Crowdsourcing a lecture on arts practice and the Internet

I’ve been asked (in a fairly last minute way) to give a lecture on Monday to a bunch of Creative Arts students, on professional arts practice and technology. Rather than coming up with a highly prescriptive lecture that pushes a particular position about whether artists should or should not be online, I thought I’d source some different perspectives (curatorial, artist, arts writer) about art and technology. And I was hoping that some of you might be willing to contribute, in either a personal or professional context.

We know of countless musicians who have built their careers through their digital efforts. Is the same true of artists, or is the online art market a myth? Any feedback that I can give to the students, so that they can hear from voices beyond mine, would be appreciated. I’d also love any suggestions for artists from around the world who are using digital technologies well, either in the creation of work itself, or in the promotion of their work. It’s a small secret fantasy of mine to crowdsource every example I use in the lecture, just to show the power of networks.

Are you an artist whose career has been affected by the Internet (for better or for worse)? Or are you a curator, museum educator, or museum tech person? Maybe an arts writer or an academic? If so, how does an artist’s digital presence (or lack thereof) impact your work, or your interpretation of their work?

Thanks for your help.

12 thoughts on “Crowdsourcing a lecture on arts practice and the Internet

  1. Happy to give a few thoughts:
    I currently work for the National Association for the Visual Arts and the intersection of art and technology is an area of increasing importance. Organisationally it is an area of key importance, and we could write for days on the challenges of arts orgs trying to keep up to date with limited resources.

    For our members there tends to be two key topics that create the most dialogue: technology as a marketing tool and technology and intellectual property. Obviously these cross over frequently. Any event we run involving these issues generates significant interest. There is a strong desire for many artists to build their brand online, but significant concerns about the lack of control they may have over their images once let loose.

    Personally, my interest is in the area of artist professional and leadership development, and technology is proving to be an area of considerable growth in terms of skill building and career opportunity for those with creative skills. The recent ABS data about the creative economy highlights how artists and those with creative skills are bringing their knowledge into other sectors with considerable economic results.

    1. Thanks Kim. I’ll make sure I include a link to NAVA’s website for the students, and will check out the ABS creative economy data too. I think that tension between promotion/being visible and IP is critical within this, and is one reason I am trying to source different opinions. What one artist thinks is an acceptable risk, another might find threatening.

    1. Thanks Jenn. I’ve had a few other suggestions via Twitter of Etsy artists as well. It’s funny, I hadn’t really thought about Etsy as a place for “Art”, but of course it is. What I find interesting here is that I was instantly biased against it for not being a place for “legimate” artists because the platform or marketplace is beyond the traditional art market. But that same bias could as easily be applied to blogging; to discounting the ideas self-published via a blog, rather than those by a book, which has the legitimisation of publication and review.

      There’s an interesting piece on the New Republic on the myth of the online art market ( which I don’t disagree with. But it also indicates how little my own perception of the art market has shifted, despite the new ways that people have for both making and selling art.

      So this brings interesting questions about legitimisation that I don’t yet have answers to. But it resonates with some of the questions I’ve been thinking about around museums, so I might come back to this.

  2. in a REALLY quick braindump … the biggest question artists need to ask themselves isn’t ‘should i be online or not’ it’s ‘how might the internet (and associated hardware/software platform combinations) help me to a) achieve my creative goals and b) do so in the most efficient, cost effective and far-reaching way possible?

    people assume that digital means either the tools for making (digital painting/photography or admin systems) or the tools for marketing. they often (tragically) forget that digital is an experience platform in itself. the best digital art isn’t something that gets digitised after it’s been made, as an afterthought. it’s something that has been made with a digital audience in mind right from the outset.

    context is everything – working in trad visual arts you typically control everything; the artwork the venue and how the audience engages (generally passively, looking at your painting or watching your performance). in technological art (especially net art) you relinquish a certain amount of control – you don’t know exactly what computer/device your audience uses, you don’t control when or even where they physically are when they’re connecting, you don’t know if they have speakers or what resolution their monitor is, and you certainly don’t get to control what they say or do if the work is interactive or contributory.

