FZINE: a place for high school students and teachers to read, interact, and contrbute. LAUNCH
Remember Mom saying, “Just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean you have to?” In this case, she’s right. Just because all the cool kids are logging on, it doesn’t mean that art blogs are all that worthwhile.
Web fanatics aren’t the only ones weighing in; local writers, artists, former artists, gallery owners, former gallery owners, critics, historians, professors, students, and art lovers in general can’t seem to type fast enough. As I see it, anyone with the technological capabilities and a desire to put their two cents in on the Chicago art scene is blogging.
Surfing through the endless self-interested, self-involved, and self-serving blogs is daunting enough. Persevere and there is still a mire of spelling errors, bad grammar, and drivel. Just because bloggers see their work as non-mainstream media, doesn’t mean they are allowed to forget—or disregard—all that was (supposedly) learned in English 101. I’m looking to read smart and well-informed writing, not some kind of entry loosely related to art but more befitting a teenager’s diary. I don’t care who you saw crossing the street while you vacay-ed in NYC, your fave TV shows, or where you partied over the weekend. Honestly, I’m more interested in local art and criticism than I am in you.
Luckily for those new to the blog scene, Newcity editors Michael Workman and Michael Weinstein recently published their annual “Top 5 of Everything” lists, including a list of “Top 5 Art Spots on the Internet 2005.” Topping the list is Bad at Sports (badatsports.libsyn.com), a series of announcement-type posts primarily dedicated to the group’s weekly podcasts. While the blog reads as some sort of joke for Bad at Sports insiders (there’s no denying the “Names Dropped” section is just as entertaining as those celebrity tabloids in the grocer’s checkout aisle), the podcast reviews and interviews with curators, artists, and other Chicago art scenesters are where it’s at. Since its outset last September, Bad at Sports has remained one the best and most frequently updated web sources for this city’s art news and watches.
Runner-up Art Letter (artletter.com) is written by Paul Klein, former director of the contemporary abstract gallery Klein Art Works. Klein’s approach is serious, professional, formal and critical, though somewhat one-sided. His irregular postings are about the exhibitions and work he likes; he makes this quite clear by stating on his info page, “I have asked the 67 galleries in Chicago I like the best to send me information and images about forthcoming exhibits. If I can embrace an exhibit I will … encourage you to see it.” Overall, the brief reviews read too much like press releases and the blog feels too controlled, too groomed despite Klein’s attempts to create some kind of open exchange of ideas in the “Reviews” and “Letters In” sections.
Third on the Newcity list is Iconoduel (iconoduel.org), which, at the time this paper went to press, hadn’t been updated since January 12 (and even that posting, as blogger Dan Hopewell points out apologetically, is pure “press release regurgitation”). On top of that, the second to latest post, dated December 30, is Hopewell’s announcement—photograph included—that he’s off for some “merry-making” and binge-drinking. Doesn’t myspace.com have similar pages with similarly blasé content? And this merits third place out of all Chicago art spots on the internet? Finally, should we be worried that Hopewell hasn’t returned from his holiday break?
I was too frustrated to continue scrolling and searching Iconoduel for Chicago art and criticism, but amidst the hundreds of other links, I stumbled across a few other Chicagoan bloggers. I linked to Erik Wenzel’s Art or Idiocy? (artoridiocy.blogspot.com), fourth on Newcity’s list. The former F News contributor’s postings too seem rather sporadic, and are first-person accounts about what’s cool and what’s not. From there I linked to Folding Chair (foldingchair.org), a blog with frequent but brief art news posts by SAIC student contributors. But, you really have to be in the know with your art news or you won’t be able to understand Folding Chair’s abbreviated versions (for a little help along the way there are usually links within the shorter posts to longer popular journal articles).
Rounding out the “Top 5 Art Spots on the Internet 2005” is the Other Group (www.othergroup.net), a forum for Chicago area artists, collectors, critics, curators, and dealers. The unmoderated email discussion seems like a closeted back-and-forth among its members, which is both intimidating and a little boring. I also linked to Houndstooth (houndstooth.blogspot.com), created by SAIC student Jason Foumberg. He has some really nice critical posts if you dig around in the archives but it’s the not-so-innocent name-dropping that I found both troublesome and tiresome. Matt Tetzloff’s Chicago Art Review (chicagoartreview.blogspot.com) sounds like a promising title, but the blog has been silent since last October—another Chicago blogger MIA? Chicago Arts (chicagoarts.blogspot.com) provides a good list of goings-on about the city; Fresh Paint (freshpaint.blogspot.com) is much more political than anticipated; and there are some very attractive photographs on Brian Ulrich’s Notifbutwhen #2 (notifbutwhen.com).
One of the problems with surfing for blogs is knowing when to stop (hell, I’d probably still be linking today if I didn’t have a deadline). Another problem is navigation, knowing where to go and what to read in the avoidance of personal, cathartic art journal entries and caustic or sophomoric ramblings. I understand that when I peruse the internet, and blogs in particular, I’m going to get more commentary than reportage, but that doesn’t mean that snarky observations should replace art criticism. I enjoy funny, edgy, topical, and opinionated writing, but I also want work that is clear, concise, intelligent, timely, and most importantly has content.
Art blogs fail when entertainment passes for good journalism or criticism.