Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sharon Butler on the artworld and facebook

Sharon Butler of Two Coats of Paint has written an excellent piece over at the Brooklyn Rail about the upsurge in use of Facebook by the 'Art World'. It wasn't so long ago that I was quite skeptical of joining and made the usual groans to my peers about invasive behavior. However, having been a modestly committed blogger the last couple of years, I quickly realized what a fantastic way it is to communicate and navigate my web of relationships. What strikes me as well is that this particular community - the art community - seems to be a natural fit. When I view peers in other fields, it really is a repository of baby photos and inane updates about the toaster oven and what not. Not that this doesn't have its own merits from time to time...

If you are an artist without any kind of presence outside of your studio, you really should consider coming into the light.

A few prescient clips from Sharon's article:

What’s so good about Facebook? Most art bloggers will tell you it’s a good way to connect with the people who read their blogs. They were at the forefront of innovative social networking in the artosphere, and began setting up their Facebook profile pages back in early 2007, shortly after Facebook lifted the requirement that members be affiliated with an educational institution. Links posted on blogs announced Facebook membership, and a few readers began joining, but initial interest was halting and tentative. Skeptical friends either ignored email invitations to join, or joined but discreetly eschewed their newly created profile pages. The digitally unconnected didn’t feel any need for a “social networking” site at that point, and thought Facebook was for lonely computer geeks, singles looking for love, and college kids.

Facebook, as arguably the most handy and versatile social networking tool, has succeeded in erasing geographical boundaries and enabling a more flat, non-hierarchical community in which top critics and curators are at least accessible if not truly friends. For journalists and writers, Facebook is also an invaluable research tool. As Art Fag City’s Paddy Johnson noted, it’s the phonebook for the art world. And not being on Facebook is tantamount to being phoneless. I recently met an artist who barely had Internet access, let alone a Facebook profile. I came away wondering if I’d be forced to write her a letter or call her on an old-fashioned handset. Diehard analoggers, disillusioned with what may seem like superficial connections, may drop out or never join at all, but they’ll wind up farther and farther out of the loop. For the techno-forward, maybe Facebook is a transitional phenomenon that will soon yield to the faster-paced, pared-down Twitter, which in turn may give way to something still more instantaneous and unmediated.

Wherever it stands in the evolutionary scale of art-world communication, Facebook has signaled a sea change in the way artists relate to one another. The barrier between solitary creativity in the studio and social exchange at gallery openings has gone the way of the Berlin Wall. It has allowed artists to invite their self-selected village into their workspaces without sacrificing their privacy or interrupting their creative processes. This is uncharted aesthetic territory, and where it will lead is as unknowable as anything else these days, but at least we know we’ll be among friends.

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