/17/2010 12:35:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Ohhhhh!!! Now it makes sense to me.

You probably think this song is about you. Don't you?

No, EAG...I don't read your blog.

5/17/2010 12:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't believe that Mr. Winkleman truly wants to do away with anonymity. That would mean no whistle blowers like for oil spills, or freedom fighters like our founding father's etc.

No I think he is for censorship because he would not want to stop people from reporting crimes without revealing their names, only not to dis certain people on certain topics.

This gets dangerous too. I think if something is said that is untrue either people will know it or the wrongly done can say it is untrue. Look at the candidates for higher office, yikes!

I guess you didn't enjoy Coagula much since they were mostly anon wtiters. People need to lighten up. Of course there are cases of character assassination and other down right crimes, but I don't think you are talking about that either.

It strikes me funny that in a way by not revealing the subjects you refer to in this post, you are coming close to a kind of anonymity yourself. Why not reveal all the facts? And you have comment moderation on too?

5/17/2010 12:39:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

your basic assumption is wrong, 12:39:00 anonymous...

I am taking about cases of debatable character assassination. Things that would likely have to lead to libel suits if published by journalists who signed their names.

Anyone who reads here regularly (or searches the archives for past posts on related issues) will know exactly who I'm talking about.

Love Coagula. It was no real secret who was writing, nor are the vast majority of vicious blog swipes I'm referring to anywhere near as well written. You're fishing without bait for valid criticism here...

Comment moderation? I posted your comment. What's your point?

5/17/2010 12:56:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Think I should make one thing clearer here...

I would accept unpleasant anonymous swipes from people who had no intention of ever sucking up to the people they're criticizing (I wouldn't respect it any more, but I'd live with it), but the blog thing has gone on long enough now that I'm seeing some of the same folks who put out all kind of truly awful statements about other people now expect to be treated civilly by the targets of their attacks. This is the long-term effects of these often half- or entirely un-informed attacks I'm getting at here...

People have long memories, you do stand a good chance of being connected to your writing eventually, and so you should think long and hard about spewing out venom today just because you think you can get away with it.

5/17/2010 01:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is a pity that people use anonymous as an excuse to be asses, because there are so many positive reasons to post as anon, not the least of which is to protect one's privacy. Depending on how paranoid you are, you might even argue that it give identity thieves and stalkers less dots to connect about you and your habits.

Of course we all know that another reason pseudonyms and the like have been used for eons is that there is something about the writer's identity that would cause their work not to be accepted, or would be perceived differently.

“For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.”

Somehow, a pair of ovaries just doesn't have the same connotation as a pair of balls.

5/17/2010 02:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is an interesting topic - and hope it goes further, but I don't mean toward negativity. I favorr civility. I don't like the commenters who spew venom or attack people. I think you've been fair to commenters on the blog, and I applaud you for blocking the offensive, negative stuff.

Question: are you saying that even though some people post annonymously on your blog, that you are able (through tracking? or something) to know, or have an idea of who and/or where they are? Is "technology" like that available?


5/17/2010 02:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Gam said...

out of topic but related. No idea of what has got you ticked Ed, (and no need to know) but as much as people might rant on you here or elsewhere,
here's a big thanks for taking the time to blog on art and things as you see them. Your efforts and opinions are valued at least by this reader and others here I am sure. We may not always agree with your intent, but I always agree your postings are worth the read.

pseudonymiated to avoid confusing my identity, not to distort the appropriating of my proper opinions.

5/17/2010 02:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know if Ed is referring to "how's my dealing" here - I know that Ed doesn't have a high opinion of that blog - and yes by its very nature it does open itself up to some pretty tough stuff but I do think it serves a useful function - and anecdotally some of the harshest stuff isn't out of step with the word on the street.

5/17/2010 02:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Bernard Klevickas said...

"Anyone who reads here regularly (or searches the archives for past posts on related issues) will know exactly who I'm talking about."

??- not true. I've followed your blog for some time and I'm still at a loss, but find it an interesting mystery.

Anonymity is one of the few options artists out there have to debate about a system that is an inherently unbalanced power play, and I don't blame any artists for being timid to put their name to a negative or complaining comment. Artists seem to be expected to be wallflowers and any negativity can mean this or that curator decides to pass them up.

If a few use that Anonymity to get under your skin, I feel sorry for you, and hope that you bravely continue to carry on.

5/17/2010 03:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ED. Two questions if you please:

Have you ever read an anonymous comment on the blog and wished to know who was writing it because you wanted to honestly wanted to congratulate them and facilitate some kind of continued dialog with a real person?

Have you ever wanted to know the identity of an anonymous because their words really angered you and you wanted to damage their reputation if you could?

I suppose answering the second one is a test of your honesty in a way. We all feel that way from time to time in the professional world, though it being vindictive and in poor taste to actually act on it. Art forums are both social and political in a way. On the one hand we want to say what is important to us to aid in the posterity of something (in our opinion). On the other hand it's a gossipy realm and can actually hurt your reputation as well.


