I'm loosing count of the number of profiles I've set up on the internet in the past year...
maybe about 14... Artfind.co.nz, CreativeNZ, Fuel4arts, Dripbook, Virb, Facebook, Artelista, Issuu, WOW, IntrusiveArt, AniOman, Saatchi... That's not including the multiple profiles on Myspace. Is it a good thing I'm doing to promote my paintings? Or is it just one big bout of procrastination when I would be better off unplugging the computer and focussing on the paint, the canvas, the brushes? At least it becomes easier each time as I have images ready-prepared...
I've never sold a painting through the internet (tempting fate there) but occassionally I've met people who knew my work from seeing it online. It is a form of publicity which is out there for anyone to stumble across and you never know when chance will strike. But maybe I'm not using the internet in the best way? Or maybe the digital image is not the best way to show paintings?
Where are all the artists on the internet?
I remember asking myself that when I first opened a Myspace page just over a year ago. It seemed it was all about bands and scoring dates and when I came across another artist it was like an exciting discovery. There were other sites which you had to pay for and they were full of artists chasing the dream of selling work but I was pretty skint and didn't want to fork out on a site that could probably live off the income from the artists and not worry too much about promoting me as an individual. So I jumped into the messy community of Myspace head first. I think it is because it is such a jumble of tacky images, glittery text, layout codes to make the techies ill... it's like a poor suburb with seedy backstreets, music blasting from every window, not a safe place to walk alone, you have your cheap flat and there is a great mixture of cultures, immigrants from the world over, you write with someone and she mentions a gallery you want to see and so you arrange to meet at the entrance to the underground station and she turns out to be someone different from the photo, even a different name, but she is involved with art... I think this is why it is attractive to artists. It's not about separating yourself from the rest - of being in a gallery or art magazine or website - but of being in there with everyone else. Everyone has a chance to show who they are and what they do and to share it with people who may never enter a gallery and the audience is potentially huge. It's not surprising that at least four of the finalists in the first Saatchi Showdown are active on Myspace.
An immigrant myself to Madrid, I guess that was in part the motivation to seek out other artists in Spain and I decided to create a webpage to gather artists together: Artistas de España
. Luckily Spain has been slower than the UK in taking to Myspace so I was starting with something manageable. And now I have over 100 artists from all over the country and am starting to apply for funding for projects for everyone to get involved in and getting offers of help from the artists involved. Today I received a message from one of the artists, "Un hombre que viene de nueva zelanda se mueve más que cien españoles"
(A man from New Zealand gets more done than a hundred Spanish!) I did it for free and have spent many hours on it and sometimes wonder if it is worth it all and that motivates me to make something of it. It's not unique - there are other artists collectives who have formed through myspace and there are individuals who have initiated participatory projects in their page. But there is a sense in which it is something untried, unstable, unchecked...
I like to think that the internet can be used as a creative tool, not just for promoting work but for initiating new work; for stimulating creativity. It's not just about showing what you do. The internet should be a place where you can feel at home, walk about in your underpants, pop down the pub with a friend and discuss the day to day things. We have to get away from marketing, and away from hoping to get noticed, and turn it into a tool for our own creativity.
So I guess well over half the sites I'm on have failed in this respect; in that they are just about having a presence and showing work. They are not about creativity. But we learn as we go along, no? I'd be interested in your reactions and ideas ;-)