ArtBase Open Call: Some Tumblrs!

Cat Frazier, “Canon Until Proven Non-Canon” from Animated Text.

Through April 15, Rhizome is accepting submissions for artist-made Tumblrs in three categories to be considered for accession to the Rhizome ArtBase. Approximately ten Tumblrs will be selected in each category, in collaboration with an external curator. The categories are:

  • Performance and portraiture, selected with juror Molly Soda, artist. 
  • 3D graphics, selected with Ari Spool, internet culture expert.
  • Memes & Macros, selected with RaFia Santana, artist. 

Each Tumblr will be archived using Webrecorder’s Browsertrix crawler and Rhizome’s Conifer platform; selected artists will be asked to commit the time to check their archived works for errors and have the opportunity to participate in an optional 60-minute oral history interview.

The ArtBase was relaunched in April 2021, and we ran our first open call for accessioned works in fall 2021, on the theme of Executable Poetry. Each work accessioned as part of that open call necessitated a bespoke archival approach; for our second call, we decided to focus on a more specific format that would allow for a more streamlined preservation process.  

In some ways, emphasizing individual Tumblrs runs counter to the ethos of the platform, which has been a place where users build networks of common interests, sharing content rapidly and developing image-rich conversations from which shared aesthetics emerged with bewildering speed. This type of collective cultural production is difficult to trace in the remaining archival record of many Tumblr communities today. While particular posts exist, the movement of ideas and images through networks can often only be glimpsed in fragmentary form, impeded by deleted, renamed, or password protected accounts, lost embeds or hotlinked media, and various pressures of Yahoo! corporate culture. Tumblr community history now exists mainly as a kind of embodied knowledge held by Tumblr users, which we hope to draw out through the contextual work that we do surrounding this open call, including artist interviews and commissioned texts. 

In other words, this open call will result in a highly subjective and partial view of an impossibly vast area of digital culture. In light of that, we may follow up with further rounds of Tumblr archiving efforts in future, but for now, send us your links using the open call submission form. Please direct any questions to [email protected]

Selection Criteria

Accession will be made based on artistic merit as interpreted by the jury; relevance to the ArtBase collection; and suitability for the selected category. In addition, Rhizome will place particular emphasis on accessioning artworks that represent forms of practice, political subjectivities, and communities previously omitted from the ArtBase.

Submission Process

Artists may submit one new or existing Tumblr to be considered for accession to the ArtBase. An artist who is a member of a collective may submit a Tumblr by the collective in addition to a Tumblr authored solely by them. Submissions will be open until April 15. Archival accessioning and oral history interviews will take place during the month of May, with an announcement happening mid to late June.

About the Artbase 

The Artbase is our key archive of born-digital art, initiated in 1999. Accepting open submissions which were lightly moderated, the ArtBase grew over the years to hold more than 2,200 artworks. The ArtBase provides long-term, free public access to born-digital artworks and related information. It isn’t an art collection—artists retain copyright of works in the ArtBase, and may sell or donate them to private collections (see the annotated Artist Agreement for more information). After several years of research and development, the ArtBase relaunched in April, 2021 featuring new infrastructure, improved metadata and presentation, and a new accessioning process.