Paranormal Photography by Catherine King. Sixth in the Cosmic Joke Series.
by Jerome du Bois
If you want to know what to expect from this edition of the Arizona Biennial, you won't get much help from the Tucson Museum of Art, which has done most of the hosting for this recurring exhibition for almost sixty years. You would think they would have learned a little something about marketing and promotion after all that time. But no. The one page they set aside on their website is slim pickins indeed. For example, if you want to know who's in it, you get to download a bare-bones PDF of the 53 lucky artists selected for the show. A black-and-white naked list. If you want to know the kind of work these artists make, as I did, you have to do internet searches for every single one, as I did. More slim pickins, unfortunately, if you long for beauty and imagination, as Catherine and I do.
I could go on about the selected artists, but the point of this post is the pitch. (I am glad that TMA chose no contributions by Sue Chenoweth, Randy Slack, Jon Haddock, Heidi Hesse, or Mark Rubin-Toles.)
About that one anemic web page, though . . .
Just look at the thing. Three skimpy paragraphs, mainly statistics, one dinky JPEG, and one link, to the PDF artist list. What, don't they want you to know what to expect? What's going on opening night? Will there be speakers, for example? A band? Why so stingy with everything?
First, they should have created a website dedicated to the Biennial, and crammed it with information and images. I mean, one thumbnail of a mediocre painting to represent 53 artists? They should have had examples of all the artists' works, links to artists' websites, and even perhaps the very artworks in the exhibition. Why not? Do they think that, once people see the images online, they won't make the drive to Tucson? Maybe not, given the dim level of interest the present company generates. But still, they made their choices, and they ought to share those choices proudly and take their chances. And by "they" I don't just mean Ms. Guest Curator Vanderlip, I mean all the staff curators who did the filtering of the 700+ original entries.
They could add bells and whistles like short YouTube-like videos of some of the artists, talking about their contributions, or mini-studio visits, or previews of the lectures and other events during the exhibition's duration. You have to go to the Calendar to find out if there even are any such things during the Biennial's run. And there are.
And there you find out that the Arizona Biennial '07 doesn't even rate a solo opening night gig; it has to share the glory with something called Bikers. B/W photographs of bikers. That seems like a slap in the face to me, but the Biennial curators went along with it.
It's like eveyone involved is tired of it already, before it has even opened, everyone keeping a low profile. If you Google the term "Arizona Biennial '07" only one exhibiting artist shows up touting the exhibition, that perpetual grinning adolescent cliché Grant Wiggins. This is his third Biennial. He's a perfect emblem for the MOR, emptily-ironic tone pervading most of the art I found in my searches, but you'd think there would be more self-generated artist publicity.
You would also think that the curators would be talking up the TV people and the newspaper critics, emailing them colorful JPEGS and inviting them to sneak previews. There should be some kind of feature --artist or curator interviews, for example-- at least once a week, every week, before the opening.
And so on. This isn't difficult. It just mystifies me to log onto a museum web page devoted to a recent, panoramic survey of visual art, and see almost none. And then when I go looking for more information it's like hen's teeth on the ground. There is an internet, people; why don't you catch up to it?
Volver (First Web Version). 2007. Nature Photography / Digital Collage © King & du Bois.
Note by Jerome du Bois
Imagine this piece instantiated as follows: a four-foot by five-foot illuminated touch-sensitive Duratrans screen, with a little green dot just under each tree portrait. Press the dot, and the screen dissolves and a large-scale blow-up of your choice appears. Also available with a mini-DVD player which loops a nicely-fading fullscreen slideshow, among other options.
An idea worth returning to. (For example, Catherine's digital collages, such as the orb ones, lend themselves nicely to moody slideshows.)