newhive is the new platform for post internet art
We speak to the curator behind a platform bringing post internet art to the masses.
Embedded Lullabies by May Waver
NewHive is a publishing platform and social network that channels the DIY, anything-goes ethos of early web 2.0 sites like YourTheManNowDog and Jennicam, but with a contemporary interface, as if 4Chan got rebranded by the people who built AirBnB's website. It's part anarchic, part slick, and like all user generated platforms, full of the weird and wonderful.
NewHive's focus is on artistic production. A space for people to create and share artwork, digital sketches, writing and multimedia experiences, the network is fostering a wave of give-it-a-go new media artists as well as providing a platform for established figures like Molly Soda to experiment and debut work. We caught up with Lindsay Howard, a commissioner and curator with the site.
Can you tell us a little about NewHive? What's your role there?
NewHive is built by artists, for artists. You can easily upload, drag and drop text, photos, videos, and GIFs. The accessibility of the platform means it attracts a wide variety of people. I started working with NewHive in October 2014 as its first curator. I've always been an advocate for online practices. Five years ago, that meant bringing net art into a traditional gallery space; two years ago, that meant facilitating net art sales in the secondary market; and right now, it means working primarily with the immaterial.
The scalability of NewHive's tools allows it to reach out to artists working in many different fields, including some who haven't worked online before. We help them produce their creative visions. A few of the artists I've worked with have backgrounds in photography, video, even poetry, and find NewHive to be a great tool for bringing together these various media. Other artists, like Tara Sinn and Chris Shier, are able to work more heavily with the site's code editor and rely less, if at all, on the custom tools.
We're aiming to expand the perspectives and conversation around net-based practices, which I'm doing by directing NewHive's online commissioning program. In my first six months, I've organized over twenty new releases by artists such as Addie Wagenknecht, Jonas Lund, Alexandra Gorczynski, Jacob Ciocci, and Genevieve Belleveau - each of whom are exploring different aspects of contemporary art and culture.
My Afterlife is So Boring by Tara Sinn
How important is a critical online community to this sort of work?
Art is increasingly experienced through documentation. Audiences aren't limited to a specific geographical location. This means we have to be even more active in those dynamic spaces. It's always been the responsibility of the curator to create a critical discourse around artwork. While that used to mean writing long, academic essays in printed catalogues, it's now become important to engage in public conversations as they happen online. It's our job to interpret and to translate, and part of that is about opening up the curatorial process, from the early research stages to the archival process after a show closes. When I was working with Jacob Ciocci on New Expressions, he would send me incredibly thoughtful emails about DIY creativity, arts and crafts, and lifestyle specialists like Martha Stewart. I finally said, "Jacob, I think these emails are part of your project".
Is NewHive specifically focused on presenting new voices and artists?
One thing I love about working online is that there's less of an established system or set of unspoken rules for what's acceptable. We work with artists who are studying for their undergraduate degrees as well as artists who have been creating work for decades. There are so many stale ideas in the art world about emerging versus mid-career artists and none of that matters online. If you have a compelling idea, people will pay attention.
Pond by Alexandra Gorczynski
Are you seeing any trends of themes come through on NewHive recently?
I keep hearing artists talk about wanting to work in the shadows. I think they're responding to the Facebook-isation of the web, the feeling that you need to present a certain kind of image or always be on brand. We're too complex to exist inside social media profiles, and artists are eager to explore other places where identities can be more mutable. In response to this, there are a lot of deeply personal works on NewHive. Sometimes the frankness and vulnerability shocks me, to be honest, but those are the artists I can't get out of my head. We're all craving some sincerity, or at least some human dimension, in these social spaces.
How do NewHive's tools limit or expand the creative potential of the web?
It's more about opening up that creative potential to other groups of people, and asking questions about why they've been marginalized and discouraged from participating in conversations. I've heard from a lot of women that creating works visually first and then tweaking the code later has made their practice more productive, and previously unrealised projects are getting done faster. It'd be irresponsible to propose a one-size-fits-all solution but, in my experience, these tools are a helpful resource. And of course it's always advantageous to be part of a supportive community with shared interests.
What's your process for commissioning new work?
I curate the online exhibitions in the same way I would curate for an institution, but in a much more agile way. It's a process of constantly researching and talking with artists, as well as having an eye toward what's happening in culture. Last November, I was gchatting with Jonas Lund about how he could apply the idea of algorithmically generated popularity to gameify the Art Basel events in Miami. He ended up creating Miami Feels, which was a real-time data aggregator that tracked the social media feeds of art world influencers and celebrities to show what art they were into, parties they were attending, and anticipated where they'd go next. When you remove the conditions and requirements of physical space, you can focus more squarely on concepts and aesthetics, and executing them in a tight way.
Empty Space by Leah Beeferman
How is net art keeping up with the internet, in terms of visuals, ubiquity of handheld devices, connectivity, etc?
Net art has traditionally been about the desktop experience but artists have been creating on mobile for years, and now VR interfaces are also becoming attractive platforms. The early aesthetics, techniques, and concepts that characterised net art will always be part of its DNA, but artists who embrace the internet as a medium are now creating work as varied as art websites, data aggregation and visualization, social media performances, interactive fiction, browser extensions, ebooks, multimedia mixtapes, games, and a blurring of digital and analog tools. It's a place for creation, display, and distribution.
Which artists should we be watching on NewHive?
There are so many incredible artists on NewHive, but lately I've been following Betina Barbieri, Emily Gaynor, Bryce Grates, Romy Durrant, Daniel Toumine, Katie Foster, and Phoebe Jordan-Reilly. Teachers are starting to incorporate NewHive into their curriculums, so sometimes there'll be a flood of pages that are all related to some obscure subject, like when a teacher from Stanford University asked her students to create dating profiles or ruminate on the avant-garde. It's always a surprise when I open up my browser.
Text Tom Harrad