I scream, you scream

Craig Francis Power on art blogs and blogging pains.

completely insufferable, this.
die screaming, you pig borne trollops.

The above quote isn’t from the manifesto of some militant Marxist revolutionary group. It isn’t from the videotaped rantings of a Jihadist suicide bomber before he carries out the task at hand. It isn’t from a novel or play set in the final days of the Spanish Civil War, or the Paris Commune, or any other of history’s great ideological struggles.

No, it’s a comment on an art blog.

It was recently posted on artblog.net, the brainchild of one Franklin Einsprunch, recently of Boston by way of Miami, and the comment is a fine example of the crazy sorts of things one finds written on the multitude of art blogs from around the globe.

I stumbled upon this sub-cultural phenomenon through my friend, Timothy Comeau, who runs goodreads.ca out of Toronto, and for whom I did some writing about what was happening artistically in Newfoundland and Labrador. The work was really just a way for us to keep in contact, as almost everyone I once knew in art school has kind of drifted away over the last few years. In any event, the idea that artists everywhere were taking it upon themselves to address through these websites their various concerns, resentments, joys, and inspirations was a revelation to me.

Thanks to Tim, I subsequently began artinnl.blogspot.com.

The most interesting blogs tend to fall into two categories. The first are the ones run by artists or observers who believe that the art world, in its political engagement, its basis in theory and support from academia, its stressing of content and context over form, its monetary excess, its hipness, and its obsession with youth, has become morally and intellectually bankrupt, and is a slap in the face to the history of art-making. These people tend to be (a) bad artists (b) angry (c) terribly romantic about what it means to be an artist or (d) huge fans of Clement Greenberg. See thetearsofthings.com for a freaky example of what’s out there.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are the supra-political art bloggers, steeped in Marxism, feminist theory, and identity politics, who view the line between art and political activism as very blurry indeed. They see art as a vehicle for social change—as one of the last hopes for humanity to save itself from destruction. These people tend to be (a) bad artists (b) angry (c) terribly romantic about what it means to be an artist or (d) haters of Clement Greenberg. See Anonymous Female Artist (a.k.a. Militant Art Bitch at ­anonymousfemaleartist.blogspot.com for an example of this type of blogger.

But around here, we have our own art blogs that remain outside the two more general types listed above. Tops amongst them is The Association of Disaffiliated Artists (tadanl.blogspot.com), a loosely connected ensemble of visual artists, writers, and musicians, who regularly post their work on-line, in addition to being a source of important information pertinent to artists, such as grant and competition deadlines. Rarely does the topic stray into a philosophical debate around making art, but the site provides a vital look into what’s going on in many artists’ studios around the province and beyond.

Also of note is paulbutlernovelist.com, run by (guess who) Paul Butler, novelist. Here, writers debate everything from syntax to their favourite overlooked Newfoundland books and much else. Someone calling themselves “david_benson” can always be counted on to provide scathing commentary on what he sees as the transgressions of contemporary Newfoundland poetry and fiction. And he’s funny too.

On my own blog, the comments can sometimes get heated. This little love note dropped into my inbox Sunday night:

Anonymous said…

It just seems to me that you cant quite get your own shit together and tend to resent anyone else who’s out there doing the work and getting ahead. And dont try and tell me that hiding behind an art criticism blog, a fucking web-journal, is what allows you to call yourself a writer. … And how old are you? 35? And what have you done thus far? If it all ended tomorrow what exactly is it that you’ll have achieved? More to the point, why should artists and writers and actors and musicians just be content to live and work in obscurity in their own hometowns because a select few embittered wannabes are threatened by their perceived success …. And in regards to Michelle’s portraits, wouldn’t you say the general public would rather the advantage of an association, however vague and unwarranted, with the image of an individual they are viewing, as opposed to looking at a bunch of strangers? Perhaps you would not have been so critical and dismissive if your own portrait had been there? After all, they weren’t all celebrities.

Aw, shucks, thanks, Anonymous. You sure do have the courage of your convictions. Happy Easter, indeed.

I suppose I should feel guilty for having an opinion, and guiltier still for expressing it, but somehow, I just don’t. Apparently, it’s okay to have an opinion in private, in the company of people you know share your views, and who won’t challenge you, but in public, with the potential for actual disagreement, well, I guess that just cuts too deeply into one’s feelings of superiority.

In any case, despite invitations to “die screaming”, blogs and bloggers don’t appear to be going the way of the Dodo anytime soon.

And that, even if you disagree with what’s said, is surely something to be happy about