THE MORE WE THINK ABOUT THE WAYS WE DISPLAY ART, THE MORE A DISPLAY BECOMES PROBLEMATIC TO THE ART, IF IT IS NOT MEANT TO BE INVOLVED IN THE PIECE. WITH EVERY NEW FORM OF TECHNOLOGY VYING FOR THE ATTENTION OF ARTISTS, THESE FORMS OF DISPLAY ARE RAPIDLY MULTIPLYING, AND IN SOME CASES, BECOMING THE MEDIUM.
V SPOKE TO SEVERAL ARTISTS IN THE CURRENT GROUP SHOW AT THE SUZANNE GEISS COMPANY ABOUT THE DIGITAL NEWSSTAND AND THE FUTURE OF REPRESENTATION
You may have noticed Petrella's Imports's newsstand installation on Bowery and Canal, which featured physical artist publications, many of which were adaptations of pre-existing digital and web-based projects. After the success of the stand, The Suzanne Geiss Company invited them to contribute to suzannegeiss.net, flipping the relationship the physical newsstand had with digital art by instead looking at how physical spaces and aesthetics are romanticized in digital realms.
The artists have recreated the newsstand app standard on Apple devices and dropped artists' publications there for download. To compliment this, a site-specific installation based on the app is in the gallery's store front space now. Check out the schedule and artist list HERE.
Included in this temporary digital platform are Analisa Bien Teachworth and Emily Segal, who joined the conversation V started with Petrella's Imports.
How do you view today's media and its relationship to your artwork?
PETRELLA'S IMPORTS Media in traditional formats is increasingly influenced by advertising initiatives, as are the means for traditional distribution. The internet posits that same model for commercial exposure next to something ostensibly without constraint. This was the progenitor for our first project—to place art, much of it sourced online, in a commercial zone.
EMILY SEGAL I think that emerging commercial forms constitute everything that my process is about, especially since my work is directly in response to my experience as a brand consultant. For me, art is like the toxic waste that runs off any branding project... all of the creative production that can't be contained in simply "solving a marketing problem," which is technically my job. In the case of my piece Normcore Research, I used Powerpoint to compile a bunch of commercial media—post-its, memes, and questionnaires that resulted from a corporate workshop designed to rethink the definition of the mainstream—and then put it into Slideshare, which is a white-hot social network owned by Linkedin, where mostly marketing professionals share their presentations. Powerpoint is a great example of a commercial medium that actually involves a great deal of civilian creativity (despite being a weird and clumsy tool). I used to hate that my job required me to become so good at Powerpoint, but I've always thought it was really cool that such a ubiquitous program required regular business people to create graphic stories, to basically think like graphic designers or artists, at least within the confines of the program.
ANNALISA BIEN TEACHWORTH I view media exclusively via the internet, on my smart phone or laptop. I have been consuming the media this way for the past few years. Most of the information on current events, world issues, even friends, is gained through web sites like twitter or Media Take Out. I have a very different relationship to the media than others because I am engrossed in it, I let it heavily effect my art practice. I don't like being off the internet for over 5 hours; I check Twitter around 20 times a day, where I follow people and companies, ingesting pure media while syncing it with my own atmosphere. The web and the way we receive information is constantly changing, and I parallel my art practice to this kind of hyper multi-sourced developing.
What kinds of impressions do all the emerging forms of commercial artwork make on a working artist's process?
PETRELLA'S IMPORTS A number of the contributors to the newsstand reflect an interest in commercial art formats (advertising, illustration, commercial design and photography, et al). The pressure and ubiquity of expressly commercial work are big players in contemporary art.
ANALISA BIEN TEACHWORTH I have respect for commercial work, as it can be extremely artful. Impressions are varied by the individual, so people are more susceptible to what is considered main stream and what is art at the time. For example the use of modern objects as sculpture in what has been coined " the new aesthetic " which makes an aesthetically pleasing useful object—art, with the help of Photoshop. Derived from underlining advertisement and commercial product trying to sell there brands. The process of realizing how commercial art is used to sell something can be adopted in fine art in the same context.
How do you feel about artwork viewed in so many forms that are normally not under an artist's complete creative control, i.e., magazines, social media, and apps, as opposed to galleries?
EMILY SEGAL It makes me feel relieved, since complete creative control isn't really my bag anyway, and those forms are often non-boring compared to many traditional formats.
PETRELLA'S IMPORTS We don't necessarily see the constraints of media as being more or less limiting than any other institutional constraints. It's a question of how you use them and how you reflect an awareness of their context. The problem is more one of passivity, how to be articulate in an increasingly passive cultural environment.
ANALISA BIEN TEACHWORTH I feel ambivalence to the way the artwork is changed through different channels, like re-blogging. Everything has always been in the eye of the beholder anyway, some people who follow @getmydreambody on Instagram understand the concept of portrait photography in a way they never did. Or they collage their favorite things on Pintrest with heavy concept. My website gets messy when it's opened using Chrome, but it works perfectly on Firefox. I don't care; there is a certain amount of release that you can see positively if you're not a complete control freak.
In general, do you tend to make a piece with the knowledge in mind that it will possibly have to adapt to many outlets, online or not?
EMILY SEGAL Definitely. I aim for high legibility and lulz, while actively avoiding the kinds of details that can easily be lost in translation.
ANALISA BIEN TEACHWORTH Yes, always. The concept of reappropriation is a beautiful idea and totally organic to my work. It provides freedom to see the same idea on different platforms. Economically speaking, globalization has given a creative voice to people who didn't have one before. I think about creating something that exists in more than one place, space or time. This possibility of adaptation is freeing, it feels new and limitless which is one of reasons why I make art.
PETRELLA'S IMPORTS This necessity for adaptability is material for us. As part of Suzannegeiss.net, our IRL installation 'Home Screen' hypothesizes an intertwined relationship with it's web app counterpart. For the web app, all participant artists document the physical in PDF format—a digital inversion of the installation.
Images courtesy of Petrella's Imports and The Suzanne Geiss Company, New York