Monday, January 3, 2011

The Further My Practice Moves Into Zeroes and Ones

As I've been revamping my website away from the old Google Site I used to have, I've been noticing that content is king and cleanliness is godliness.  The flashy animations and spectacular introductions to a website are hard to do and they alienate certain web browsers including mobile devices.  However the ambition of producing a simple website to act as a conduit between my practice and potential netsplorers becomes complicated because of the small scale of the studio practice I have been running to date.  With the exception of artist residencies and work produced while studying, my practice has consistantly existed somewhere within my place of resiedence (like a second bedroom for example) and because I am renting I am extremely limited in how I can use the space:  I require permission for every hole I wish to put in the walls and landlords are reluctant to let me drill willy nilly while I experiment on how my work can develop within the space else I might have to forfeit large sums of money on repairing whatever alterations I make to the space.  Moreover, because I am renting the space I am unable to customise the backgrounds of any photo documentation.  This means that documenting my work risks an unproffessional context.

There have been some opportunities to document my work in a professional context such as on exhibition in a gallery but because of all expenses reserved for producing work, I do not maintain a budget for hiring project spaces or studios to set up and document my work.  Occasionally with small work I can create space in my studio to photograph drawings or small sculptures or scan them.  However there is a serious limitation on how legitimate the publication of the work is.  For example, there are works of mine which have been made and published as a zine or straight for this blog.  While they are modes of publication and distribution, there are also other ways I intend to publish the works such as exhibitions and .pdf.

Recently I have begun production of a work which is an interactive website where the users cursor controls from what angle the subject is viewed.  Everything is in a unique project in the context of my practice as it is made with ink and brush drawings, scanned and then set as a coordinate in a .html document.  The work has already been uploaded and it is far from completion.  The audience has the capacity to view the work in various states of its progress, but they have no capacity to view past drawings once they have been updated.  It is a real time development of a work.  In some ways, visiting this work is a digital analogy to visit an artist studio where you can track the progress of works.  As I have just recently moved regionally (5 hours out of any capital cities) to Wagga Wagga this is a crucial part to having a practice and being connected with the artworld centres of Australia (and hopefully the world).  This is one example of the nexus between the internet and the studio and in some ways it is an online studio.

This is reminiscent of Gary Carlsey's idea of the laptop ateliaer.  In the video below he outlines his practice revealing tha this studio is concisely packaged digitally within his laptop which he can access to manipulate his art ready for reception in the world of the real.  This allows Carsley to go between Sydney and Amsterdam (both places of work and residence) with relatively little inconvenience.

Another important distinction between the artist in the digital realm and the artist in the physical world is the portfolio.  The online portfolio becomes of mode of publication particularly at the point of managing ones professional discourse.  Also a website can act as a tool to publish new material not yet exhibitied or published for a public audience.  In many cases this is the role of my blog - which started as a way to track progress of my work, ideas and artistic direction.  The success of this is hazy to date because of the compulsion to use it as a marketing tool and the inevitable desire to censor sentiments that move against desirable marketing sensibilities.

This same tool can be used to quickly publish material so that it is out there in the artworld ether and also to act as a marketing tool in case this work might attract attention from galleries or future patrons.  This is a blurry side of the website and of an online practice in general - to what extent is the material that you publish legitimate art when it is published by the artist but hasn't interacted with any artworld institions such as ARIs, Museums, critics, etc.  Not to say that my work does not interact with these institutions but there are a number of works that I have published both on my blog and / or on my website but have never exhibited in a gallery space.  Becuase of the limited distribution of the work it means that it is primarily an online publication and hence primarily internet art, despite the very tangible nature of the work.

This problem of the changed nature of the work via it's internet morphology changes the dynamics of exploring the works because of arrangement, scale, interactivity of the online form and the artists' ability to document and reproduce an online analogue to the website.  An example of this is when looking at a work that was made as a zine with a front cover, back cover and pages in between may become a .pdf file which reads by scrolling down, changing the experience of the layout and making each page an individually aesthetic experience.  I can also animate images as .gifs or as image rollovers and links which make elements of the page more dynamic.  The result is more than making a visual work but involves designing an interactive experience for the audience.  Unfortunately that isn't always what I want to spend time on but it turns out to be a necessary part of sharing visual ideas.  If I don't design this interactive experience it is difficult for people to engage with the work and it inevitably changes the reading of the work.  This problem is messy, however it is a good problem to have because it is one that provides an opportunity to grow an audience base but it demands a specific skill set in order to be successful.

Two very successful artist websites that achieve this are Olafur Eliasson and Richard Goodwin where their practices are quite well simulated and backed up by free downloaded research which requires several visits.  Their websites are a resource of content which builds on the user engagement over time.  Both have a budget to develop that in a broader studio with staff and experts in the field, however they are both inspiring in how they can manage the public perception of their practice by providing an engaging resource and thoroughly outlining the aesthetic and theoretical framework in which they work. They do not however make their work to be published on their website.  Both recieve commissions which fund their projects, such as Eliasson's work with BMW, the Sydney MCA and more as well as Goodwin's research with UNSW's College of Fine Arts and his recent exhibition at Australian Galleries in Sydney.  Both artists have a strong sculptural and architectural background which might explain their consideration for structure and explorability of their websites.

Hopefully my new website will be finished soon but I keep finding new opportunities to enhance the explorability of certain projects which makes me think that it might never be finished.  In some ways it is like I am making these works all over again or that I made them once as a study for how they would end up on the web.  It is a labourious surprise but I'm starting to see that it will all be worth it soon.

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