Website Construction for Visual Artists
But really... is having a website even
It's a fair question. The artist website has been an interesting problem, well beyond just the know-how of writing HTML, or mastering Dreamweaver. To my observation, artists have done fine without them -- relegating that part of their artistic visualization to gallerists, or simply allowing the uploads of others to satisfy any Google search of their name. Furthermore, artists have managed to ignore the Web entirely and rely on face-to-face networking. Or Facebook. If an online archive/portfolio is deemed necessary, then one can always call up the services of Flickr, YouTube or blog accounts without having to deal with the personal trouble of web-design.
The short answer these days is no.
Artists generally want to be understood as professional operators with their own sure hand on the tiller. It's hard to convey this perception when your public interface has been relegated to consumer-grade, pre-fab products. Or if you can't even take active
advantage of the most pervasive communication network to date.
In addition, artists (with little exception in my experience) are very interested in perception, public relations and communication media, and the Web makes a fertile platform for intermingling these issues with other ideas inherent in the physical work. This can be enacted in the graphic and architectural design of a website, or in how various online systems are coordinated to construct a digital persona.
Understandably, many artists do shift their online presence to social networking systems, which certainly seem more alive and personally relevant than the traditional mausoleum of the "portfolio website" (with the standard statement/gallery/resume/contact/links).
Consider some other possibilities for a personal site:
- An archive of public events (as opposed to "artworks accomplished")
- A portrayal of your artistic process
- An archive of concepts and narrative developments
- A personal mythology or alter-ego
- An "immaterial" artifact designed in tandem with discrete, corporeal works
- A fixed digital object working in conjunction with other more dynamic social networking streams
- A (performative) space to reexamine and reflect upon your own works
- A conversation between yourself and another artist
A Web interface needn't be the doppelgänger of the flesh-and-blood artist, but rather a fashioned tool that can seize the advantages of shared online space.
Lend us a hand already
It should go without saying that an artist without some sort of online presence makes things extremely difficult for curators and gallerists who are on the hunt. In addition, if your only Web representations are some hasty Flickr photos, or drastically out-of-date work from a gallery's archive page, or (God forbid) a college's student-profile page, then that's what they get. The merits of such images will have to make the case for any further investigations.
If documentation of your work is spun about various blogs and sites, it doesn't make the job easier for exhibition promoters, journalists or anyone else working to rally some interest in your art. This also goes for viewers who might like to chip in their own efforts as well.
An online collection of your activities can present a wider scope of your work that would otherwise only be available in a retrospective setting. This has an obvious benefit for viewers who have taken interest in a recent work or exhibition, but is also useful for the artists themselves, where managing the architecture of one's own archives is very much an aesthetic endeavor. It's an opportunity to craft the perceptual context of one's own work, and in a way that is more powerful than the 8.5x11" artist statement sheet. And it's fun!
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