Tag Archives: blogging

To Follow Things as I Encounter Them: Blogging, Art, and Attention

An article I wrote about two blogging projects by Lisa Kelly and Thea Rechner is now online, over here.

Here’s a little snippet from the introduction:

The tiny annotated moments of ephemeral experience are what I want to focus on here. Via a brief exploration of two blog projects by Australian artists, I hope to demonstrate the mutually transformative relationship between the practices of blogging and the quality of our attention.

It’s for a new online journal called 127 Prince – named after the address of the restaurant called FOOD, run by Carol Goodden, Gordon Matta-Clark and friends in 1971. My penpal, Randall Szott, is one of the editors. He invited me to contribute something to this first issue of the journal, which “will present and examine ideas on the art of social practice, and the social practice of art.”

I’d love to hear anyone’s thoughts about the ideas about blogging and attention that I am sloshing around over there. The journal has a comments section for discussion after each article, and the editors are keen for a dialogical process rather than using a top-down “refereed” system of selection and publishing articles.

Art as public forum: the art of blogging by Laura Hindmarsh

Laura Hindmarsh, an artist from Perth, recently wrote an article for UN Magazine entitled Art as public forum: the art of blogging.

Laura and I met just over a year ago when I was visiting Perth and working on the Bon Scott Blog. Together with her colleagues Claire and Anna, she sometimes makes projects under the name Inter Collective. The collective runs a blog parallel to their ephemeral art practices. When we met last year, we shared thoughts about our various motivations for blogging alongside interactions “in real life” (or as Lauren would say, “IRL”).

For one thing, as artists operating within an educational institution (at the time Laura was an honours students at UWA in Perth) blogging gave visibility to her otherwise “blink and you miss it” / “you had to be there” practices – making those practices available for “assessment” by the university system. But of course there’s more to it than that…

You can download Laura’s article in UN Magazine here (but you have to get the whole magazine as a 12MB pdf). For ease of use, I reproduce it below.

Laura also has some interesting ideas about the effects of keeping a blog on the experience of time. In one email she sent me, she used the term “structural intervalling” as a way of thinking about how daily blogging breaks time down into chunks which become manageable… but there wasn’t room for such complexities in this essay. Hopefully we’ll hear more on these ideas from Laura soon…

On with her article–
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Two Types of Blogs

lucas blogging drawing

To follow on from my recent post about “good” blogs… I want to get down on blog-paper a few thoughts rattling around my brain about blogging…

Last year my friend Kirsten asked me about blogging – about how to go about making a “good” blog. She, of course, has a good blog of her own, but seeing as I’ve done a couple of very intensive art projects which use blogs as their primary medium, I do have some thoughts about the nuts and bolts of making them work.
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What makes a good blog?

It’s probably impossible to answer this question. It’s a bit like asking, “what makes a good book?”

Blogs are so many things to so many people – they are forms of journalism, pedagogical tools for university courses, personal diaries, social hangout spaces, places for writing fan fiction, locations for software to be released and discussed… The list is as long as the uses to which blogs have been put, which is to say, more diverse than I can mention.

Although “early” blog theories (that is, those from about 5 years ago!) emphasised the keeping of journals and diaries as the main function of blogs (Viviane Serfaty’s book is a good example of this notion), the explosion of different uses for blogs has led some more recent definitions to reduce what-blogging-is to bare technological terms – that is, blogging is a medium. This way of defining blogs reduces them to something like this: “Blogs are an online publishing tool; blogs consist of a series of individual “entries”; these entries are usually displayed in reverse chronological order.” (Wikipedia’s definition is along these lines.)

As Jill Walker Rettberg explains in her great little book called, simply, Blogging, within this bare-bones techno-definition of blogging as a medium, various genres can be sifted out: political blogging, filter blogging, diary-style blogging, and so on. Each of these genres (and its attendant sub and sub-sub genres) comes with its own set of conventions, and within the genre, those conventions make sense – they can be used to determine a “good” from a “bad” blog.

In general, though, Walker Rettberg presents three basic criteria which define – not what a blog is, but how it is (p.21). Those criteria are “frequency, brevity, and personality” (she borrows these terms from Evan Williams, the fella who invented Blogger). She then goes on to explain that the first two of these criteria (frequency and brevity) are formal qualities associated with blogs. The third criteria, however, points to a further feature of blogs which is very important, and pertinant, I think, to the question of what makes a good blog – personality. Blogs, she writes are “generally written in the first person”. They are subjective. They are social.

