In a world of pop-up Internet windows and endless streams of data scrolls that clog television news, the art scene is losing its solitude. Art-goers have grown accustomed to myriad assaults on the concentration and quiet they once expected from galleries or museums.
Where museum-goers were once left to their thoughts, now curators "helpfully" provide interpretation. Wall text has proliferated to such encyclopedic proportions that the wealth of information can cause you to second-guess your own opinion.
Once you could wander through a gallery and simply interact with the work, creating an internal narrative. Now a choppy, patchwork blur of sound bites contained in the attendant text dictates the mental and emotional course of an exhibit.
With the aspirations of the artist and curator stated so baldly and authoritatively, how can you presume to find an alternative or individual view? And rather than making your own links and deductions from the work on display, suddenly all themes and interactions between the work are spelled out with the clarity of Cliffs Notes.
It has become more and more difficult to simply interact with artwork, to find through the process of observation and contemplation some personal reaction to what the artist may intend, or what the canvas so persuasively suggests.
It's as if viewers can no longer be trusted to reach the "proper" conclusions without someone leading them down a path to the most obvious ones. It's like seeing Europe without ever leaving the tour bus or straying beyond the company of your fellow Americans.
But the assault does not end there. With the epidemic of blockbuster-itis, museums and galleries indoctrinate audiences to their project's unilateral worthiness and recommended interpretation with the most dreaded shock-and-awe multimedia assaults.
Headphones noxiously intrude on the solitude of viewers -- and even those who chose never to use them. What could be worse, in places founded on contemplation, than headphones that pre-empt your own thoughts and substitute them with someone else's? Headphones reassure those who want to learn more that art's puzzle has an ultimate answer, and that all will be illuminated with these handy instant guides. Lost is any communion with the work at that moment -- the magical exchange between viewer and object, which inspires a long-term investment in art. Headphones replace the urge to know more with the certainty that a solution has already been provided.
More troubling and annoying for those who choose not to wear headphones is the vacant-eyed, George Romero zombie-like shuffle they produce in users. Stumbling, herd-like headphone-wearers move like herky-jerky Country Bear Jamboree automatons and speak in unnaturally loud voices. Experienced art-goers must employ constant peripheral vision and defensive walking strategies to avoid the land mine danger of the headphoned, whose social skills have been disabled by the voices in their heads. If art-goers wanted to see humankind at its knuckle-dragging worse, they'd go to the mall.
Back to the shed
Curator Joey Orr's Shedspace continues to be a welcome break from the art world's seasonal routine and one of the most innovative art exhibitions around, partly because it uses its ephemeral qualities to such advantage. The temporary, one-weekend-night-only ShedSpace exhibitions force art to be more of a "scene" than it might otherwise be. ShedSpace imaginatively seeks to mix up the never-the-twain-shall-meet worlds of art folk and "regular folk" in its collision of Atlanta artists with neighborhoods off the beaten path.
For the fourth summer in a row, Orr's ShedSpace exhibition will feature a selection of Atlanta artists creating one-weekend only installations in "edgy" Inman Park (Aug. 2), Peoplestown (Aug. 9), East Lake (Aug. 16), College Park (Aug. 23), West End (Aug. 30) and the Little 5 Points Community Center, which will feature a collaborative project between the arts collective Dos Pestaneos and the Mad Housers throughout the month of August. Go to www.shedspace.org for a complete schedule.
A different drum
Eyedrum's upcoming monthly video night (July 30, doors open 8 p.m.) features an intriguing combination of artists: Jennifer Sheehan, a recent Atlanta College of Art grad, and Miami artist Lou Anne Colodny. Sheenan's experimental work is an imaginative appropriation of Terry Zwigoff's Ghost World which Sheenan infuses with an erotic, retro sensibility. Colodny offers a variety of works that mystify and charm by turns. Atlanta filmmakers can seem too indebted to three-act narrative form, but Sheehan and Colodny demonstrate that many artists out there still pursue film and video as experimental forms.
For Art's Sake is a biweekly column on Atlanta's visual arts scene.
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