“More interesting Internet ‘work’ will not just ‘exist’ on the Internet, but rely on the Internet for its existence.” (Lust, 2005)
–We who live the post-internet era are used to meeting the
original at half way. For us, Internet is more than just a handy
source of necessary information, it’s a natural way to “consume visual or auditory images, which will appear and disappear at a simple movement of the hand, hardly more than a
sign.” (Benjamin, 1936) Walter Benjamin was writing about
movies but now, almost eighty years later, also lectures, art
journals, and art come from all over the world to be collectively experienced anytime and anywhere.
Documentation is often more accessible than the real life.
“Art world has shifted its interest away from the artwork and
towards art documentation.” (Groys, 2002) Every gallery has
a website. These gallery websites are usually the only window
to see the real show. What is real and what is only an image?
What is it like to experience art as images or documentation
What if we take the quote above calling for more ‘interesting’ Internet for granted and browse through gallery websites
seeing them through the eyes of Lust? I think that big part of
them would look boring and uninteresting. Without reliance
on the Internet as an individual medium, many of them use
the same kind of language which is used in more traditional
and conventional mediums like press releases and exhibition
catalogues. Simple and plain photos of the exhibition accompanied with a text from the press release. An archive of
past exhibitions documented the same way, along with artists
biographies and basic gallery information. The only difference between different gallery websites is usually the graphic
So, what can we expect from a gallery website? What is the
role of it as an exhibition convention? How would the more
interesting gallery website look like? What is the role of
graphic designers here?
1 This is a shortened
and translated version of
my Ba-thesis to the department of graphic design in
the University of Art and
Design in Helsinki. Original
is in Finnish and availeable
on reguest.
This is the starting point for this essay¹. Trying to answer
these questions I suggest a new kind of a gallery website. A
website which creates content relying on the Internet and its
typical features, and functions as a platform for studying the
Internet as an environment for showing art. Like the experiments made with exhibition catalogues for example, I try to
point out new paths that could be followed and taken further.
Within this essay, I state in the spirit of Joseph Kosuth, that
all exhibition conventions (like gallery websites), should
always bring something new to the exhibition. Conventions
that just quote are not needed.
Joseph Grigely describes exhibition conventions as prosthesis functioning like storytellers between individual art works
as well as between artworks and the surrounding society.
He states that, for example, the press release should not just
quote the exhibition but rather puncture it. (Grigely, 2010)
This is a matter of representation. How the works and the
exhibition are translated into different medias such as posters,
press releases, invitations, Facebook events, wall labels, audio guides, catalogues or a web sites for example. All of these
have different purposes and qualities. What kind of content
would the gallery website have if it would rely on the Internet
for its existence?
2 According to Richard
Howells these three features, multimedia, interactivity, and updatebility
distinguish Internet from
all other medias. (Howells,
3 This huge mass of
information creates needs
for searching, presenting, and evaluating this
information. Art blogs are
an example of this. For
example vvork.com a very
simply structured website
where you can find images
of visual art, and some
video– and audio works.
Works are usually linked
from artists’ own or galleries websites and new ones
are added daily.
4 Some are trying to
reverse this development
and slow down the Internet. Triple Canopy is
a good example of this.
They publish text based
art journal online, and try
to make it so that it would
be in the favor of reading.
They also have projects to
bring together artists and
the Internet in a new way.
See for example: Shadow,
Glare by Erin Shrieff in
issue 9, and The Patio and
the index by: Tan Lin in
issue 14.
Internet is mixing multiple medias, it’s interactive, updateable and capable of storaging almost infinite amount of
information². This makes it different from any previous
medias.³ “The future lies in digital files.” (Carr, 2010)
“In the Post-Internet climate, it is assumed that the work of
art lies equally in the version of the object one would encounter at a gallery or museum, the images and other representations disseminated through the Internet and print publications, bootleg images of the object or its representations, and
variations on any of these as edited and recontextualized by
any other author.” And as he continues, a single work of art
is seen as a starting point, waiting to be manipulated into
something new by an active user. (Vierkant, 2010) This is the
ideology of an active web user or a web artist and it describes
the mindset we wanted to take in creating more “interesting
Internet”, but we think this could be generalized to consider
the people looking at art world through the gallery web sites.
The Internet has also its downsides. “Anything on the Internet is a fragment, provisional, pointing elsewhere. Nothing is
finished.”Everything is available but only on demand. (Price,
2002) Nicholas Carr again, is worried about our ability to
read and understand information. The content full of hyperlinks and flashing animations is restlessly trying to get our
attention. This creates an environment where learning and
digesting information is nearly impossible.⁴ (Carr, 2010)
While short or well designed text based content can work,
pictures, moving image, and sound are at home in the Internet. Images reveal everything at the first sight. Moving image
and sound have usually a clearly defined and visible duration.
They require less active and less participatory state of mind.
Sound could be listened in the background.
The key would be to create an entity with content that reflects
these typical features of the Internet.
How does this all relate to the gallery website? What kind of
content should they have? What are actually its main purposes?
In her graduate work, Miia Lehtola made a research about
the subject in Finland. According to that the main purposes
were documenting and archiving exhibitions, marketing,
presenting gallery and showing the gallery space, to sell art,
receive feedback, deliver information, and make international
connections. (Lehtola, 2004)
The Internet has also changed what we think and expect
from a gallery or a museum. Mainly because of it, the visual
identity has become important part of the overall museum or
gallery image. (Rock, 2006) The importance of visual identity
means the importance of graphic design. Is the visual identity
which actually defines the content in a gallery website? What
is the role of a graphic designer here?
