Tuesday, February 10, 2009

loose lips and all that

This past Friday, I participated in the Drawdown event at MOCA Jacksonville. This is the second time I have participated, and this time the atmosphere was distinctly different. First off, I knew none of the participants (last time there were several artists I knew there). Secondly, no-one was documenting the event, and for me, this was hugely freeing.

In Jacksonville, it has come to be expected and accepted that at an opening or event, there will be several people (including myself) poking around with documentary devices. However, the absence of this at Friday's Drawdown reminded me not just of art-classes from long-ago, but also of the free-for-all-years (in my estimation) of the scene here in Jacksonville...at the dawn of this century.

For a while now, I have been thinking alot about the media-saturated culture we live in (and as a writer and blogger, I must count myself in this sometimes viperous, often mistake-prone crew), and how it transforms even the mundane.

But at what cost?

I remember how exciting it used to be to head out to openings and various events, the thrill of the unveiling, the possibility of unexpected encounters (even those expected) and conversations. Now, if I miss an opening I can just scoot around the Interweb to see what I missed. So one the one hand, it is tremendously convenient. But on the other hand, it dilutes participation, and frames the experience through someone else's narrative. It can be likened to the photographing of an installation; these images then frame the experience for those not there. And a good (even competent photographer) can make much out of very little.

Beyond even that though, is the sense that work is available for viewing online...and though I'd be the first to argue that there is a huge difference in seeing a reproduction of a work versus seeing it in person, sometimes it is just easier to boot up the 'ol Mac. And therein is the conundrum. Paradoxically, one cannot be an artist (of, say, my generation) without electronic exposure...however, how and when work is exposed becomes of paramount importance.

Personally, I do not have a website, my art practice is so inconsistent that right now there is no need. However, I do have the requisite Facebook/myspace/twitter triad to promote my social networking, plus *this* forum, and occasionally I'll put new work up...so I am not free of the desire to be known far and wide. Nor do I have a set criteria for what goes public and what stays private--beyond the initial self-edit of that which should be burned and that which isn't entirely bad. Though I tend to aim for works to be in a show before I throw them up online, but this too is born of my own arrogance: if I see an image too often reproduced (especially my own), it ceases to be of tremendous interest.

So then, to return to the original thesis of this post: to document or not? I must say that it can only be decided on a case-by-case basis...and perhaps an exhortion to moderation and restraint.

And please, don't take my picture.


zeller press said...

I only saw one bit of advertising for this drawdown, and I was sad to see I had missed it. I love the idea, but not the entry fee or drawing overnight. I'd be afraid I'd fall asleep for a few hours between 3-7.
Your post brings some interesting thoughts. I do the same with shows I miss, often looking online for documentation so I don't feel down about missing it.
I have a love hate relationship with the internet. I love it for its accessibility, for the ability to spread information easily and quickly (though usually with the help of others). But I hate it because it allows people (myself included) to see the documentation instead of the real deal.

so before i keep rambling on and on, awesome post. I dig.

tom p. said...

i have done documenting for a while and this question comes to me often. is documenting good or bad for a scene? i don't know the statistical answer. i have a spectrum. if you can be satisfied with a picture or video i think that is sad. but at the same time you can move away for a year and nothing really changes. the thing that is totally satisfying is seeing something you documented 5 years afterwards.

as far as the moca show i did want to participate. right now with all the blogs i think we are accomplishing what jaxscene and others set out to do, show people there is things to do and get people to do them. the reason i didn't participate in the moca event is cause i've been doing so many other things it slipped my mind. i wanted to.

the other question as we move into a media age is if something isn't documented did it happen. and when no one has pictures five years from now will we be laughing about how little we looked, or is it okay to not have a picture to show the day i meet the person that is now my best friend.

kelly pope said...

I like this question. It has the possibility to keep turning over and over in my mind so that I'm never fully sure of how I think about it.

I am not in Jacksonville for a long while, since I go to school out of state. I try to keep up with what's going on (I am practically addicted to checking the "unread since last visit" page at MetroJacksonville's forums as well as checking JaxReader). I didn't even know there was another Drawdown. Maybe the lack of documentation can provide a pause to breathe in, take a break from the overstimulation. Sometimes the writing of the event can be as nourishing as the documentation.

