How can artists make money in the digital world? Should digital work created for the internet be curated offline in galleries? How can animated gifs, interactive experiences and responsive, crowd-sourced installations be archived for the future? Are brands the new patrons? Has the art establishment been too slow to adapt to new forms? Is code just as much a raw artistic material as clay?
On the second evening of Internet Week Europe, Protein
and online arts video-magazine Crane.TV
, assembled a super-panel to tackle the mind-bending conundrums facing the art world in the face of the digital evolution.
James Davies from the Google Art Project, digital artists Reed + Radar, onedotzero’s Shane Walters and Louise Shannon, V&A acting Head of Contemporary projects, (who worked with Walters on the recent Decode exhibition at the V&A) heatedly tackled the questions.
One of the key issues that arose was the question of a sustainable, money-making model for art distribution in an environment where work is sharable and transient. There were some discussions regarding systems of pay and for the right to screen, for example, animated gifs or creating saleable prints with augmented reality elements. It soon became apparent that this approach was simply a modification of the traditional arts business model which, in-turn, failed to accommodate the complexities and differences of digital works.
Left to right: Google Art's James Davies, onedotzero's Shane Walters, Reed + Radar, V&A head of contemporary projects Louise Shannonv
Another debate which caused much contention in the room was the suggestion from onedotzero’s Walters that much of the traditional art establishment had been slow to embrace or even attempt to engage with digital art. Drawing on their ‘Decode’ experience where they brought together the auguste institution of the V&A with the cutting-edge and fashionable, onedotzeroto (an event which saw double the expected number of visitors), Shannon and Walters demonstrated that it is possible for traditional gallery spaces to provide a platform for these new art forms.
Walters argued that lack of Arts Council funding for digital arts and a dismissive attitude from the heads of major galleries (such as the Tate) meant that the ‘establishment’ was missing the opportunity to experience and contemplate these new approaches as they unfurl.
In contrast, Google Art’s James Davies, who previously worked at the Tate, argued that it was the slow speed of change, the reticence to jump on every fad and an educated caution that ensured major galleries survived – and would continue to survive.
It was a lively discussion, granted it reached no concrete conclusions, but it definitely gave the assembled audience of artists and digital enthusiasts plenty to think about.