Saturday, August 18, 2007

Power to the (lazy) People!

Yahoo! today has a great video profile of Minnesota artist Phil Hansen. I liked his work quite a bit- not only is he technically skilled, but his work is clever. It is a bit gimmicky, I'll give you that. But, he's young and has talent. Hopefully, he'll find some way to make it pay so that he can quit his day job.

Now, check out the introductory text on Yahoo! for the sort of Internet-propaganda that I've been making fun of lately. To quote:
"Phil Hansen is not only tearing down the “gallery” walls that keep many people from seeing and enjoying art. He’s also showing us how it’s made -- all on the Internet."

Again with the pseudo-democratic schtick! He's tearing down the walls, man! He's liberating all of us poor plebs who are kept away from art by those cruel, fascist galleries, many of which are free to visit and open every day. Just how many poor oppressed people are kept from seeing and enjoying art because to do so would require them to get off their fat asses and enter the physical world? I'm just wondering. Art galleries were created in the nineteenth-century as a way of making art immediately accessible to everyone. This is why most of them have entry fees that are less than $5, or even have free days. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY, arguably the best gallery in the United States, they don't have a problem if you don't pay the "suggested" donation at all, and many of us Met rats don't pay much. And incidentally, almost every gallery now posts their current exhibitions, in full, on the Internet, rendering this argument moot.

But, seriously, is it just Americans that do this? Or do people in other countries also see any situation in which they're asked to make any investment whatsoever of time, self, or energy, as unfairly oppressive and elitist? I'm just curious.

4 comments:

Hiromi said...

While I agree that the internets is 90% garbage and has exacerbated our culture of misguided egalitarianism, there is a good side to increasing access. You'd think Austin would have more museums, but it has very few, so I'd benefit from things like that. But having said that, I'd rather actually go to a gallery or museum if I were able. I can't articulate what it is about "being there" that's so special -- being around other people who also came to appreciate it? Being able to walk around the object and get more sensory input thataway? Having more of an overall experience -- walking through a space dedicated to art? I have no idea.

Rufus said...

I definitely make use of the online exhibits for galleries that are too far away to visit. I'm not opposed to people only looking at art online if they so choose. Just don't pretend like it's liberation from the cruel galleries!

But I agree- standing in front of a great work of art is breathtaking. On a screen, every image comes out the same. There's no comparison whatsoever with the real thing. The paintings of Chuck Close, for example, are completely different "live"- they're HUGE, and you feel like a fly crawling on a human face!

I love galleries, but I can be a nusiance in them because I like to stare at artworks for a good amount of time. The best times to go are weekdays when few people are there. Then I can zone out for as long as I want to!

Holly said...

Oh, *that* Phil Hansen. (Greg showed me the Jimi Hendrix thing earlier this week, but I didn't connect the dots. This really reinforces my belief that OCD doesn't deserve the bad rap it gets.

Regarding galleries... I can't speak for (or even possibly about) the issues Americans have, or for other people as a group (or individually!) but I can say this:

I find galleries thoroughly overwhelming. It's far, far better for me to preview a gallery and then choose what to put my limited resources into seeing, because I really have trouble mentally and emotionally if I see too much stuff in one day, hour, or visit. General collections are much, much harder for me than single shows. Even themed collections can be overwhelming.

I've come to dread that sensation of being flooded with images, and ideas, and experiences, and techniques, and textures, and text, and presence, and concept, and style, and color, and history, and interconnectedness, and and and.... to the point where it's actually kind of hard to get me to go into a gallery at all. It's serious work to build up the fortitude to go to a big gallery, like a national collection.

From this extremely neurotic perspective, the internet provides valuable clues about what is worth going to, and what is a waste of good mental exhaustion.

Then again, the stuff I like it frequently NOT in the galleries I can get to anyway. So... there's there.

OK, but back to your question: It'd my belief that the American fondness for internet rummaging is regarded with some amusement and concern, at least by folks who aren't running internet cafes.

Rufus said...

OCD is certainly a benefit for most artists. At least, it's better than the ADHD that some of them seem to suffer.

I tend to go to galleries repeatedly and look at about a room a day. I'm very very slow, which seems to annoy most people who go with me. Many visitors to art galleries race through them. like the characters in Bande à part. I'm a lot slower. If they have benches, I'll sit and stare.

I think probably most Western countries have a certain population that is wedded to their laptops. I've seen the netheads here in Canada too. But up here I've never seen it sold as radical democracy smashing tyranny. I linked to an article about the Google books project here a while ago that took this ridiculous tone: Now we don't have to bow down to the self-appointed library gods who used to stand between us and information! I thought: Please! Don't try to fob yourself off as Patrick Henry because you're too fucking lazy to go to a library!

Distance is a serious issue. I don't know if I'd want to live somewhere that wasn't within driving distance of a gallery. Certainly one thing that makes this area tolerable is the Albright-Knox and Royal Ontario galleries.