As a very early adopter, I have been using online platforms for writing and sharing content for many years. Over that time, things have evolved and the purpose and content has shifted too.
Blogging originally became popular as a platform for distributing personal perspectives and creating provocations. It was to writers what artists using non-gallery locations was – somewhere to put creativity into the public realm without the need for curators, editors or legitimisation. So it was slightly anarchic.
When Twitter came along there were often drives to make it a creative platform too – we’ve had serialised tweet-poetry and tweet-plays. For a while, lots of different ways of displaying words were popular too, like word clouds, or those drawings made with symbols to create pictures. Once HTML became dynamic, all sorts of things were possible. I once described these things as “concrete poetry – without the concrete.”
What we seem to be getting now on both blogs and Twitter is a mish-mash of marketing and strategic amplification. It’s a form of legitimisation. How many times have I had an alert on my phone to tell me a certain cluster of arts professionals are tweeting about something? It’s like celebrity come-dancing; celebrity lost on an island; celebrity Twitter. I find it very sad to think that key leaders strategically plan this activity – but I suspect that may be the case. I know its all algorithm-led, but it is so mechanical and cold it removes any sense of genuine opinion or passion.
And the blogging for marketing and blogging for having a voice is also muddled up – and I am guilty of that too. Of course I will write posts about exhibtions I’m involved with, who wouldn’t. But I do find the more enjoyable posts I both read and write come from the heart. They are thinking out loud, or informed reviews about specific experiences or thoughts. I am sick of reading reviews of shows in art journals that are cobbled together from press releases. When I’m commissioned to write for journals myself Ihave sometimes been given a few paragraphs of marketing-speak that has been rote-learnt by the curator as key messages. One must dig deeper than that to get something worth reading.
So this blogpost is a bit of a Russian doll – it holds stories inside it with comments of more stories inside them. So the tiny one is the tweet, and they get bigger as they get out into the world. There’s a move to longform now, Medium.com is gaining a strong voice, as is The Conversation and Orion. While the mainstream press are becoming more like Twitter, creative writers are writing longer deeper pieces.
In parallel, artists are using non-gallery locations more and more, as the funding squeeze causes gallery closures and limited opening hours. Cluster events like Weekenders become amplifiers in the arts, marketing for the visual art sector that can collectively shout “we are still here”. The impact of the funding cuts is becoming increasingly visible at street level. I know it hurts and the scale has been horrendous, with so many people losing their income – but this reinvention of what artists and writers do is a living thing.
Let’s use it positively and not get sucked into becoming part of the Amazon mentality – respect the unique, hold onto the crafted, whether that’s word, material or curatorial programme.
That’s what makes meaningful activity stand out – not mass-clustering, ineffectual partnerships or tokenistic branding.