Why Parallel Communities?
Hyperallergic, one of the more prolific arts sites going (do they ever sleep?), had a thoughtful piece last week by Kyle Chayka titled Art-World Cliques that builds on a piece by gallerist/blogger Edward Winkleman called What Do We Mean by “The Dialogue?” Winkleman’s essay discusses the practical realities of art world relationships wherein artists, galleries, and fairs are self-grouped based on various dialogues. These dialogues, or what Chayka accurately renames cliques or scenes, revolve around different axes. To quote from Chayka:
The consequences of this reality are that as the art world grows larger, with ever more artists and ever more galleries joining an already-huge number of exhibitions, fairs, and biennales, the community as a whole is becoming increasingly segregated into a collection of different dialogues, or niches. We might as well call them “cliques” or “scenes” — circles around certain types of art, certain levels of industry, or certain social tribes. Winkleman dances around the social organization of the art world, preferring to assign the “dialogues” aesthetic boundaries. But there’s an insider-outsider power structure to all of our dealings in the art world that we can all perceive. What we now have, however, are more circles to be inside.
These cliques occur simultaneously, sometimes intersecting, sometimes not. There’s the painting clique, the internet art clique, and the new media clique (one that has historically had a very difficult time reaching the mainstream art-world dialogue, and continues to set itself apart, for better or worse). There’s a blue-chip clique, a lo-fi hipster clique, a Lower-East-Side clique, in fact, there are dozens. Like planets in the explosion following the Big Bang, as the art world grows the cliques both grow in size and grow farther apart.
By the media-specific logic, Printeresting’s readership can be broken down almost exponentially within printmaking: academic printmaking, printers, curators interested in print, designers who print, lithographers, letterpressers, and the list goes on. On the surface Printeresting is a media partisan espousing a love for all things print, but our audience is actually quite diverse. Looking a bit deeper, we’ve always tried to expand the definition of printed art; the idea of dwelling broadly or narrowly on media seems pretty dated. While there are plenty of posts about silkscreens and woodblocks, there are also posts that pull artwork from other disciplines and reframe seemingly disparate work in the context of print (for example).
Whether you call it a dialogue or a clique, printmaking with its shared facilities and idiosyncratic processes and language does exist as a parallel community to the larger art world. Like fans of a sports team or alumni of an institution, print is a niche providing a sense of unity and common bond. Making prints involves learning an elaborate set of terms and processes not easily explained at the Thanksgiving table so as practitioners and enthusiasts, we rely on on an “extended family” of fellow practitioners. The shared interest helps define identity and that’s important. That said, lots of interesting stuff happens when varied interests cross-pollinate. Very few artists seem interested in being identified solely as a printmaker.
I’d like to add a two more readings to the conversation. Malcolm Gladwell’s New Yorker article, Six Degrees of Lois Weisberg makes a strong case for overlapping interests and crossing group boundaries. More recently, Justin Moyer’s Washinton Citypaper piece, Our Band Could Be Your Band: How the Brooklynization of the culture killed regional music scenes, discusses the importance of regional communities in creating new directions in music/art. The key for any individual seems to be finding some balance between multiple group identities.
This post was only meant to share some links to a couple of interesting essays. It’s taken a more sprawling character than I ever intended but maybe Winkleman and Chayka’s posts along with the articles by Gladwell and Moyer combine for some worthwhile food-for-thought… and perhaps even dialogue.Bookmark / Share / Print