    all too often contemporary creators just look at the tools at hand – which is understandable. but the really interesting stuff comes from looking backward at the innovations media artists have been developing for generations. the limited platforms of the past have forced new approaches and that (to me) is where the really interesting stuff lies – and where future innovation can be drawn if only people stop ripping off the early innovators (see

    some links (I rant about this shit alot…)
    – for people interested in looking back, here are some great books to start from:
    – for examples of inspiring digital art (just a scratch from the surface ;P)

    happy to chat through more x

    1. Fee, thank you so much for your comment. I love your point that digital is an experience platform in itself. It’s something that I feel intuitively, but would have been unlikely to point out to students, and it’s really important that they hear it and have that sense of it.

      Your point about the importance of context is hugely valuable too, and actually quite relevant to the lecture itself. I am considering trying to run the lecture as something of a live-mix; having a bunch of sources (most of which are coming from here, Twitter and a few other emails etc) prepared that are likely to be relevant, but not necessarily speaking to them in a particular order. Instead, I was thinking of asking some key questions and seeing where the students get to in their discussion. This is something of a gamble; if the students don’t participate, or if the conversation goes in ways I fully didn’t expect, then the whole thing could get out of hand. Conversely, if it works, it would allow a far more discursive approach, and would ideally allow the students a bit more room to get into the issues.

      I didn’t used to gamble on such things; the relinquishing of control on the Internet has (I believe) had ongoing impact on my approaches to things far beyond digital.

      I still have a day to work out whether I can pull off this approach. I’ll let you know how I go.

      1. Suse, I find students often have to blog as part of their courses – it’s often quite interesting to see what they write about the talks you give. some quote verbatim & some bring in their own contexts – sometimes the more active bloggers are less active ‘in the room’. it’s an interesting space and one which hasn’t settled yet. even having a twitterstream behind you as you talk (so the people who don’t like to talk but are happy to type in comments) can work brilliantly with one group & awfully with another.
        mainly just enjoy it. you won’t be showing something new to everyone, but you might change someone’s entire perspective on the interaction between art/tech with just one case study.
        look forward to hearing how it goes x

    1. Thanks Seb, super useful links. I’d read the Damon Krukowski piece before, but hadn’t encountered the John Powers on. Will include them both for the students 🙂

  3. Hi Suse,
    Thanks for thinking of me,

    I think that the internet and social media is a relevant and necessary for survival for artists in 2013 as patronage was in the high renaissance. Social media has been a clear cornerstone to some of my success as an artist and curator. It is the tool which I use to correct my produce and activities with the audience. I am constantly maintaining an online professional personality which is a strategic tool to offer insight into my work and practice, it educates audiences about my ideologies, processes and philosophies and generate conversation around my work. New opportunities come to me via my facebook page far more than my e-mail and mobile- it is an almost instant connection with the right people in a lot of circumstances. I think it is really about informally educating people about what you do, how you do it, why you do it and therefore building a community for support around you and your practice.

    On the flip side, when I am curating an exhibition if I encounter an artist who does not have a web presence, It becomes an extra effort to research them and understand their practice especially if they are emerging. From a professional development perspective, a good website of social media stream can make things easier for those who may wish to work with you resulting in more regular opportunities in your early career.

    Hope that helps, good luck with the lecture!

  4. Hello Suze Met at Aus Mus the other night… On deadline so cannot reply at length, but look up recent Art Monthly lecture series, as a panel of gallery owners and artist addressed this very issue, of galleries going offline and reinventing themselves, same goes for artists representation. Many better contemporary galleries have closed i.e. BKG and Barry spoke at this event. Pop up are the go in RL and online. Cheers Heidi Riederer ________________________________

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