Peers in the networked world

When was a graduate student, in 2004 or 5, I had a car and drove Joseph Nechvatal home after a guest a lecture at Queens College. He said that the thing to strive for as an artist is to have recognition from your peers. He said, if your friends appreciate your work enough to talk to you about it, that keeps you going. Don't worry about gallery sales or critics' reviews, those are validating if they happen, but having friends to share work with is more important and available.

Joesph Nechvatal rear windOw curiOsités (2012) 2x2m computer-robotic assisted painting

Joesph Nechvatal

rear windOw curiOsités (2012) 2x2m computer-robotic assisted painting

It was straightforward who your friends were before the Internet and sites like Facebook. Now the meaning of friend includes ex-coworkers, acquaintances and distant family. It changes the type of feedback and support you receive. Posting work online, and receiving feedback via likes and comments is less satisfying and sustaining than face to face, or on the phone communication, especially about ideas and hard to articulate work. 

Chatting with neighbors takes time

This morning I sat on a stoop watching the kids in the car on the street during alternate side parking and had a conversation about the neighborhood with a elderly couple who moved in in the 1960's. They were sitting on their stoop enjoying espressos and the pleasant weather.    They know who lives where on the block and remember what things were like in the past. It is rejuvenating to have a conversation about nothing in particular without  having to rush to something else. They had a doctors appointment and I was done waiting for parking, so the conversation may have only lasted for 15 minutes, but because it wasn't rushed, it felt like much longer. 

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Time to connect

I have a sense of lost community. Maybe it is a fable, a place where you know people, and they know you. I imagine this sense of community takes time to coalesce. When I was a child, I felt very connected to the people and places I spent time near.   Every time I move, it takes many hours of casual interactions - talking about weather with neighbors, people working in stores, public officials - to reestablish a natural connection to the people around me. I'm terrible with names and it takes me many times of hearing one to recall it. I am also not particularly outgoing and don't introduce myself to others. It takes a lot of energy to make friends and it is painful to loose them. It seems that around five years in one place, I start to feel like people know me and I know them. Since childhood, I only once lived in a place for that long. There are natural communities formed around schools - spending that much time with others creates life-unique connections. When I think about where I'm from and what schools I attended, I still feel connected to those places and the people I spent time there with.   Increasing housing costs make it harder and harder to stay in one place for many years. Many friends and family move regularly, or live with their parents.  

How have my connections to communities changed because of displacement? Does it discourage connections based on common location and encourage more connections to others via digital means? Is this a new situation, or were there times in the past, like the industrial revolution, when displacement was high? How did people forge communities then? 

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Obama, Jesus, and the Empire State

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Yesterday, I had a conversation with a friend about how depressing the state of the world is and he said that I should take the long view and note how people behaved much more cruelly towards each other and more exploitively of the environment in the past, but that with so many fewer people then, they didn't have to deal with it.  Today, we have to deal with each other as neighbors, both locally and globally. How we communicate, what our references are, what our idea of history is, are all more important than ever. Many artists are voices in the choir of a belief system that respectfully and peacefully spans cultures. The future of humanity is going to be determined by how well we treat each other. Artists will continue to work towards a future of increased understanding and respect of one another.

Penn South panorama

Amazing little patch of freshly mowed grass

Panorama of freshly mowed grass and street at Penn South.  

Panorama of freshly mowed grass and street at Penn South.  

It is very interesting to observe the contrast between the greenery on one side of the street and the asphalt and concrete on the other. I am an avid reader of Jane Jacob's views on urban development. She would consider the decorative lawns spaces that are dead zones, empty spaces that make people feel isolated and unsafe. In the 60's and 70's when they city had many dead zones, these lawns seemed foreboding. Now, there are so few unused spaces in Manhattan, the lawns provide a rare expanse of greenery. Hardly unused, the lawns provide space for a myriad of birds and serve as an expanse for people to sit on benches and enjoy. 

New Sunglasses. New Haircut. New Website!

Cleo and me in a classic selfie on the couch.

I posted the above to Facebook and that I wanted people to peek at this new version of my website. But I feel like it is much more than just a new website. From 1996, until switching to squarespace.com last week, I had been maintaining my website via text documents saved via ftp to a host*. It was last century when I began using that technique and now I really feel like I've entered the 21st century. The ease of using templates and graphic user interfaces through my web browser (and maybe my tablet and phone too!) are seductive. Since last week, I've spent more than all my free time building up this website. It is so lovely an experience posting images, easily organizing them, then seeing things immediately work. I'm happy to leave the code under the hood and just use the tools! I'm particularly enamored with the ease of posting and selling work directly to my collectors**. It is interesting to think about the potential shift in financing digital art work if artists can create galleries that collectors worldwide can visit anytime and don't have the overhead of paying rent. Perhaps it has the potential to shift the paradigm of a few rich collectors supporting artists (and galleries' rent)  through the purchase of a few high priced art works to a new support network of many well educated but not particularly wealthy collectors through the purchase of many inexpensive pieces.  I'm building this website to explore this idea. 

I hope you check back and see the results unfold!

-Tommy

 

**If you want to see the old versions, they are still up at http://ergocise.com/tc

**If you are a collector, please bookmark my site. I'm adding many more pigment ink prints to the site this month. I will be adding vintage large tiled Digital Photo Collage prints from 1996-1998 to this site later this summer and more largerecent prints in the Fall.