How does this help us think about what makes a good blog? Well, if Rettberg Walker’s last point is true (and I believe it is, wholeheartedly) then the question becomes something like – “what makes a good friend?”

My friends are people that I trust. I trust them, not because they come with some kind of accreditation or references (as I would require if hiring someone for a job). I trust them because of some action they have performed, in relation to me, which makes me believe they are trustworthy.

Perhaps they helped me solve a problem I had. Maybe they told a story about themselves which made me think differently about my own relationship to the world. Or they made me laugh. Or they listened to me when I had something to get off my chest. Whatever the case, hanging out with them was a rewarding experience, regularly enough, for me to say, “I like him/her”. The effort expended in passing time with them was worth it. So I kept coming back, and a relationship between us – friendship – was formed.

And it’s the same for “good” blogs, I would say.

How can art practice be “Research”?

If in doubt, return to blogging! Since the question posed in the title of this blog entry is unfathomable to me, and I am struggling to sort it out in my academic word documents, here I am, back online, where things don’t have to be “right”, just interesting…

Unfortunately, I fear that this question shouldn’t be unfathomable to me, by this stage. I am due to hand in my thesis on 12 June, my scholarship has run out, I’ve been on this boat for over 3 years now… I should, by rights, know WTF “art practice as research” means!

But I don’t.

I’ve always thought of art as a sort of whimsy. It’s something silly to pursue that makes people realise how silly the whole world is, so we might as well relax and not all take ourselves too seriously.

And then, fool that I am, I go and enrol in a PhD programme which proposes that art practice is not only a very serious business, it is a form of RESEARCH that stands up as an equivalent to the research produced by, say, my ole buddy Chris-o, the pharmacologist, who has done an intensive study of withdrawal symptoms of methamphetamine addicts. He will hand his thesis in about the same time as me. Mine will be about blogging as a form of art. Assuming all goes well, we will both end up with PhD degrees. How the hell can they be equivalent?

One of the frustrating things about the job my university requires of me, is that I have to submit an academic research paper. My argument (as best I can muster it) is about how blogging allows knowledge to emerge in a fragmentary, collaborative way. It’s about allowing us to see the process of doing stuff, experiencing life, and turning it over through dialogue, as a thing that is constantly emerging – not a tidy finished product.

And yet, what is the written thesis supposed to be? A watertight product with complete footnotes and all contingencies taken care of. Talk about square peg in round hole, eh?

In various chats with friends who are also trying to shoehorn their unwieldy creative projects into the format for “submission” (think about the meaning underlying that word!), I have mused on other possibilities. How great would it be, I have asked myself, if I could hand in my PhD as a series of blog entries? That way, I could merge means and ends. Method and product would utilise the same system – the thing would actually DO what it said, not just be a way of drily saying something about a process that happens somewhere else.

Here’s how it would work. Each blog entry would have to be relatively concise. Each would pose a question, or state some observations, related to the practice of blogging-as-art (the two projects presented as part of this thesis are Bilateral Kellerberrin and Bilateral Petersham). Just like an academic paper, the entries would refer also to other thinkers and artists, considering ways that others have done this stuff, and suggesting the possible benefits of doing and thinking in the way I have carried out.

But, unlike an academic paper, these entries would then be open to enquiry, suggestion and response from others (and from myself) through the comments form at the end of each blog entry. This would be a strictly ADDITIVE process. Unlike academic writing, blogging creates a sort of knowledge through querying what has been already written, and then responding to the queries, as a dialogical process. (OK, so academic writing does that too, but it’s an interminably long-winded way of doing things, publishing in refereed journals then responding in kind, takes years…).

My point is, the whole process of dialogical exchange (and knowledge production) is laid bare in the blogging format. Furthermore, these blog entries (ie “thesis chapters”) would be published one by one, as they are written. There would thus be the chance that comments and dialogue generated by an early blog entry could affect what happens in the ensuing chapters. The whole process would be emergent – and visibly so – as opposed to the standard academic model of hiding away in the study, burning the midnight oil to get this essay perfect BEFORE making it public. If the academics really required it, I could do a summing-up entry which ran through what I thought I had learned from the process.

