In “Free Art,” a text by the Jogging, it is suggested that the Web’s economy of re-blogging and fast-paced communal interaction creates its own economic model and, thus, its own best practices for understanding how value around work is accrued.
Furthermore, it is thought that the art world–even if it did acknowledge this work–would not know what to do with it as this online economy is alien to its own—premised as it is on the exchange of materially sensual objects for amounts of (financial) capital unavailable to all but the most wealthy members of society.
In the lives of contemporary artists, Free Art is a place to find one’s self through the existence of others– to individually reclaim the ability to self-mythologize and empathetically pick from your peers for influence. Thus, Free Art is marked by the compulsive urge of searching (or, surfing) to connect with others in a way that is not dictated by profitability, but found and shared charitably among individuals based on personal interests.
A couple of thoughts:
I’m not sure that the Web is any less tainted by economics than the art market. The re-blogging format preferred by Jogging did not appear out of nowhere; power relations are alive and well (t)here as one might say that all of this activity is ultimately in the service of market research for corporations.
Meanwhile, the world of contemporary art is obviously not perfect, but it’s not entirely dominated by auctions and abusive gatekeeping, either.
And if one is interested in placing their creative endeavors on the Web in both the most critically sympathetic as well as the most critically astute environment possible (the environment in which it will be judged as more than style alone), one can’t so easily dismiss the art world as it has been thinking about these questions very seriously for a very long time.
Furthermore, the work will (if it is as good as it thinks it is) end up back in the art system as saleable objects; the question here, then, is how much control does the artist exert over this entry into the system.
This is just to say that the conversation occurring inside the art world is worth taking a second look at before one abandons it outright.
Also, Jogging’s reference to the immaterial or de-materialized quality of the work is problematic.
For the sake of argument (and it is debatable), let’s say that—yes—a virtual .jpeg of a sculpture is immaterial—free of the problems of aura and material commodification which the sculpture depicted in the .jpeg itself affords.
But, what about the hardware displaying this content?
The notion that the Web has accomplished some sort of Hegelian transcendence is precisely what, say, Steve Jobs wants consumers to believe:
Go on, keep chatting with your friends, watching videos, listening to music—it’s all fluid and immaterial now and that’s great—just so long as you do so through the iPad.
These devices which display the work which Jogging thinks of as lacking aura, are, in fact, highly susceptible to aura or, from a slightly different angle, fetishism.
One can’t wait to get home and log-on to their machine, touch it, ride the time of computing cycles; anytime the threat of boredom creeps in, one can immediately start fingering their iPhone, dexterously running their hands all over it in the hopes of generating more immaterial content.
Indeed, perhaps one could think of the endless stream of a blog as lubricant—sweet nothings in one’s ear, easing one’s entry into a more rhythmically sustained fingering of their device.
This is just to say that the materiality of digital culture is worth taking a second look at before one denies its presence outright.
Now all that said (and on the other hand), there’s another consideration which comes into play here:
“Free Art” was posted on the Jogging tumblr on May 12th, 2010.
In the five days which have passed since the 12th, Jogging has posted six additional unique works—each possessing their own unique power and each propelling my own following of their posting (as in an on-going performance).
As a matter of fact, this immediacy and performative enthusiasm is relatively more exciting (to me, anyway) than most things happening in most of the shows advertised via, say, e-flux.
Which is precisely the effect which Jogging describes in their text.
An anxiety arises:
I have some issues with the idea, but I’m compelled to follow it nonetheless.
That is to say, it can’t be dismissed outright as the artists demonstrate it for me, placing it directly in front of me, demanding my acknowledgment.
And through this acknowledgment, I may never quite decide for certain if the idea of Free Art is naïve or pioneering (or both), but I may be infected by it, nonetheless.