My old pal Spike is a grumpy art critic, but he makes a few relevant points about art and artists occasionally. I introduced Spike to painters TUBES magazine in 2013 – and he’s been contributing since then – (on and off) here is the latest whinge about ‘progressive’ art thinking or rather the lack of it.
…you would think that Artists would be on the front line for progressive 21st century exposure methodologies using the new technologies of today, wouldn’t you. In these Covid times of lock ups (lock down is too polite a phrase for the reality of forced house arrest) this statement should be almost rhetorical. However, it seems to me that the contemporary UK Art scene and academies have been almost negligent is coming up with new innovative ideas to fill in the tiny gap left by the closure of high street commercial galleries.
what about the smaller commercial guys?
The institutions have been bang at getting their museums and National and trust funded Art Galleries into gear with brilliant VR programs for years. VR shows that allow the casual visitor to walk around their floors and get close up and personal with their collections. But what about the smaller commercial guys? So far what has been seen is one of two annual art fairs putting a few commercial galleries and the odd artist into a website and showing jpegs on a flat screen in a minimalist web design – that’s hardly groundbreaking now is it – of course the artist (and one presumes also the galleries) pay for participation, which is understandable, because nothing valuable that actually may work comes for nothing, but is it value for the regular monthly amount of money asked of the participating artist?
parting with their small pot of shekels?
Does anyone have any idea how many Pro Artist Websites (say like the established Saatchi online or Art-Web art-sites) are out there over these last 10 years? And sadly, the many ‘not so professional’ offerings, trying to entice artists into parting with their small pot of shekels? All of them looking to earn coin from providing a ‘solid’ service to Artists? I have no idea of the true figures – but lets just say that there are probably – Loads of them – So it’s hardly any wonder that the VR techno boys got busy a decade or so ago.
Perhaps they heard the distant sound of those valued credit digit numbers falling into their bank account by the digital bucket load. What I do know is the ‘first’ steps were, well, how can I put this observation of the clunky, badly designed first generation of VR galleries – Crap – is probably the closest description. This gave VR a bad street rep. I know from personal experience back in 2007 and perhaps before that, this was the case. I think the main issue for that Art equivalent of the VR Art Titanic disaster, was that these early attempts to impress creatives were made by 101101011’s merchants in Califonia, without prior consultations from actual Artists or even reasonably talented graphic game designers, this was a serious oversight.
Today, that lesson learnt, the new VR art gallery software, available in the mainstream, seems to me that have come to the marketplace that was inherited from the Game Industry (say like the use of the Unity code for game makers, for example) and it has improved the presentations dramatically. So most of the available software is now pretty good – albeit – still needing improvement and add on facilities required for actual VR experiences for the visitors. I think benefit would be gained once more talking to more progressive new generation of contemporary graphic designers and the more switched on visual artists perhaps. But, I have to say its been an impressive ‘work in progress’ so far and deserving more attention that it is currently getting – especially in the UK.
So we come to the main thrust of my article…Why does it look like the British Artists community and Art Galleries resist technological advances, far more so than their international fellow artists? Here I’m talking across the spectrum of ages, profiles and all sorts of art genré they follow.
What I have discovered is not so much disappointing, but more like culturally incongruous. Of course like most people, artists and galleries have their ‘smart’ phones constantly turned on (Smart is perhaps a misnomer if ever there was one, as these smart phones, I believe, do encourage a dumbing-down streak in humanity). The devices that seem to have been surgically attached to the ‘user’ and act as their ego booster, or frequently leaving the user depressed, depending on how many likes they get on their latest jpeg post on SM. And how many followers they acquire over a 24 hour period.
It seems *users (*such an appropriate description for a Social Media addict) constantly check the numbers, and if they look like dropping they will post a WIP (work in progress) or the infamous statement ‘this is one I did this morning’ with the usual self deprecating remark, just to ensure their followers believe they really are quite humble human being really. (Oh yea, like we all believe that).
So who exactly who are these SM Art posts directed at and for what reason?
“DM me if interested” is a line used often in social media posts by artists – Put simply that is a numbers game, so the more ‘followers’ the artist has the better chance they have of selling a piece or two on instagram. But, in the main the posts are directed at their artists peers. Those other artists who might just be so ‘popular’ with a number of collectors that a commercial Gallery has on its books – And, if they are lucky they can join in their peers success by invitation of being exhibited in the same gallery as them.
The whole game is to become a member of a specific Art Tribe. And to get accepted into that tribe as an equal (but not as a competitor). This strategy is as old as the hills and one the Contemporary Art scene is no different today than it was in the days when the Royal Academy was founded by thirty six influential artists (supported by the King of England, in 1771). The first President being Sir Joshua Reynolds, of course. That historical Art Tribe subsequently morphed into a whole bunch of regional Art Academies who followed their lead. The pinnacle of that particular format being the Turner Prize in the twentieth century. Which continues as the most select and difficult ‘academy’ to be a Tribe Member of today.
The last time anyone spoke about art in a sort of Tribal Art System was in 1999 in the Art Review. The main critic of Brit Art was David Lee (now owner and writer of the journal the Jackdaw.) He was also the Editor for the Art Review magazine up to 1999. He created the now well known phrase ‘Art Bollocks’ . but eventaully was deposed and replaced by Rebecca Wilson. (Personally I found that quite ironic). So being critical of Art Tribes must be very dangerous commentary, and I give fair warning to this publication, that they may well be admonished and sent into solitary confinment for printing my words – (I am not a believer in the BBC woke guide for cultural journalism).
we all have iphones or androids..but who really knows how they work?
So it seems to me that the current lay of the land for artists is that they seek to impress each other and ensure they tick, click and like and work hard to furnish intelligent compliments on the other artists that they wish to become associated with. This is the main strategy of many of the more self interested artists in creating a career in Art – or at least that is what it looks like from the outside. Here we have the state of play. Artists are not that interested in the technology and its use as a tool for the progressive art, but are more interested in using technology to better their standing in the real world of artists to artist association. As long as it is free of course, then so much the better. We all have smart phones, but who knows how they work?
Written by Spike – [“Art Futures” written by the artist Constantine].
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