Duchamp invented nominative art with his “Readymades” of the 1910s. Replacing the blue-collar manual labour of producing art with the white-collar managerialism of declaring it, Duchamp’s “creative act” was a blasphemous and unrepeatable event. Theologically, Duchamp’s act of creation apes God’s. Artistically it denies the power of art history and aesthetics. Such an act is unreproducable both practically and conceptually. It is a Badiouan event, a year zero.
This has been lost on the growing hordes of self-nominated (fnarr) heirs to Duchamp’s legacy. They point their magic finger at something and the art bit gets set on it. It’s a Meinongian ontology with artistic status replacing physical existence. To spell it out, it’s not Guitar Hero or the air guitar championships, it’s landfill indie. And after a couple of hours you nominate the entire universe and move on. Unless you also discover semiotics.
Semiotics is the art of textual ventriloquism. No matter what an object is or does, semiopsy will reveal amazing truths about it that are even more amazingly always congruent with hegemonic academic opinion. When applied to art, semiotics turns art objects into non-art objects and then makes them speak whatever will amuse the audience. Paintings and urinals are simply cultural objects with unreflective content for exegesis. This flattening of the cultural landscape raises semiotics, and the
semiotician, above it. Consumption becomes performance, a blasphemy
rehearsed in discotheques decades ago, and what is applauded is, as
Tony Wilson almost pointed out, the demonstration of taste. The act of
making the blog is a representation of a paradigmatic social and media
activity; the production of blogs.
Found images are often regarded as a subset of nominative art but it’s very rare that an image is simply nominated rather than recreated or reworked in some way. Silk-screen printing, painting, collaging or even re-photographing the image are interventions that work against the creative act being simply a matter of nomination. It is not until the era of digital images that nominating an image becomes as simple as nominating an object. This appears to be exemplified in group found image blogs.
In group found image blogs the artist becomes a DJ weaving a narrative of images. DJ Spooky’s “interrogation of meaning” would haunt this if not for the fact that nominating images to be art that will be subject to semiopsy is a category error akin to asking how many calories are in a communion wafer. Once the object is nominated as art its history and associations as a non-art object are gone, transubstantiated away. Since semiopsy is impossible, or would at most de-art rather than en-art the nominated image, the art must be somewhere else, such as in the creative act of producing the blog as art rather than as a blog.
This would make group found image blogs yet another form of pastoral, a high-cultural depiction of low-cultural subjects in order to extend the hegemony of high cultural values. These are not shepherds unknowingly illustrating Biblical scenes, they are resources (human or artistic) being managed to create value that accrues to the manager. Image nomination blogs share with relational art the culture of managerialism, outsourcing and the service industry. That capitalism has moved beyond the deskilling that produced relationalism is news that hasn’t reached the artworld yet. [And the complicity of myself and much recent cultural criticism in this is something I have yet to react to.]
Unless you are within the real-world social network that the blog is a product of you will not be able to recover its social production. This is the case with most social blogs, they are the reification of clique activity. [A point I missed until Paddy at Art Fag City, and Dana Boyd’s thesis, corrected my thinking on this.] Far from transparently depicting greater democracy or participation, group blogs based on nomination of found images performed as art are opaque, exclusionary and exploitative. The depiction fails because it is a depiction. It shares this problem with much relational art. Marie Antoinette milks her herd.
How, then, could group found image blogs work as art? Simple image DJ-ing on a vague theme will not work in the affective bandwidth of the web unless the juxtapositions of images become heroically incongruous in order to produce figure-ground relationships in the aesthetic and (if we must) semiotic potential differences of successive posts.
Reclaim the dynamic range of postmodernist eclecticism. Introduce compositional form into the flow of posts (slow, slow, quick-quick slow). Use bling as it’s actually used on MySpace profiles. Learn CSS, it won’t kill you. If you’re going to endlessly post the same terribly amusing animated GIFs, at least find some with fleshtones in.
Frighten the Frieds with theatricality, assumed personas, and other ways of embracing the acting-out of making a group image blog that is like a group image blog. Interrogate the relational space of the net with commedia. Act up as well as out.
And start nominating and performing semiopsy on your own activity rather than other people’s. Perhaps the point of the blogs should become the openings and schmoozing and admin work. A feedback loop will align the interests of your career and your art in a way that an interference pattern won’t. And it’ll be a much richer experience for everyone than just one more terribly amusing animated GIF. What happens when Nelson Muntz points and laughs at himself?