Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Perils of Viral Means of Communication

Part of me really just wants to sit back and enjoy the confusion, but part of me feels guilty for what I suspect will eventually embarrass otherwise well-meaning people. I noted a while back that an April Fools Joke I posted here (on April 1, 2010) has spiraled out through the Internets and was being reported as true in some places. Now the same (incorrect) item has found its way into a serious New York source for culture news [h/t Helen S]. From the New York Observer:
The artist and James Franco met last year at the Raleigh Hotel during Art Basel Miami. Mr. Franco was in the midst of filming his own artistic investigation of soaps, his own role as an artist/serial killer on the soap, while Mr. Linzy was performing at a party thrown by Picasso granddaughter (by Marie-Therese) Diana Picasso. But Mr. Franco said he actually first saw the artist when Mr. Linzy gave a lecture at Columbia, and was impressed enough to pull him into the job of playing a performance artist for the General Hospital project. Since Mr. Franco has been selected as the U.S. artist for the 2011 Venice Biennale, their collaboration may be showcased on a global stage. So, now, Mr. Linzy is poised, interestingly, right between widespread acclaim, even over-saturation, in the contemporary art world, and virtual anonymity outside of it. [emphasis mine]
I mean, really now...the New York Observer wasn't just a little skeptical that one of the highest honors the US can bestow upon its artists was being given to a relative newcomer in the fine art areana?

There's this notion I have about "truth" (in the art world or elsewhere) as it pertains to the value of some effort which is that I tend to assimilate as "true" anything I've read in three places. I think this extends to my art world assessments that an artist is well known (if I've read three reviews of their work) or that a gallery is up and coming (if I've seen three instances of increased stature) or that a curator is onto something, etc. etc. Before my main source of new information was the Internet, when I read magazines or newspapers for verifications, that generally turned out to be accurate. Today, however, with RSS feeds and other instant-distribution-via-multiple-channels-type-technologies, I can read something untrue but presented as true many more than three times before the sweat from the fingers of the original author has dried on their keyboard.

So what to do? Increase my threshold to 13 or 23?

I'm not sure. In the end, I've decided, it's wise to take any information you find online, in any source, with a digital grain of salt.

Back when I was writing on political blogs...after being slammed a few times for not having checked my sources...I got in the habit of not only verifying what I thought was "true" in three reliable sources, but also systematically seeking out sources that contradicted the "fact" and assessing their veracity. At the very least, I was going to write my opinion with a good sense of what the dissenters thought about the issue. This generally made my arguments stronger, despite how time consuming it was. And I wasn't being paid (I'm just anal that way). The New York Observer really has no excuse.

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8 Comments:

Anonymous David said...

EW, how much do you charge for your April Fools publicity service? My next solo show is in March/April 2011 here in Santa Monica. James Franco will be at the opening :-)

6/17/2010 12:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Oriane Stender said...

Is any of the following stuff true? It sounds a bit Aprils Foolsy to me.

http://blogs.artinfo.com/artintheair/2010/06/10/thespian-artist-scholar-james-franco-heads-to-yale-and-risd/

6/17/2010 02:49:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

In a world where Paris Hilton is a celebrity, and in an artworld that is ever more fashionized and celebritized--most interestingly,former Gucci designer Tom Ford as a filmmaker; most egregiously, Sylvester Stallone as a painter at Art Basel--is it really a stretch to believe that James Franco could have been named the U.S. artist for the 2011 Venice Biennale?

Ed, I can't wait to see what you come up with next April Fools Day. Maybe an art dealer who becomes a museum director?

6/17/2010 07:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Mery Lynn said...

Good one, Joan. My suggestion for next year is a painter who runs for President.

6/18/2010 08:36:00 AM  
Anonymous John Legweak said...

All this talk of entertainment and celebrity makes me have to ask, does the artworld have a televised award show? If not I think they should put one together ASAP. It would be a great way to show the world what art is all about and have a lot of fun at the same time.

The Academy Awards aka Oscars provides the perfect model. You need to set up an American Academy of Art Professionals or similarly named group and fill it with artworld-connected people who you can trust to behave in unpredictable ways. Then you create a bunch of rules about nominating and voting, making sure to allow for collusion, influence peddling and general insiderism. Then you cobble together a long list of award categories, including a lot of overlap to allow nominees to win in multiple categories and even “sweep the awards”. Then you recruit some volunteer staffers to send out ballots and count results and write winners' names on pieces of paper and put them in envelops and lick them and seal them closed.

With the infrastructure stuff out of the way, you are ready to start having real fun. Schedule an awards ceremony, book a nice centrally located venue (in NYC of course, where else?), get a TV contract and a bunch of high-roller sponsors, and generally promote the hell out of the show. Pick some a-list curator (biennial experience a plus) to “theme” the event, line up a bunch of “numbers” by artists who didn’t get nominated or if they did won’t win, put together a roster of attractive, appropriately paired presenters, select an MC who can talk for three hours without becoming hoarse or driving people crazy (maybe that James Franco guy would fill the bill), and you’re all set to go.

Oops, I mean almost. I forgot the most important thing. You need to make enough award thingies for all the winners. They can be anything as long as they iconic, flashy to the edge to tackiness, big enough to see from a distance but small enough to hold in one hand. (May I suggest little gold-plated urinals, officially called “Fountains” but universally referred to as “Mutties”?)

You guys are the art experts, I’ll let you figure out the categories. The biggies would probably be obvious things like Best Artist, Best Supporting Artist, Best Curation of a Solo Show, Best Curation of a Group Show, Best Concept, and so on. There would also be various second- and third-tier categories to honor second- and third-tier players. (Example: Best work in an unconventional medium: this year’s winner – Paul McCarthy, “Shitstorm” (wind machines, pizza dough and human excrement).) Oh yes, and you’ll also want a lifetime achievement award to pay tribute to fixtures on the landscape who have already done about as much as they’re going to do.

You’ll need to pay attention to all the details that make the award show really work. Probably the most important is to have a red carpet where you can see the stars – oops I mean the artists -- make their arm-candy-assisted passage from their limos to the special guests-only entrance, and an ugly logo-encrusted tyvek sheet that they have to stand in front of while hundreds of photogs take the pictures that will illustrate next morning’s lists of the best, worst, and simply wrongly dressed. (Just think Tracey Emin.)

I guess what’s in the back of my mind is, why stop at Work of Art, why not go all the way?

6/18/2010 11:24:00 AM  
Anonymous MH Sweeny said...

Knowing what's true in art based on info from the internet IS a strange thing, in my experience. I was once trying to piece together some artists' resumes and had problems trying to figure out what shows certain artists actually showed at! And once I figured out that yes, they did show at a certain gallery, finding the correct year was even harder. This was only really a problem if the artist didn't update their resume on their website. There's an incredible wealth of wrong and conflicting information out there.

I think it's pretty funny that your april fool's joke has gone this far. I'd love to keep hearing about it as it keeps popping up!

6/22/2010 07:48:00 PM  
Anonymous John Legweak said...

Man, James Franco is absolutely EVERYWHERE now. Edward, what have you done?

6/23/2010 05:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Bernard Klevickas said...

Hey! It's not James Franco afterall:
http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/07/art-team-represents-u-s-at-2011-venice-biennale/?emc=eta1

9/07/2010 08:27:00 PM  

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