Here's a little story about my first day back in my foundation class (we call it "Core Studio" these days). We were given only the time within the hour to pick an "assignment" from a book written by many artists, representing the wide spectrum of contemporary art, do the assignment, and document it for the class. But everyone had to do a different one, so the easy ones were going fast. My partner and I *really* wanted to do the assignment that said something like "I don't want you to do anything."
Professors: "But how will you document it?"
Me: "If you don't document it, it never happened."
Professors: "But you have to present something to the class."
Me: "We could disappear for our turn and you could have three minutes of nothingness without us."

Even though one professor liked it, the other trumped him and we had to do something else.

madeleine said...

First off, let me say that I understand the need and desire to document things…it is as old as humanity…so I am not suggesting that we (as a loosely knit art scene) stop. I am asking questions I think about, and trying to work my way to a resolution…which might just be asking the folks with the cameras not to take my picture. Fair enough right?

Zeller: You are not the first person to tell me they are sorry to have missed out on the Drawdown (my boyfriend too called me to task). So next time, I will be sure to post it in as many places as I have access to.

Also, as far as the registration fee, though I have lots of ideological differences with the museum, I just consider it a donation. And though the hours might seem a little extreme, it was nice: the quiet and the stillness were really conducive to productiveness, and it was fun, like a sleepover (coffee and cupcakes).

Tom: I feel you, and to be fair, I not only use your pictures for personal satisfaction and curiosity, but recently for a professional endeavor…so that can’t be faulted…I guess it’s a fine line to tread, to capture the excitement of events, without giving away the entire event. Really, I see what you do as sort of cheerleading. That is, you make things look fun, make people want to participate—it lends excitement to things.

Kelly: Good point, writing is documentation too. And though your solution to the project has a certain John Cage-esque satisfaction to it, I agree with the professor that made you do something…because something is always more interesting that nothing…

So, what did you end up doing?

kelly said...

The whole thing was really comical because we were so panicky about the time constraint. Plus it was like 10 degrees out.

We ended up doing an assignment that had us go buy magazines, cut out question marks, and paste them to signs on the streets wherever we felt appropriate. On the sign for a pub, we made GOOD FOOD into GOOD FOOD? and on a fire alarm thing that definitely did not look like you could pull it, we made it say PULL? And the documentation was far from excellent. I think it was a "Welcome back to class now PANIC!" sort of exercise.

Mark Creegan said...

Hey Madeleine, do you know of Tino Seghal who does not allow any documentation of his work?

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madeleine said...

thanks Mark, and I must admit, that alot my my curiosity/questioning the documentation of artwork stems from Ad Reinhardt's Black Paintings...and alot of his philosophies...

After reading and writing quite a bit about him, I've kind of come to the conclusion that as intelligent and serious as he seemed, there was quite a bit of mischief about him....I keep looking through my house for my copy of his collected writings...I want to post some here.

Mark Creegan said...

yes please do!

Byron said...

Funny thing is I know I was only one that documented that show last year and who tried to take your picture after asking everyone in the room first if they didn't mind me documenting the show. I myself enjoy documentation and without it don't think we have an actual art scene. Proof is in the pudding. You couldn't show anyone that Jax had an art scene outside of Jacksonville unless folks attempted to document it.

If a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it sort of thing.

I'd personally love to see some photos of the Brooklyn Art Studios deal from years ago that everyone involved in it gets so dreamy eyed when talked about, when I was in the Army but it doesn't seem anyone took any documentation of it.

And being someone who I believe has done more documentation of than anyone else as far as art shows go in this town over the past two years find your question kind of odd. As a follow up question I wonder, would you rather me not have documented any of the shows are interviewed any of the art shows I have in the past two years? Would that have been better for you? For all of you? To me the documentation gives me something to be proud of. To be able to shoot a url to a friend in New York and say look, we're trying.

Sorry I tried to take your picture last year. I didn't know who you were and it won't happen again.

Byron said...

Just for reference:


Also, it takes a lot of time and work to document any of this. And sorry to wear my heart on my sleeve but this does seem to be directed at me as I was the only one there documenting the event, and who mistakenly tried to take your photo.

I hope I'm wrong.

madeleine said...


I chose not mention you by name because I was telling a story form my perspective.

As for your personal desire to document the scene, that's neither here nor there...that is your project. All I am saying, is that hyper-documentation deserves to be questioned, and personally (as I noted) I enjoyed working in an anonymous atmosphere.

Sure, every artist documents their work, I am not sure that such an exhaustive process is needed or, in many cases, desired.

But, as I wrote, this is all from my perspective. Not about you; as there are others happily snapping away too.