YouTubing the art world
The debut of Robert Knafo’s NewArtTV, which is dedicated to offering online streaming video coverage of exhibitions, gallery shows, artist interviews, art world events, etc., gives us an opportunity to take a fresh look at a persistent question: Just how does one “cover” visual art in a televisual format, be it web-based or otherwise?
We should note that Knafo’s enterprise is not the proverbial “first to market” here. Basel-based VernissageTV has been up and running since late 2005. LXTV, a more broad-based lifestyle site, offers segments on art and collecting. Both artinfo.com and artreview.com are ramping up their menus of streaming video options (full disclosure, I’m working on a project for the latter). More independently, James Kalm maintains a channel on YouTube where he regularly posts more guerrilla-style first-person coverage of shows and openings. And I’m sure there are more, both on YouTube and beyond.
NewArtTV itself seems to follow the format favored by PBS’s Art:21, the well-produced and thematically organized series that forgoes a narrator in favor of voice-overs by the artist alone. VernissageTV gives up on narration of any kind, offering instead only a steady stream of “composed” installation shots. True to the YouTube ethos, Kalm’s episodes tend towards running commentary with the “record” button pushed.
These are different approaches to be sure, but it seems to me that they are only beginning to scratch at the surface of the “coverage” question. What is more, we should probably also ask how streaming video, the new promised land of web-based content (as the current writers strike more than amply demonstrates) might alter the relationship between “coverage” and “criticism”—is there room (or rather time) for the latter in a YouTube world?