5/17/2010 03:49:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

If a few use that Anonymity to get under your skin, I feel sorry for you, and hope that you bravely continue to carry on.

Not actually talking about myself, as I've noted, so no need to feel sorry for me (thanks all the same)...and I suspect the hard working people I get upset for when I see them criticized can handle it (I just want to stand up for them). But I have to say that this divide between galleries and artists you suggest justifies all the nasty comments is only made stronger by such tactics. It makes each side trust the other less. In that way, I feel it's counterproductive.

I'd rather see efforts to demystify the whole thing, open up the processes, seek accountability through increased transparency of best practices, the law, the goals of each party, etc....but the kind of mean-spirited crap I see online and see defended here makes me want to pull away. It leads me to think "Let 'em figure it out for themselves if they're that unable to empathize with others."

So all these calls for speaking truth to power and other such defenses of throwing sticks from behind a screen (especially where there are examples of artists NOT afraid to name names readily available, like the organizers of #class) are entirely unconvincing to me.

5/17/2010 03:52:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

One of the (many) Anons this post writes: "Somehow, a pair of ovaries just doesn't have the same connotation as a pair of balls."

Right, because ovaries hanging from the back of a pickup truck don't have the same gravitas.

BTW, I agree that going anonymous can be useful from time to time, but if the point is to say something negative to or about a person, then grow a pair (of ovaries) and use your real name.

5/17/2010 04:03:00 PM  
Blogger nathaniel said...

Tangentially but not off-topic, I tend to try to not only be civil, but generous online - and have a history, on my now mostly defunct blog, of reviewing shows very constructively by lesser known artists when I lived in Joburg. Despite this, I still run into trouble, every now and again, because of the very occasional stupid/mean/destructive comment I post when I just happen to be in a bad mood. It happens, ya know? I try not to mood-comment (I guess the equivalent of drunk calling?) any more / as much as I used to (I tried doing so anonymously a couple of times, at least, but I agree that it feels even dirtier), but I slip up now and again, and, I'll tell ya, it hurts. It hurts because when people call me on it, I know they're right.
Friends don't let friends moody comment?

5/17/2010 04:05:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Two Questions Anon:

In both cases I am pretty sure I would simply use this forum to ask the person the questions I wanted answers to and would not seek to figure out who they were through any other means (my hit count service is nowhere near sophisticated enough to do that anyway). Probably depends on the offense in the second case though.

I suppose answering the second one is a test of your honesty in a way.

Quick note on that: setting up my (or anyone's) answer that way suggests it doesn't need to be asked (you're supplying what you assert is the only acceptable and possibly truthful answer). One has to wonder why even ask it if you're not willing to entertain that the answer is other than you're asserting (or are you a lawyer???).

Honestly, I don't think I have ever sought to damage someone's reputation in any professional context. I do you note, it's a gossipy realm...but only Bambino hears my real thoughts on people who have, IMO, wronged me...others might get a watered down version from time to time, but I'm fairly generous even then, I think. If you've heard me rail angrily against someone, in general you can safely assume I'm about 10 times more upset that I'm letting on. :-)

5/17/2010 04:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Bernard Klevickas said...

The plot thickens! Ed, you did write "grow a pair" in your post! Some terminology just doesn't work today, the current ones are overtly sexist, etc. yet there are no perfect replacements- being called a ballsy painter for instance (as an example slightly different than quoted but often used).

That aside, you did write: "I did notice a few comments about people I know and admire on another blog about the art world that made me cringe and wish the now only semi-anonymous author of it would grow a pair."

I do think you are taking it personally, even though it was not directed at you. I want to find the comment myself, but do not want to risk losing my job spending the time to find it.

Seemingly unrelated but: Your blog is moderated, so how are we to know what doesn't get through? So far you have been fair to my ranting, but who's to know about the writing of others.
And when comments are un-moderated the worst of someone can come out, but others can openly dispute the comment.

How often does something like #class happen? ONCE. The mob of discontented, disenfranchised individuals out there will not be satiated by one tiny opportunity to rant.

A person in a position of power (even if, in the big scope of the BIG world is a tiny amount of power) is not going to allow that power to be openly challenged. Comments that seem benign may still have undercurrents that put dealers, curators, collectors, gallerists, other artists, etc. at unease.
At this point I feel I'm shouting at a shadow, because I do not have enough information to go on to feel relevant to the issue at hand.

5/17/2010 04:34:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I'm sorry folks, time (and patience) for this has run out today...chalk it up to a pointless rant... :-)

5/17/2010 04:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A few weeks ago on the Arizona law post I typed out a comment that wasn't added. I forget exactly what I said but know it was a little bitchy and inadequately left leaning for this forum. Partly, I was perturbed because it struck me as cruel and unfair that a New York gallerist would ridicule poor, white, country Walmart shoppers as a way to make a political point. Seems those people aren't deserving of empathy but New York artists and gallerists with insufficiently gratified egos and pocketbooks are.

