New Ways of Seeing

Hyperallergic has posted a worthwhile article by Tali Wertheimer about the way we see art now. The crux is this:

More and more people are only seeing artwork via the web, through blogs, museum websites, PDFs of exhibition catalogues, and the JPEG becomes the status quo of the art viewing experience. At what point do we forget about texture? Have we already forgotten?

Of course, when we see a material work of art online, “texture” is just one of the qualities that may elude us. The best print reproduction conveys at least some native qualities of the actual artwork, but it’s hard to disagree that a digital image is a poor substitute.

Interestingly, the author’s case is bolstered by a Mel Bochner print project at Two Palms:

If you’re a printmaker, you have experience with the disappointments of mechanical reproduction. By now, you must also have experience with the poverty of digital reproduction.

As a blogger who consumes a lot of art online, I see far more art on my monitor than I do in person. Here’s a peek inside the Printeresting infrastructure: sometimes, I scan hundreds of art images in an hour. Clearly, this is not the best way to see art. When I check my Google Reader, Walter Benjamin rolls in his grave.

I do feel somewhat guilty about the way I consume art online. It’s often the case that the digital image misrepresents the original. Sometimes, the digital image is an improvement.

But I hope that I approach the new Online Museum from an educated perspective. When I see a JPEG of an intaglio print, a lithograph, or (heaven forbid) a painting, I know what this stuff is supposed to look like. I have confidence in my ability to peer through the digital veil, and imagine the more tactile qualities. At Printeresting, my editorial choices are driven by my previous experience of actual work. Perhaps my confidence is an illusion. Sometimes, I must make mistakes; inevitably, some work I share with you is not as exciting as it appears to be.

But even given these limitations, the new mode of art consumption remains exciting to me, because it makes art viewing a daily experience. A pale simulation of a powerful original gains strength when it’s seen by thousands, or millions, of interested parties.

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Categories: Print-related, Printeresting, Uncategorized

3 Responses to “New Ways of Seeing”

  1. mark says:

    the internet is such new technology, and i am already over it. it’s a cheap facsimile of real life that leaves me feeling empty, almost without exception.

  2. Kevin says:

    Hmmm, perhaps a ‘Netflix for Prints’ would be a solution to this problem?

  3. Abi says:

    The internet may be empty and certainly doesn’t offer the same experience as a true-life viewing, but the ability to explore art on a regular basis makes up for it! Living in Podunk, AnyState doesn’t give many opportunities for genuine interaction with art, and I certainly would never have such wide influence and hunger for it.