Through the frame—another extemporaneous musing

Something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is how we experience art. Mainly because my own ability to visit shows has become so limited for a time. Openings are out, studio visits impossible and any exhibitions I do get to are on the fly. My only conversations with artists of late have been more social, over coffee. While we are talking about various things, the only looking involved is at each other.

This is interesting to me because the art—physical/material stuff—is completely mediated and removed from my day-to-day. I’m hearing about it from those who have seen something and have something to say. I hear the gossip. I’m seeing what’s online. I’m looking at art in two dimensions, documentation-style on the iPhone, gallery websites, blogs, magazine reviews, email, Vimeo and catalogues posted in. I feel like I’m entering into a new relationship with art. And I’m not sure it’s healthy.

Experiencing art in this way is useful in the sense that it’s easy to access, broad in scope and, as the Internet tends to do, one thing leads to another—lands you in places of discovery that were not anticipated. You can repeat your visit, archive material for future reference and learn a lot without actually being there. But something in all this is most definitely missing.

I had a startling thought last week—it was still dark. What if I woke up and the Internet was broke? My art consumption would go down a good 90%. I couldn’t view documentation of shows I will never see, review archives of things I’ve already missed, email back and forth about this work or that space. I couldn’t even make an application to the Australia Council. I’d be paralysed.

Solution: next week I’m doing something I haven’t done in a long, long, long time. I’m taking me and my girl to the NGV and walking through every single gallery and viewing every single work on display. I’m going to saturate myself in the physical encounter one-on-one (maybe two-on-one). And in the process hopefully remind myself how individually complex the game can be. Or not.