Rather than the content, I believe it’s the visual identity that
connects the virtual website to the physical gallery. Within
the framework of a visual identity, the structure, layout, typography, and colour palette are applied to the gallery website. So, the visual identity could include ideas about how the
gallery, the exhibitions, individual artworks, and artists are
documented and shown. This framework, these limitations,
requirements, or set of questions, can then create an environment where each exhibition can react differently and have
different content, all within the same visual identity.
What is the difference between the worldview of artists and
one of technology? We think that these two perspectives can
give two possible directions in creating more Internet relying and more “interesting” gallery websites. One focusing on
abstract, or poetic, description and reflection, and the other
on gathering more and more accurate information and data.
5 The examples I used
in my thesis were: Vip Art
Fair 1, Galerie West, CarryOn, two MoMA Interactive
websites: Performance
7, Mirage by Joan Jonas,
and Andy Warhol, Motion
Pictures. Vip Art Fair is
clearly trying to present
the artworks as accurately as possible, trying
to imitate the real life art
fairs. The most interesting
thing here was how the
galleries had responded
to the situation. Some had
just images of the work
from different angles and
in different environments,
some had more text, and
some a video interview for
example. MoMA Interactive
-websites are good examples of more poetic ways
of describing an exhibition
and The Carry-On website
something between. With a
lot of different content.
6 This is typical for
Internet companies like
Google who which tries
to bring or create a index
or a representation of
everything to the Internet.
See for example their Art
7 For example Marie-José Sondeijker, the gallerist
from Galerie West, wrote
me that the idea behind
presenting different kind
of content is to widen their
audience. “Some people
prefer to read a long essay,
others prefer to watch
a short documentation.
Only in that way we can be
sure to reach the a diverse
audience. From art-student
to museum director, from
art-newbie to artists themselves.”
8 About critical design,
see for example: Critical
Design FAQ by Anthony
Dunne and Fiona Raby
bydandr/13/0), and Iaspis
Forum on Design and Critical Practice The Reader by:
Magnus Ericson, Martin
Frostner, Zak Kyes, Sara
Teleman, Jonas Williamsson (Eds.), 2009, Berlin:
Sternberg Press.
The first turns its head away from the actual artworks. By describing things or thoughts around them, it gives a new view
to the exhibition itself. It could describe a written piece with
a video or a painting with an audio interview. It could rather
describe something personal, than be transparent.⁵ It would
try to create something totally new, to keep the artwork alive.
The other direction again, is the total opposite. It would try to
gather as much, and as accurate information about the artworks as possible.⁶ You might be able to zoom and see details
you could not see with a naked eye, or you could see an event
or performance well documented, like you were there. In
other words, the exhibition and artworks are presented visually as realistically as possible.
It would not be meaningful to divide gallery web pages into
these two categories. Usually there are features from them
both.⁷ Maybe this could be taken even further, and like
Nabokov suggests for writing, the good gallery website could
have both: the precision of poetry and the intuition of science
(or technology).
Traditionally graphic design is seen as problem solving. Giving an answer to the clients needs. But what if the gallerist or
a curator can’t really define the problem or you don’t have a
example or “cure” to start from? Who should create the new
solutions? Who should lead the way?
Internet and new media artists’ work offer good examples for
inspiration, but I believe that a graphic designer with critical
attitude⁸ could invent the important problems, and so form
totally new solutions. By problems I mean the reasons and
ways to represent exhibitions in the context of the Internet.
By profession, graphic designers are experts in visual communication and I believe that we could create solutions that
would not just be something new, cool, and interesting, but
ones that could also work, be logical, usable, and understandable. For both, active Internet users and the general public.
This type of new thinking and new websites can only evolve
in collaboration with the gallerists, artists, curators, and
graphic designers who work together with web developers
and photographers. But essentially, good and open minded
clients from the gallery side are needed to be ready to go into
something new. And really, if you think about it, is there
something to lose?
Carr, Nicholas 2010 The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our
Brains (, W. W. Norton)
Grigely, Joseph, Obrist Hans Ulrich and Kyes, Zak
2010 Exhibition Prosthetics by Joseph Grigely. Lontoo: Bedford Press, and
Berlin: Sternberg Press.
Groys, Boris 2002 Art in the Age of Biopolitics: From Artwork to Art
Documentation Ostfildern-Ruit: Hatje Cantz, pp 108-114
Howells, Richard 2003. Visual Culture. Cambridge: Polity Press
fi_jyu-200537.pdf?sequence=1 Read 22.2.2011
Lust, 2005. Experiment in Sound. http://www.aiga.org/content.cfm/experiment-in-sound Read 21.3.2011
Price, Seth 2002. Dispersion. http://www.distributedhistory.com/Dispersion08.pdf Read 1.3.2011
Rock, Michael, 2006. Interview Michael Rock/Graphic Designer 2x4
New York, In: Hyland, Angus ja King Emily (ed.) 2006 Visual Identity and
Branding for the Arts. London: Laurence King Publishing (pp. 27-31)
Sondeijker, Marie-José 2011 VS: A couple of questions about your
gallery’s internet page. An e-mail conversation with the gallerist of Galerie
Vierkant, Artie 2010. The Image Object Post-Internet. http://jstchillin.
org/artie/pdf/The_Image_Object_Post-Internet_a4.pdf Read 20.12.2010
Mentioned Internetpages:
VIP ART FAIR. http://vipartfair.com/ Read 29.1.2011
GALERIE WEST: Carry-On. http://www.galeriewest.nl/
exhibitions/10_09_David_Horvitz/press Read 20.12.2010
MOMA: performance 7, mirage by Joan jonas http://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2009/joanjonas/ Read 20.12.2010
MOMA: Andy warhol, Motion Pictures http://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2010/warhol/ Read 1.3.2011