Friday Links: Now with bonus steampunk computers

Even at their most positive, this week’s selection of read-worthy blog posts run a bit strong towards the realm of what we might politely call constructive criticism of the art world. But even if we’re overrun with up-and-coming artists making much ado about their internet nativity, nothing takes the wind out of those digital sails like Victorian-era computational hijinks.

Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine (Source:

The hollow meaning of the digital native: Paddy Johnson sharply and spectacularly calls out all the empty rhetoric around young practitioners for whom the internet has held life-long ubiquity. Her point in a nutshell – being a digital native is artistically irrelevant unless it deliberately informs one’s work. As a conciliatory gesture, she also goes on to highlight concrete changes in contemporary art practice that can be attributed to the digital age. The resulting comment thread is engaged enough to also warrant reading.

How to get gum out of your relational aesthetics: The semi-regular Art Nurse at C-Monster advises an anonymous Brooklynite art blogger on how best to remove gum from a Manhattan art institution’s new rug “intended as a fuzzy stage for all manner of cutting-edge relational aesthetics” after said gum was transferred into the carpet by the blogger’s new pair of Beuys-inspired felt sneakers. While the Art Nurse (actually a sculptural and architectural conservator) has the same sage advice as any mother who’s ever raised a child, I would argue that the gum, being a valid a relational gesture, should probably remain stuck in the rug.

Do you have to be an asshole to get ahead?: Ed Winkleman considers the correlation between art-world success and the risk of being unfavourably perceived by one’s peers. While he doesn’t make it seem precisely necessary to be an asshole to get ahead, Winkleman acknowledges that even the best-intentioned artists will eventually piss off someone on their way to the top:

The thing is, if you’re working in the art world, where there are insanely fewer seats at the head table than people wanting to eat there, any success you find is likely going to piss off someone. The choice here seems to be between having people not like you for the wrong reasons (you didn’t really owe them what they wanted from you) and people not liking you for the right reasons (you did probably screw them). Few of us get through life without doing a little of the latter…and in the overall scheme of things that just makes us human.

Why Culture Days wasn’t enough: In the wake of Canada-wide Culture Days events promoting free access to the arts, Leah Sandals writes in The Star about the extent to which our cultural institutions still block access to their programs via exorbitant admission fees. Access has become a recurring concern for Sandals, who is able to back up her argument with some truly eye-opening figures, such as the 200% increase in admission fees at the AGO. Having just returned from the UK where galleries and museums are largely free for all save for special ticketed exhibitions, I can’t help but feel she has some very damn good points.

Not necessarily art-related because art only wishes it were this awesome: The BBC reports that 1600 people have now pledged support to build the first complete working version of Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine, which could have been the world’s first computer if it had ever made its way off paper back in 1837. The design calls for an iron-and-brass machine construction the size of a truck and powered by steam, and with a whopping 1K of memory it would be both the slowest and most visually kick-ass computer known to man.


Thanks for the link, Stephanie! It will be sad/worrisome maybe to see what happens in the UK with this new budget. They’ve provided such a model for economic access. I’ll keep fingers crossed remembering something I read in my research that the Tate and some other museums had free access to its permanent collection even before full government funding came in for same.

Leah Sandals added these pithy words on Oct 19 10 at 5:51 pm

The budget cuts to Arts Council England really are gutting at 29.6% (you can read about it at the BBC here: but it’s sure something when even the man wielding the axe makes a point of saying that free access to museums will be preserved in spite of the massive cuts elsewhere in arts funding. Which is probably very bad news for anyone less than the major institutions, but it’s interesting to see how much more deeply that free access is valued in the UK.

Steph added these pithy words on Oct 20 10 at 7:03 pm
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