Right now I’m preparing a couple of articles, which I’ll probably publish here. But lately a couple of things keep preying on my mind, making me wonder just who is reading this stuff and why. Firstly, there was the unexpected response (a year later) to my review of Peter Gallo @ Horton Gallery NYC by gallery director Sean Horton, deeply indignant and disparaging about the validity of the argument offered. I’m willing to admit my mistakes there – they’re minor really – although puzzled how I came to make them. I do check these things. But quite apart from correcting Gallo’s exhibition record, I’m even more puzzled why a NYC dealer – mid-ranking, say – would bother with an obscure London blog? We have a NYC correspondent, to be sure – a Brooklyn specialist by the looks of it- but we can scarcely claim to wield any discernible influence in the art world – here or there. At least judging from our site stats, you’d think so.
My views I know run counter to those in the mainstream press or sites - but so do views expressed on thousands of other blogs! What gives? A Fluke?
Consider the current WWR stats page for the Art Reviews forum – these are compiled from hits via replies and probably server traffic. They’re inflated – although not as inflated as they were when we had an open door policy to spambots - but probably proportional, between posts. Allowing for these things, figures for the Gallo post are still striking: 737 views, 5 replies where the average WWR post scores around 50 views with none or 1 reply. That’s a lot of ‘views’ for the Gallo post, given the replies amount to just a couple of brief exchanges. Even where we have comparable numbers of replies – such as with the Doig @ Werner show – 6 replies - that only scores 427 views. So, multiplying replies don’t in themselves generate the numbers for ‘views’. One can only conclude we get a lot more readers for posts like Gallo, who just remain silent – again, puzzling when this seems to have been one of the more controversial posts. The Gallo post wasn’t our highest hit, but it did bring home to me that you don’t really know what’s going on with web publishing. Sometimes the silence is deafening, as they say. What you see is not always what you get or what others are taking away. A heap of people – who knows how networked – monitoring things: not surprising then when word gets back to an anxious dealer with an ear to the ground. It reminds me of the trolling that used to go on, back in the days of PaintersNYC. Only there, there was other noise on the web to flag the interest – here I don’t find anyone anywhere mentioning WWR. Yet we pull over 700 views for a post in which a dealer responds in person to criticism of one of the gallery’s artists? That doesn’t happen very often. And no one’s saying anything, at least not on the web.
Secondly, on my other site, CAP’S CRITS I published a long review of Neo Rauch’s work in December of 2011 – which contained over 40 links to reproductions of the artist’s work – mostly on his New York gallery site – David Zwirner – and in which I criticised the artist’s recent work. Within ten days of publishing, all the links to the gallery site were voided. Again, these are something I check carefully when publishing. It could be just co-incidence of course, gallery websites get upgraded all the time, but given the importance of the artist within Zwirner’s stable and the number of works concerned, the coincidence gets just a little bit too steep. And Zwirner is a serious heavy hitter. Again, CAP’S CRITS has zero profile – google it – yet the stats for that post are 757 views, where the average post is just over 100 (there are only 14 posts on the blog – but they’re longer essays really). The only comments on the Rauch post are some afterthoughts I added that way, so there’s not even any protest over my views, yet the hits pretty much max out the rest of the blog. Well, there is one other post that also hits the jackpot– a review of critic/art historian Terry Smith’s book What is Contemporary Art?
from back in July 2011. That scored 788 hits – no replies or comments. Although, I did offer the piece to online art journal Brooklyn Rail (based in Brooklyn NYC) – known for its accommodation of ‘difficult’ material - who couldn’t even be bothered declining my submission or responding to subsequent enquiries. So, was it so off the map they daren’t touch it, or they just couldn’t wait to read it on CAP’S CRITS?
We don’t see the bigger picture and it’s easy to project conspiracy. But the web is definitely not some transparent, free exchange, it’s often portrayed. It gets used by other people in ways you can’t even see or hear about. Another interesting example – the other day I published a post on Swiss/French painter Valérie Favre on WWR and CAP’S CRITS. Exactly the same post – in fact I discovered I could just copy and paste the web page from WWR straight into Blogger and it read the HTML exactly. A few problems formatting it then, but much faster than the long way I’d previously used. But when testing the two pages an interesting difference arose – one of the links got rerouted in Blogger. It works perfectly in WWR and I tested it in Blogger as a valid URL before publishing – no problems – but once I published it there it sends the reader somewhere else. There’s no explanation from Blogger or suggestion of alternatives, but clearly they have filters for certain kind of sites they think are inappropriate. There was nothing violent or pornographic about the image – as you can see here
– and Blogger makes no declaration of its censorship policy, but it is there, all the same. My point: there are these other forces at work on the web. I’d be paranoid to think they’re all directed at me – but I’d be naïve to think I’m not affected by them in some way.
Does it worry me? If anything it only inspires me to harsher, more trenchant criticism. I know I have enemies. I know I am an outsider because of that. I have nothing to lose at this stage. If it’s fun to watch me burn then amen, come sit a little closer.