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X Initiative and Social Art

February 4, 2010

New York artists are doing something cool tonight. Well, a little something extra cool, I hear New Yorkers are typically pretty up on the arts all the time anyway. A project called the X initiative, or just X, is putting on a 24 hour art spree in their building, and everyone is invited. For one day, from 11 am February 3rd to 2pm February 4th (some time is given for tear-down) any artist can come into the X gallery and, space permitting, display their work. The show is free to artists and art viewers, and open for the whole 24 hour time span.

The idea behind the show, and the other exhibitions and events put on by X initiative, is to redefine contemporary art and challenge traditional ideas through quick-response art and art events that react to the ever changing political and cultural environment. The result is something of a flashmob (video example here) with a little more meaning packed behind it.

According to ArtsBeat, the show was less than successful. The gallery space provided was nowhere close to full, and the bulk of the art pieces being shown were paintings or photographs. Granted, expecting complex installations or elaborate productions to be incorporated into a gallery in a matter of hours may exceed the capabilities of many artists, but some non-traditional mediums were expected to be represented, and were seemingly absent in the turnout.

All the same, the idea behind a show like this is intriguing. Treating art as a fleeting thing, done in the moment rather than created to capture and preserve a moment or an idea, may in some ways be seen as a reaction to the ever-quickening lifestyle we are leading. Our demand for new things, new entertainment, new media, new toys, new information, has shortened our attention spans as media consumers (see OMG IPAD for more elaboration on this concept). With art, a part of the media that creates lasting artifacts, it is difficult to adjust to the changing nature of our society’s media consumption.

X initiative’s concept of creating fleeting art events with lasting art that has limited availability, is one way of adjusting the medium to catch up with new media. Likewise, the initiative is incorporating aspects of social media use into art and art events. Participants can access information about events through the site, and at the events, can network with large numbers of other artists. Exhibition is open to all, rather than a select few, just as web space use is made available to all, and not just those who need or know how to construct a website via social media sites like Myspace of facebook. In much the same way open access creates problems for online spaces, open exhibitions may create issues in the art world. Questions of the value of the art presented are raised (just like the questions about the value of personal blogs versus professional blogs), and possibly for good reason. What must be considered is that, in making art exhibition open to all, the possibility for recognition of unknown artists, for the dissemination of new and innovative ideas, is increased simply by the increased amount of art available. The trick now will to be to determine how to extend the fleeting experience of a one-time art exhibition into a sustainable movement of short-term, mass art movements, and how to incorporate the initiative’s second goal – the quick use of art to comment on contemporary events in politics or society – into the established means of displaying such art.

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