At Art Basel Hong Kong 2017, industry professionals gathered to discuss key issues in the art world.
Here Art Radar takes a look at two of the Salon talks, “Un/Bound | The Art of Publishing” and “New Publishing | Digital Media and Cultural Journalism”.
Un/Bound | The Art of Publishing
This talk examined what the role of art publishing is today. The talk “Un/Bound | The Art of Publishing” considered exhibition catalogues, magazines, artist books, and historical and philosophical writing. The discussion involved Reiko Tomii (Co-Director, PoNJA-GenKon, New York), Jitish Kallat (artist, Mumbai), Christina Li (aurator-at-large, Spring Workshop, Hong Kong) and Pak Sheung Chuen (artist, Hong Kong).
Pak Sheung Chuen commented that he uses publication in reverse, in that he presented his work in the newspaper first, and was related to current events. As he explains, the publication then became part of his work:
The publication itself for me is not only a thing to elaborate my idea or do a documentation of my artwork, but it is part of the media of my artwork.
Another example was when he found a book of tourist maps where several of the pages were missing. He then went to those missing places in real life and took photos of himself in those invisible spaces, questioning what is in these gaps. This is an example of when a publication has directly influenced the direction of his creative process.
Jitish Kallat started off by observing the change in the publishing industry:
Publishing has been unhinged from the traditional print eco-system of publisher-printer-distributor-reader. And this is not just in the argument of the digital. But perhaps the fact that publishing today has been handed over to the user, and tis user-generated publishing is really transforming the landscape under which information circulates.
He highlights that there is a rewiring of the global brain through which information moves. The circulation of content now involves publishing cohabiting within a larger cultural context. Drawing from his time writing about art in mainstream newspapers, Kallat wonders whether
maybe writing about art is most valuable where most people read about other things, so you can actually permeate general culture with ideas about art.
Christina Li spoke about a number of projects including the idea of creating a book as a residency, creating a still space on the page. She observed that storytelling does not necessarily have a large role in arts writing, and in Stationary they invited 18 writers to write more creatively about their obsessions.
Art Historian Reiko Tomii, who has lived since the late 1980s in New York, opened by observing that “Asia looks very different as seen from Asia than as seen from America.” She often needs to present Asia to the West and a more conventional approach is not enough. She highlights that the spine of a book is a Eurocentric construct and by challenging the conventional structure of the book you also challenge western perceptions. Reiko Tomii’s proposal is that we need to deconstruct the Eurocentric view through looking at various localities, a bottom up approach. She ends by saying that
our goal should be seeing modernism in a set of different spectrums […] so that we can put things in a multi-local way.
New Criticism | Digital Media and Cultural Journalism
Moderated by Vivienne Chow, the Salon conversation entitled “New Criticism | Digital Media and Cultural Journalism” explored the challenges brought about by the digital revolution, with instant news, live streaming on social media, and virtual reality taking communications into new dimensions. It questioned how this trend impacts art criticism and cultural journalism. The speakers included Matthew Anderson (editor, BBC Culture, London), George Chen (Head of Public Policy for Hong Kong and Taiwan, Facebook, Hong Kong) and Nonny de la Peña (Founder, Emblematic Group, Santa Monica).
The BBC has been operating in the digital space for a long time now, however, the digital space has been used more frequently for informing people about what is going on in the world whereas culture is designed to supplement this hard news. The online platform BBC Culture, which began several years ago, is aimed at an international audience and therefore has a different sensibility given this distance readership. They can no longer write about local cultural events and have to find new ways to present culture. They also operate in a commercial environment, so they need to continually grow their audience and get readers to return. This is a shift away from the traditional broadcasting structure, which could rely on public funding.
Anderson also highlights that social media cannot just be about marketing, it is more about sharing things that will be of interest to the audience. Chen supports this, explaining that at Facebook they focus on exchanges between people, the interactions and debates, not just the likes. But essentially, the core of their work is the same:
Media, no matter the old media, the new media, the social media, from newspaper to TV, it always serves as a medium to spread information.
Facebook is very popular in Hong Kong and is in the top 10 of user penetration of Facebook in the world, but Chen emphasises that it is not just about online, but that offline is also important. Therefore, they are continually looking for ways to bring the online and offline together.
Nonny de la Peña, who works as a professor in the virtual reality field, explained that artists are vital in the media ecology:
Nothing will survive unless artists embrace it and utilise it and push it and move it forward.
After a journey through the development of some aspects of virtual reality, de la Peña demonstrated how technology can now be used to document performance art. This could be a new way to archive temporary acts in a manner that offers a more complete experience, rather than just a partial one through video or photography.
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