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May 14, 2006

Full Circle

by Andras Szanto

The blogsphere today is more or less where the arts were circa 1975. It’s a realm of new opportunities, naïve expectations, and faux democracy. It’s smack in the middle of that euphoric moment that every innovative movement goes through before it makes its own peace with the status quo. Back in the seventies, it seemed everything was possible in the art world. Anything could be art and “everyone an artist,” as Beuys proclaimed.

But a funny thing happened on the way to this pluralist nirvana. Three decades later we are seeing an unprecedented institutionalization and commercialization of art. The entry fee into a successful art career is a $60,000 MFA. And while laissez-faire rules, aesthetically speaking, who can doubt that the artists being seen and heard are the ones who have the muscle of major galleries, presenting institutions, and distribution companies behind them. From the cloud of unbounded opportunity has emerged a new ironclad structure, no less selective and, in its own way, constraining than what had come before. To some degree, the very scale and openness of postmodern culture have mandated these new filters and hierarchies. And so it will go with the blogsphere. When the smoke clears, we will be back to listening and trusting a finite number of voices. We will depend on them, and we won’t have time for many more.

Posted by aszanto at May 14, 2006 2:06 PM


Interesting post, though it begs for clarification about why this inevitability of filters and hierarchies has to be understood as "faux democracy"? That "filters" and "hierarchies" naturally emerge, as you suggest, doesn't self-evidently diminish the medium's "democratic" character. To the contrary, democratic systems most frequently DO seek to bring order, and some semblance of structure, where there is cacophany.

The development of blogrolls are a case in point, right? Each blogger self-certifies him/herself as a reliable guider of opinion, and adds a list of preferred blogs to their own. That's hierarchy, that's filtering. But its also a perfectly democratic process of opinion formation.

Posted by: mpw at May 15, 2006 6:37 AM

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