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  • Jo Clement

Brewing ideas about digitised art

From afar this diddy picture by Cordelia Cembrowicz looks like a simple coffee coloured mug. Sadly, that blurry outline is as close as you'll get without travelling to the gallery and putting your nose upto the glass. 


Her etching is made from hundreds of naked people. Surreal enough as they stand, I imagine them singing I'm a little teapot, short and stout. This is my handle, this is my spout. Cembrowicz is famous for making the sweetest carvings of fairies from human teeth. More of it is not online at the moment and what is online, is not of sufficient resolution to appreciate it. 

Tooth Fairies, Cordelia Cembrowicz http://www.cembrowicz.co.uk/

Which brings me to a point about the usefulness of the internet to artists and writers. So many sell themselves short. The internet is seen as an accumulative vat of information. Everything is on here, apparently. But we're far from that point. I've squinted over so many two-bit pixelated photographs taken on groaning mobile phone cameras. Where you can't afford to travel to exhibitions - usually over in that London or the bigger cities - it is easy to feel detached from the very thing you enjoy most. It becomes a birthday treat, an annual pilgrimage rather than a weekly part of your practice.   Struggling artists and writers have so many free platforms to showcase material. This isn't an issue of space. Is it from fear? Fear of someone 'getting' it for free? Of course, artists and writers must be paid for their work in the same way a plumber would be paid for fixing a broken tap but where is the line to be drawn between getting your work out there and keeping it under lock and key. Musicians have the radio. We have publications, galleries and the internet. We must stop limiting our exposure, especially when the worlds of culture are so London-centric. When I see a piece of work by an unknown artist that makes me run home ready to find out more, I am, more often than not, disappointed. Often the publications we look for are lacking or cost more than a week of rent. Online, Google will throw up a few sites, some tiny .jpgs, the information you'd already gleaned at the exhibition and well, little else. Suddenly the artist is a memory in a gallery. A poem half remembered in a pub. 

If we are going to have to chase art, we must leave crumbs along the way. If someone likes your work, they might buy it. But what are the chances that a young woman like me could afford a print? Is it not a privilege to have someone pawing over your creations, be that in a gallery or on a laptop? What is the difference between these two experiences? To be seen and heard, I think, is the aim. Yeah? Right. This internet thing can do wonders. It is one big art gallery, a library that is free and accessible to all. That doesn't mean you have to have your entire body of work freely accessible as an independent, contemporary artist or writer. But a decent website and some information about your work provokes dialogue and collaboration.  Elsewhere, I am all for libraries and galleries digitising their archives. Keep the doors open to the public who've yet to get excited about art, poetry and literature. those who are able to afford transportation and time for their minds to wander. But we must let archives and collections be online for those who haven't. Beyond the gallery plinth, the poem for the poets. Art is a gift. Not a commodity. Let's not keep it a secret until the artist has passed. Let's share it now, like a good pot of tea and cake. Everyone deserves a slice.

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