All of which is to say, I would like to perform upon academia the same opening-out as I like to perform on the art world. In my way of doing things, art is shown to be a set of emergent processes rather than a magical product that seems to come from some mysterious other planet. Bilateral Kellerberrin and Bilateral Petersham are clear examples of this emergent-process-as-art, where interactions between me and local residents who I bump into, written up on the blog, then lead to further interactions and suggestions for future adventures. My recent goat project Gruffling is this whole method in a nutshell.

Would / could my university accept such a thesis?

Proposal for a (networked_book) about (networked_art)

turbulence.org, an online network “commissioning and supporting net art” has called for proposals for a web publication discussing recent art projects made possible by computers and networked connectivity. Importantly, the published contributions, being online, will be available for further discussion and additions, which is entirely appropriate given the subject matter.

I figured my blogging-as-art projects might make a useful practice-based contribution to this publication, and to that end, here is my proposal. (You can view others’ proposals here.)

Lucas Ihlein

Blogging as Art: a Framework for the Intensification of Lived Experience

In 2006, I carried out an art and blogging project designed to intensify the intimacy of my connection to my local neighbourhood. I made a strict rule: For two months, I would not leave the boundaries of Petersham, the suburb where I live in Sydney’s inner-west. Each morning I wrote a blog entry about the events of the previous day. The blog, Bilateral Petersham (http://thesham.info), developed a large and loyal community of readers and became a powerful tool for framing, participating in, and reflecting on everyday life in my local community.

Bilateral Petersham is one of a series of “blogging as art” projects engaging with different communities which I have undertaken since 2005. In my practice, my starting point is always the inherent aesthetic qualities of everyday conversations and interactions (including those which occur online). Blogging creates a framework in which attention is focused on, and in, these conversations. Dialogue with online correspondents generates a proliferation of new opportunities for encounters in “the real world”. These encounters in turn become the material for tomorrow’s blog postings, which go beyond diaristic reporting or ethnographic record. The blog – an ever-evolving work in progress – is simultaneously a genuine component of “real life” and an extended literary drama.

To demonstrate the dramatic and aesthetic potential of blogging as a dialogical mode of art making, this chapter will examine a series of postings from my blogs. In one particular entry from Bilateral Petersham, “An Easterly Dilemma“, I am confronted with a compelling request to break my own rule and leave Petersham for a family event. This dilemma is opened up to my blog readership, initiating a heated discussion on the ethical tensions between art and life, and prompting an online brainstorming of strategies for future action.

blogging, attention, experience, drama, interaction, art, communicative exchange, relationality.

Three networked writing samples:

An Easter-ly Dilemma“, from Bilateral Petersham.

Cold Turkey, from Bilateral Blog. Having completed several blogging art projects, I am contemplating withdrawing from the internet for a period of one year. This blog entry, “Cold Turkey”, is a discussion of the practicalities and ethics of this “net-death”.

At the Cemetery, from Bon Scott Blog. This entry from the Bon Scott Blog is a good example of the way blogging operates to focus and intensify a series of ordinary/extraordinary encounters. In this post, I tell the story of my day at the Fremantle Cemetery on the anniversary of Bon’s death.

Short CV and biography of Lucas Ihlein.

Bon and Me

Everyone has a Bon Scott story.

I just got back from overseas, and my friends ask “so what are you up to now that you’re back?” When I reply, “I’m working on a project about Bon Scott, you know, that guy from AC/DC”, there is generally a pause, and either a look of incredulity, or almost immediate raucous laughter. You see, I’m not really the kind of person who you’d think of as an enthusiast for these things. My interests tend to be a bit bookish. I have a tendency to over-intellectualise, which fits more with an interest in obscure corners of conceptual art history, than Aussie rock legends. So it’s all very amusing, isn’t it?

The next thing that happens is that, once my so-called friends have gotten over their ridiculing of my rock credentials, they inevitably launch into their own stories about AC/DC. Here’s one by Diego, who is describing a scene from a small town outside of Turin, in the north of Italy:

When was it? Oh damn, I was driving around, so I must have had a licence, so that makes me 18…so I suppose it must have been about 1988 then. I was driving around with all my friends, and someone had this tape, I can’t remember where it came from, did my sister give it to me? Anyway, we put it on and it was wow! You know [does air guitar and sings the riff “na, na na, na na….di-di-di-di-du-do”] and we were really into it but we had no idea who it was, we figured it must have been Rod Stewart or something. It wasn’t until a long time after that someone told me it was AC/DC. You know, we knew nothing about that stuff, but it were were really into that guitar bit.

