An artist in the digital age; Rothko had it easy.

Half of my artistic/creative time is spent manipulating images and code and text for the internet. In this digital age, the easiest way for an artist to publish and display his work is through easy-to-access and free distribution channels, so here we are. While the thought of doling out fifty percent of my income to an agent or a gallery to do many of the things I shy away from is frightening, it is still very much in effect in the art world, and for decades artists have been fighting against the machine. I realize that these agents and gallery owners have longstanding and very lucrative networks established (very loyal and protected, I’m sure) that for a cut, artists can tap into, but is it really necessary anymore? With the ease of accessibility to information perhaps it is not, but just a more arduous path to map out yourself.

Whatever the case, I’m not against the gallery system that is in place: I think of it as one very large international Art HMO. I’m not against participating in it at some point when the opportunity arises, either. I’m also not going to sell out to a different cloak of corporatism and become just an inked cog in a different type of machine I’ve spent so long running from.

Can you imagine if Mark Rothko, one of the most troubled artists of the last century, had to deal with producing art in the digital age? One could argue that he might have had access to mental health care that eluded him throughout his life, but, then one could expound that his art might have been less emotional as a result. May he rest in peace, but I see him crumbling even faster under the ridiculously and fiercely competitive art world that exists today, since dissemination and criticism happens in the flash of an upload/download now as opposed to the delayed reactions of sixty years ago.

Working many pieces of my art machine is simultaneously exhausting and fulfilling. I like that not only do I create my work, but I control it’s publication, I control it’s presentation, and I am able to house my works in a way that will accurately convey how I want them to express themselves. Some could say that this is typically manic or obsessive; another artist who is working to control everything and not let the work be of the viewer’s interpretation, to be unaffected by the response. I disagree.

I have been in one too many galleries and museums where the idea of curating and presentation was addressed with as much grace as picking bingo balls in a church hall and the air surrounding the works was similar to the hush of old ladies anxiously awaiting to be the one who could scream out to the crowd which one was the winner. Especially with minimalism or reductive art work, where a stark image can be so confusing or daunting, I think the work is as important as the space surrounding it. There’s a reason why such works are usually hung in clean or sterile environments and this is often because the message or concept of such works is very subtle or sly. To be affected by amplified neighboring works or pieces shouting out for your attention in the distance would be to silence the works you were actually concentrating on. In fact, many artists in the minimalist and reductive realms create pieces not to be looked at on it’s own accord, but in context of the rooms they inhabit. For example, Dan Flavin’s fluorescent light works that act as beacons in the corners of space, or Donald Judd’s Lexan constructions that demarcate and highlight the space they contain from the space they inhabit.

Even when space is not important and the visual work one is observing is presented in the quotidian, like a map or a poster, the peripheral senses are still aware and affected by the stimuli surrounding it. The reading of a railroad timetable seems to always be paired with the cacophonous echo of an overhead speaker blurting out arrivals and departures and final boarding calls. Street posters pair well with honking horns, sirens, and people ordering lattes. When an artist controls his presentation and the space that his works inhabit, he is not building a fence around them to protect himself from the fear of criticism or misunderstanding, but instead placing them in a living room with a couch, or a chair, or nothing, for the viewer to decide how he wants to observe and understand the work. In the comfort of one’s home or in an airplane seat as one views artwork on the internet, the decision of whether to pair a glass of wine or a certain song from your MP3 player is left completely up to the viewer. Observation now becomes a practice unencumbered by gallery guards, screaming children, museum schedules and the like. There is no need to arrive at a museum or depart before it closes. The image, concept, and idea are in the public realm, waiting for you at your choice. It is an independent journey, just like the artists, working in parallel to each other.

I think providing the freedom for an observer to make decisions about a piece of art is important in this digital age. So much of life is carefully drawn out for us that it seems we are missing the opportunities of our childhood to just run free, physically and mentally. We live in a world of restrictions and fear, in a world of mass-marketed expectations and during a time of excess self-consciousness. The freedom of getting lost in artwork was what drew me into the desire to participate as an artist in this medium and this I would like to return back and keep safe for the viewers of today.

¶ 2008·02·26