By Radel Paredes
Those keeping tabs on Cebu’s contemporary art scene must have noticed how the ways our artists are displaying their works have changed over the last few years. The old gallery, as the hollowed ground for art exhibitions and exchange, has been constantly evolving as it tries to catch up with shifting trends in taste and technology of the art market.
The traditional notion of the gallery as the sole arbiter of taste and formal venue for the public exhibition of art has become problematic in today’s increasing tendency to level the playing field for both art making and art appreciation.
Efforts to bring art to a broader audience have inspired the rise of guerrilla galleries or alternative art spaces. Coffee shops, hotel lobbies, malls, and even office hallways, now compete with conventional galleries as venue for art exhibitions. Some of our artists have also converted their own studios into makeshift galleries, blurring the line between the place for making art and the venue for displaying it.
But perhaps the most radical of these developments is the use of cyberspace as venue for displaying art. The virtual gallery or museum has been reinventing the whole experience of viewing works of art.
Artists will just have to bear with the fact that the culture of simulation is here to stay, and that the old thrill of seeing the actual work spotlighted on the white wall of a quiet room can no longer be guaranteed if, in exchange, they want their art to reach the most number of people.
Something’s gotta give. And so the tactile will just have to give way to mere conjecture of what is actually a copy of a copy of a copy, ad infinitum.
But, wait: Isn’t this how most of us have been experiencing art ever since? Few of us were lucky to have traveled to Holland to inspect the broad impasto on Van Gogh’s “Sunflower”; most are content with a cheap postcard print or a downloaded screensaver version of the artwork.
Still, the hesitation of many old school painters to show their works online (not to mention the fear of piracy) persists. I admit I am one of them. Until now, I still have to submit electronic pictures of my works to Art Cebu, a legitimate web gallery showcasing contemporary Cebuano art.
With fellow writers Raymund Fernandez, Roy Lu, and Mike Obeñieta, we met the people behind this website. We were invited to speak on various topics on Cebuano art as part of their training and teambuilding program.
The exchange among us, speakers and participants, proved to be very enriching. It turned out, for example, that I actually left the place learning more, or to be more exact, unlearning more of my previous notions about the role the internet has to play in spreading art.
From Roy Lu, for example, we learned the possibility of applying serious curatorial work for web galleries. The progressive curator may actually exploit the immediacy of exchange provided by the web to solicit public reaction to the artist’s work. This makes the vision of democratic art more feasible. Conversely, faster and more direct selling may also be made between the artist and the interested buyer even without the mediation of the web gallery itself.
And as to the question of the works lacking three-dimensionality, wait until you see our geeks upload 360-degree video pans of sculptures and installations or podcast documentaries of live art performances by our avant garde artists. But if you’re really impatient, you can always click and purchase the work online. It will soon arrive at your doorstep safe in bubble wrap and ready for hanging.