The funny thing is, I’m not even convinced that the famous riff Diego sings while telling this story is an AC/DC song. But who knows? Certainly not me. There are so many famous guitar riffs. They’re like pithy quotes from Shakespeare: we all recognise them, but we can’t always remember where they came from.

Diego asks a few other questions which betray his enthusiastic but hazy grasp on AC/DC-ology:

“Wasn’t Bon the one who wore the funny hat?”
“No”, Keg says, “that was Angus, and it was a school uniform.”
Diego: “Oh, I thought they all had school uniforms”…

-but never mind that, he immediately picks up his air guitar and launches into song, in his Italo-Aussie accent: “ROCK-AND-ROLL-MAKES-NOISE-POLL-U-SHUNN!!”

Immediately I find myself correcting this in my own head. It should be “rock and roll AIN’T noise pollution!” (The meaning is quite specific, although Diego’s misreading is, I must admit, an interesting slip). (Read the full lyrics here.)

And then it dawns on me that after only a couple of days into my career as a fan (which consists, thus far, of the paltry reading of the first half of Bon Scott’s biography, and listening to one single album), it’s already started: I’m becoming an AC/DC nerd. Mothers of Australia, lock up your daughters. I’m about to bore them to tears.

Beginning the Bon Scott Blog

I’m starting a new project. It’s all about Bon Scott, the singer from AC/DC. He died in 1980. During the first half of this year there will be a Bon Scott Festival in Fremantle, Western Australia. That’s where he spent much of his childhood, and that’s where he’s buried. Apparently his is the most visited grave in the Freo cemetary. A bunch of fans have gotten together to raise the money to have a bronze statue of Bon made up. The statue will be unveiled on February 24th at a memorial concert. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, rumour has it that not all his fans think a bronze statue is the best way to memorialise their hero.*)

I have been commissioned by the Fremantle Arts Centre to write a blog about all of this. I’ll be travelling to WA in February for the statue unveiling and concert, and again in April/May when there will be further festivities and an exhibition by visual artists responding to Bon’s life and work. My mission, hazy as it is right now, is to interact with “the fans”, whoever they might be.

I’ve been asked to do this project based on my previous blogging projects, Bilateral Kellerberrin, and The Sham. In those projects, I spent an extended period of time blogging about a small country town in WA, and my own home suburb in Sydney. In this new project, I will need to get my head around a different kind of “site” – no longer geographically specific, but a site which revolves around a community of people who are dispersed throughout the world, and who hold in common their enthusiasm for Bon Scott.

I have to disclose from the beginning: I am not a fan. I certainly don’t dislike the music of AC/DC, but it’s just never crossed my horizon in any significant way, and I’ve never gone out of my way to listen to it. The earlier work of Bon Scott, before he joined AC/DC – well, I know nothing about it at all. So the Bon Scott Blog will certainly be, at least at the beginning, my autobiographical account of “coming to know Bon Scott”. I hope that some of the fans will take me under their wing and show me the “Tao of Bon”.

My first task is to get to Fremantle for the concert and statue unveiling on the 24th of February. I’m looking for an ardent fan as a travelling companion to drive with me across the nullabor from Sydney to Perth. The candidate would need to have a working car with a good stereo, and maybe some camping gear. I will pay for the petrol. Please contact me at shortleftleg[at]yahoo[dot]com to register your interest. (I guess we’d need to leave at least 5 days in advance…)

Coming soon: the new Bon Scott Blog…

*but I can’t remember where I heard this rumour. Searching around the net, looking at the enthusiastic sites maintained by fanclubs, I haven’t seen anything critical of the idea yet. Maybe I just dreamed it.

Bilateral Blogging – Essay about Bilateral Kellerberrin now available

Bilateral Kellerberrin Screenshot

An essay I wrote about my blog-as-art project Bilateral Kellerberrin has been published in The International Journal of the Arts in Society. (You can download a pdf here or here.)

To give you a broad idea, the essay is about blogging as a new(ish) form of artmaking, requiring us to think in new(ish) ways about its ethics and aesthetics. It also involves a bit of thinking about some of the ideas in Nicolas Bourriaud’s Relational Aesthetics, particularly the idea of micro-utopias and the difference between art that occurs in -vs- out of an art gallery context. I’m following John Dewey’s concerns (from Art as Experience) that art should not compartmentalise itself into special architectural spaces, but try to find ways to co-exist with every day life on its own terms. I claim that blogging (as I used it in Bilateral Kellerberrin) has the capacity to do this.
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