Despite the runaway success of on-line art dealing, we old skool netheads still hanker for the good old days when art on the Net was about more than ordering a £500 exclusive print from a website backed with an award-winning ad campaign by Mother and waiting for it to show up in the post.
So a big cheer for the opening next week of The Centre of Attention’s new exhibition, Email Art. There’s no private view, the centre’s Shoreditch gallery space will remain closed throughout and there’ll be no website from which to download whopping great files. Instead, if you want to own this art, you simply sign up and over six weeks receive a weekly low-tech e-mail from artists including Jenny Holzer, Simon Faithfull, Ken Friedman, Simon Poulter and Sylvie Fleury.
Some of these artists are famous for working on-line – Simon Faithfull in particular for his Palm Pilot art and role as curator and director of the visionary digital arts organisation e-2. Others like Friedman and Holzer for their mail art and art in public spaces.
‘I selected artists who work both onand off-line because I was interested in a number of different areas here,’ explains Pierre-Alexandre Coinde, co-director with Gary O’Dwyer of The Centre of Attention and curator of Email Art. ‘To begin with, there’s the idea of space and how you use it. We’ve always been keen on the idea of non-space-specific exhibitions and have done a number of projects and shows outside the gallery space. This is just using another space.
‘It could be virtual space, but it’s also personal space if you’re at home receiving the art on your computer, or private space within a public space if you’re picking up your e-mail on holiday in a cybercafÃ©,’ he adds.
This idea of space and the condition in which the viewer receives the message is one that Holzer will address with her text-based piece, whereas theorist and Fluxus artist Friedman’s piece will be ‘about interaction in the sense of it being instructions to the user to create something themselves,’ explains Coinde.
Of course, the show, by its nature, will also explore ideas around exclusivity, or the lack of it. ‘Email Art is about unlimited editions as opposed to limited editions; it’s about accessibility and the democratisation of art – if you like a piece you can print it out, frame it and stick it on your wall,’ says Coinde.
As such it’s the antithesis of work offered by such on-line art dealers as Britart, Countereditions and Eyestorm, which use the medium to sell exclusive pieces and limited-edition prints and in so doing firmly foster the ‘us and them’ nature of the gallery and viewer, something Coinde and the non-funded, non-commercial Centre of Attention are striving to break down.
Thus the sixth piece of Email Art will be an under 100K (that’s kilobytes, not pounds) piece by someone ‘responding to or addressing an element of the exhibition, the medium, or the issues it raises. So if you’ve always wanted to exhibit with Jenny Holzer, now’s your chance’, invites Coinde. Which sounds like manna from heaven to this old-skool nethead.
For more information visit www.thecentreof attention.org (e-mail art@thecentreofattention. org), www.e-2.org, www.britart.com, www.counter editions.com and www.eyestorm.com