My goal as a curator is always to push at the boundaries of what we expect from galleries, exhibitions, art and artists. The traditional exhibition spaces of museums and 'white cube' galleries have long been recognised as moribund; dead spaces for dead art, they do little more than confirm contemporary art as 'guarantor of the bourgeois dream', lining the pockets of the few while the vast majority of artists struggle to find the time and resources to make their work between numerous part-time, low-paying jobs.
The strategy behind DOMUS was to move art out of the gallery and into spaces where people might be able to give artworks the time and attention they require: the home. I consider the home one of the primary sites in which art should be experienced: away from the disciplining eyes of the gallery envigilator, in a space where we can relax and let the work speak as and when it will. Yet most people consider living with art the exclusive preserve of the few - of those wealthy enough and culturally indoctrinated to consider themselves collectors. In reality, many emerging artists are able to offer their works for sale at very modest prices; instead of investing in the Goliath poster and museum shop industries, we can buy inexpensive, original artworks and by doing so enable an artist to make their next body of work.
But this is clearly not enough; though artists in this market structure need money and therefore benefit from selling their works (while collectors equally benefit from living with art), there is ultimately no economic radicality in simply empowering more people to sell their works as commodities, and encouraging more people to buy. And further, what of artists whose work is ephemeral, installation-based, or otherwise un-commodifiable in traditional terms? Some of the most cutting-edge of contemporary art fits this description, and it tragically goes un- or under-represented in the art press as a result.
As a small step towards offering some alternative to the 'commodify or perish' dichotomy, we decided to mount the DOMUS exhibition on the Internet as well as in its real-time sites. It is thus a 'moving' exhibition in the widest possible sense (whether or not 'moving' is the same as 'nomadic' remains to be argued). The choice of the electronic venue, like that of the domestic ones, was also conditioned by economic exigencies: we simply had no capital to hire exhibition spaces, or publish the exhibition in paper-based media. Though it remains an imperfect medium in its ability to secure an audience - after all, the Internet is vast and little more than traditional advertising tools will guarantee than an individual site is visited at all - it has the virtue of being very low cost to use while permitting the display of an enormous number of full-colour or even moving images, sound, and text documents. It is potentially a way of reaching an international audience on a shoe-string budget. From DOMUS's on-line exhibtion, with the help of a grant from the National Lottery the the Arts Council of England, NEW ART was born. With NEW ART we have attempted to extend the benefits and the debate about art on the Net to a broader range of emerging artists, curators, critics and their audiences.
Of course, as with 'real-time' exhibitions, we must ask 'which audience' and how much is a 'shoe-string budget'? The Internet exhibition is still reaching the privileged few, wealthy enough to afford computers, socialised to value art and visit art web sites. Indeed, we as electronic curators fall into this same elite category. Further, there is the question of the representation of the work of art: the works in DOMUS were not created explicitly for electronic exhibition. We have photographed the works in situ - which already constitutes one remove from the 'real-time' experiences of the work - and then have digitised and re-presented those photographic representations electronically. Some might argue that these are new works when presented on the Net - works made by the curator and programmer, not by the attributed artist. The electronic media, like the 'real-time' exhibition spaces, privilege some works insofar as they simply 'look better' in this environment than other works do. Where does this leave the artist whose work does not translate into cyberspace?
The electronic exhibition is by no means the perfect venue, nor do I suspect there is one. It does, however, widen the field a bit, offering exposure to new artists, critics and curators, hopefully new opportunities to some artists, and new challenges to contemporary art curation. At the very least, I hope this use of the electronic exhibition will encourage debate on the important issues I've touched on above, and others yet to emerge.