I keep hearing artists say they are writing. What can they do with what they have written? Leave it in the notebook, like a sketch—a trace of a private activity done in the studio. Get it printed in a literary zine and become a hybrid artist/writer. Attach it to the brochure of a gallery exhibition and let it function, like a press release, for the show’s promotional apparatus—an ephemeral accessory to a saleable thing. Make an artist’s book. By joining work with words and work with materials in a tangible object, the artist’s book leads an audience to see the two as equal members in an artist’s output. But what else is there?
The question looks familiar from Rhizome’s perspective. It doubles the one facing artists who work online. With internet art, as with writing, choices about display are wrapped in choices about distribution. At one point or another, many artists wonder whether what they do online is an end in itself or a public sketchbook, a way to work through ideas that will later be embodied in a work to be shown in a gallery. Furthermore, it’s harder to make work online than on a canvas without touching problems of language. The internet may be a medium of visual culture, but the keyword is what finds the image, the tag brings you back to it, chat spreads it. There is plenty of popular-science speculation on how these new everyday forms of language use are “changing our minds.” Until ways are found to measure these changes, art and poetry can tell us more about them than prose.
Today marks the beginning of a project to regularly feature artists’ texts, poetry, and experimental writing on Rhizome’s blog. Posts in the series will be gathered under the editorial tag “wordworks.” They will appear twice monthly, starting today with selections from Erik Stinson. Submissions are welcome.