abstraction, critical writing, digital image, South Australia

the digital image: a note

December 17, 2019

In this post on the Mallee Routes blog I mentioned the lack of critical writing about local exhibitions in Adelaide and the crisis of independent writing about art in general. An associated problem emerges from the art gallery existing in a digital economy due to the gallery usually having a minimal online presence; a minimal presence that is especially noticeable with respect to their exhibitions. The current Mallee Routes exhibition at the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery is a case in point.

The standard convention is that there is just the odd image from an exhibition online which is primarily used to market the exhibition to the public. This means that an online viewer, in say another state, is unable to gain a sense of, or assess, the exhibition. Secondly, there is little to no engagement, dialogue or conversation with the gallery’s online audience about their exhibitions. This, in turn, means that an exhibition has a limited reach and presence. It’s here today, seen by few, and forgotten tomorrow, unless it is reviewed or there is an exhibition catalogue. The latter only happens to the mega exhibitions of superstars or global artists working in the biennial culture. 

leaves + bark, Encounter Bay

The art gallery’s low digital presence provides an entry point into a problematic about how the nature of photography is changing and the significance of these changes. We can begin to explore this through looking at the functioning of the art gallery in a digital economy. Firstly, the gallery continues its role of curating and collecting photography; a role that is designed to sort the image s to incorporate into the canon through the separation of photography as art and not-art. However, in continuing to champion photography as an art form, the curators downplay photography’s role as a reproductive technology in order to emphasise the creative legitimacy of the photographer who pressed the shutter.

Secondly, art galleries continue to rely on foot traffic to view the staging of a contemporary photograph exhibition in the white cube, grounded in aesthetic modernism. It does appear that the curators in the art galleries currently see digital technologies as either a new tool for artists to express themselves, or as a channel for communications and marketing through which new audiences can be targeted and captured. This approach to digital technology excludes is photography’s diffusion into general computing in a digital economy.  

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  • Reply Stuart December 18, 2019 at 8:33 am

    The photographer’s gallery in London has Over the years exhibited and engaged with the digital and networked image. At some point in particular they ‘celebrated’ the gif image. But to the best of my knowledge no gallery in the western world anyway os engagingly with the networked image. Perhaps because galleries and museums are so focused on the object of which a networked image is not?

    • Reply Gary Sauer-Thompson December 18, 2019 at 1:27 pm

      I proceed slowly with the blog post. I do a minimal one, then rework it, do more research, and then add the links. I was exploring The Photographers’ Gallery online digital platform, Unthinking Photography, that was run by Katrina Sluis, who is now Head, Photography & Media Arts, at the ANU School of Art & Design, when you commented on the post.

      I had yet to work through their Tumblr which also explored the nexus of photography, automation and computation. It’s all a long way from the online presence of the Mallee Routes project.

  • Reply Stuart December 18, 2019 at 8:38 am

    In 2012 the Photographer’s gallery had an exhibition dedicated to the gif and created a digital wall. From their website.

    “The Wall forms part of a research programme which aims to explore issues concerning the digital image, its dissemination and display on-screen. The Wall’s programme will include experimental commissions, collaborations and participation.”


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