I've avoided the blog until today out of shame. All of this inner turmoil for an unposted anonymous post. Pretty stupid.

I do feel a bit cowardly posting anonymously but I also wish for my thoughts to be judged on their own. I don't want to be laughed at like those Walmart people.


5/17/2010 06:09:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Screw the mob of discontented, disenfranchised individuals out there. I've been an artist a long time and the kind of forum that Ed provides here is unique (as in one of a kind) In the past there was nowhere to go, besides maybe your friends, to find out a little bit about the inner workings of the artworld.

Obviously I don't cringe away from debate, nor does Ed, but I don't feel that he has ever tried to do much other than state his opinion into a context where healthy debate can occur. But, unlike the drive by shooters, he puts the time and effort into the daily topic and makes these discussions possible.

This is more than a simple chat room, for members of the art community it is as if Ed invited us to his home. I think it calls for the same sort of etiquette. The birth of the internet has made this a unique period in history by creating the possibilities for a new kind of interactive community.

I've noticed that the current moment feels uneasy, somewhat hostile or subject to misunderstanding. All I can suggest is to take a deep breath and reconsider, or disconnect for a bit until the moment passes.

5/17/2010 06:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

"Semi-anonymous" hints that the venomous blogger is not just anybody, because most people would still remain anonymous even if they mentioned their name.

This thread is a whodunit novel. Now we'll just be wondering for a month who the darn post was about. I hope Edward doesn't ban comments that can give a good hint. Because I'm curious!! (And bored, I guess)

Cedric C

5/17/2010 06:57:00 PM  
Blogger Duckrabbit Digital said...

@George: Here, here!

5/17/2010 09:38:00 PM  
Blogger Iris said...

I agree with George, this blog is a unique opportunity for discussion which Ed is generous to provide, but I must say I have been reading daily for the past 3 months, and occasionally before that, and I didn't notice and still can't pinpoint what is referred to, I thought Ed was referring to comments in another blog. I have enjoyed the discussions here but there may have been things going on behind the scenes. I am only starting to become familiar with what is called 'The Artworld', but am old enough to be prepared for the mix of personalities, politics, currents, nice people and not so nice people in this world as in any other. Artists/curators/dealers/collectors etc are all just people. Not 'Fine' people, even though they work with 'Fine Art', just people. It's a mistake to assume a person is refined just because they have an appreciation for fine art, it may be true in some cases, but not in all. It is what it is. We can rant about it, we can try to take things our way, the way we believe things should be, and that's all we can do. Just stay focused on what it is that keeps us here from the start, and believe in it, look for it and raise the flag. We are here because of love, not hate, we are here to make things better. We can get angry, but sometimes we just need to move on.

5/17/2010 10:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Labron said...

I'm not sure how seriously folks respond to virtual anan. swipes and slanders. For me their alure lies not so much in their truth, but in an overcooked passion and a tasty questioning "could he/she be possibly onto something"? I think it's kinda like all-star wrestling, ufo chat sites and reality programs where belief is not important for the spectacle to work.

5/17/2010 10:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Hang on a second - I'm totally here for the hate.

I'm kidding. As someone who went from a blog with unmoderated comments to a blog-like thing with no comments at all, I've seen just about every version of disclosure, anonymity, and pseudonymity possible. They all involve trade-offs between credibility and unfettered expression for the commenters, and between different flavors of headache for the host. But in any case it is much easier to say something intemperate anonymously. This is a well-known phenomenon called John Gabriel's Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory.

5/17/2010 11:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Tom said...

Totally agree with what you were saying about on there that I never want to see the light of day. And not much I can do about it.

5/18/2010 07:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Gam said...

yikes ... if this is concerning the other site mentioned above, I think I'd be more then peeved too. Whistler went to court for less I'd say. Beyond the inanity, what happens if a consortium of galleries pools some funds to purchase said forum of innuendo and reputation bashing to generate a burgundy list of whiners?

If the posters there have grounds for charges then lay them, otherwise the innuendo is more then childish.

Not my favorite reading material over there. Makes me thankful not to be in that art orbit for once.
yeah I'd be annoyed to read such. I don't get the perceived need for such postings. Maybe they are in training for the National Enquirer?

5/18/2010 08:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Gam said...

interesting older talk on shadow economies over at

fact isn't just information ....its actionable information, its information you can absolutely trust, can be compared and identified

Although De Soto is discussing impediments to social development and economical sustainability (via hidden economies and the need for property rights), it is an interesting parallel to innuendo's impact on social intercourse. Wven puts into question the value of anonymity of the internet.

5/19/2010 07:54:00 AM  

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