What do you do as an artist when you no longer have a show, an opening, a concert, a performance, or anything at all that involves putting a finished work in front of an audience? As artists, we expect to have our work realized with a public event, a review, a sale, a publication, a tour, a something. So when everything public is on hold, and the only venue left is the virtual space, what in hell do we do? What is the goal? What is the achievement? What is the reward? Simple: go open source and share your process.
Art is much too goal oriented to begin with. We all know that the real alchemical magic of artistic creation is hidden away from the museum or gallery (save the maker spaces), unfolding in all of its messy glory in the studio. Most artists shy away from revealing the messiness, the unfinished, the process, with all of its misfires and dead ends. But when the reward to create a finished, polished work has been erased, this leaves the artist wondering & imagining how to re-connect with the viewer.
But the answer is right in front of us. We now have the means to share every move, every gesture, every stroke, every word, every sound, every image via the network. We have the means to connect our desktop directly to the viewer’s screen, eliminating all the countless steps of delivering a finished work to a pristine white space. Let the viewer into your studio! Broadcast! Transmit! Share your desktop! Write a blog post! Post your sketches on Instagram! Facebook Live your dance rehearsal! Create an Internet radio station for live electronic improvisation! Livestream an unfinished poem! Scream cathartically at the top of your lungs via YouTube! There are so many thousands of channels to choose from it would make Nam June Paik’s head spin (who by the way declared in the 1970s that someday every artist would have their own channel).
Now you have the opportunity to do everything in front and for the camera. What else is there to do? Sequestered as we are in self-imposed viral quarantine for God knows how long, you find yourself alone in your studio, very alone, disturbingly alone, wondering who in the world you are now making your work for. Forget about all that: you are not alone, but rather, as Sherry Turkle explains, “alone together.” Zoom into your compatriots’ studios to create an online Happening of collective nonsense in real time activating the third space of virtual relations as an autonomous free zone of playful social engagement. You need never be alone!
Art is part of everyday life, it is not separate from the air we breathe. By transmitting process via the network, we collectively & transparently revel in the pure joy (& agony) of our creative work. Art is not just about sipping cocktails at chichi openings with monied collectors, it is about getting funky & dirty & smelly in your overalls while contemplating your next artistic move. Art is about frustration and endless hours of hard work, often resulting in absolutely nothing. Art is about mining your brain for one good idea that unleashes a torrent of activity. So why not share this? It’s probably the most interesting & dynamic aspect of what art is really about, it’s human & flawed, not polished & honed. Art is as imperfect as the artists who make it, so why try & hide the glitched imperfections?
What kind of world can we now make in this horrific pandemic, if we let down our defenses and share the process of artistic creation, how we give birth to an idea, how we go from something stupid to something grand. Maybe the best way for an artist to change the world is to just be honest & open, allowing the viewer inside their world in all of its dark corners, wild flights & mad absurdities. Just imagine what we can all learn together if we are that transparent. What a world that would be! Go open source, it’s all we have left right now to be human.