[-empyre-] we-blog introduction

The bigger thing to do would be to use this first post
to talk about the work of my fellow panelists, as Tom
has graciously done.  But I hope that my comments
about my fellow art weblogers's work will develop in
response to the discussions that will take place here.
 Instead, I'm going to do the smaller, ungracious
thing and talk about myself, cuz you know, that's what
I know best.

I've been weblogging for over five years, since March
2000.  During that time I've posted just about daily,
except in the early days when I was still trying to
figure out what this tool would do.  I've been at my
current home (http://chrisashley.net) since October
2003.  Now the only time I miss a day is when a
network is out of reach.  Wireless is changing that,

I began weblogging in order to play with and explore
its potential as an educational technology tool, which
was part of my day job.  (What's happening with
weblogs in the K-12 world might seem a different
although interesting discussion, but there are aspects
to audience, process, iteration, and performance that
are parallel to how I think of a weblog's potential
for art, too.) Pretty quickly, however, I began to do
non-work related weblogging that increasingly had to
do with art, specifically painting.  This was
connected to the fact that at the time I didn't have a
studio, had been doing really small drawings for a
long time, and during my time in education- basically,
the '90's- I had become just about totally unplugged
from any kind of art community.  After having worked
in education for a number of years I wanted to bring
art back to the center of my life.

So I started writing about art and wanting to put
images on each day's post.  But as proficient as I am
with Photoshop, and web design, and server directory
structure, and so on, I'm not a photographer, didn't
want to paint with software, and wanted to avoid the
whole multiple file, upload, and linking process.  The
weblog software at that time, Userland's Manila, was
really geekish and required lots of workarounds, and I
didn't like the way images were stored.  I had a
feeling that if I ever wanted to download my stuff and
move it or store it elsewhere that it was going to be
a huge drag.  Images- GIFs, JPEGs- were OK for casual
posting about other things, but they were not going to
be part of my art practice.

I learned HTML in 1995, I think, back in the days when
you taught yourself every new little tag by looking at
the source code of other people's pages.  I learned
pretty quickly to use tables as both a layout and
design tool; you could place text and images on a
page, and you could also make colored framing accents
with tables.  At some point it occurred to me that I
could use tables as a way of making really simple
images, and in that instant I found what I thought was
a really elegant solution to the problems I just
described: the HTML makes the image; if needed I could
write at least the earliest simple images all by hand
(actually, I use Dreamweaver); the HTML is embedded in
the page, in that day's post; the post is whole and
complete as is, no extra files required; the image is
completely portable and reusable; as text it's fairly
lightweight and friendly to users with all kinds of
bandwidth.  And since HTML is so easy to learn I
thought that there might be something very democratic
about it as a medium.

The earliest images were made with a very different
audience in mind- the edutech audience.  Just for fun.
 I've compiled a bunch from early 2001 at
 I screwed around with these on a somewhat regular
basis, and they eventually turned into things more
like abstract paintings; this early period is at
http://iu.berkeley.edu/ca/.  In July 2002 I had a kind
of breakthrough; if you look halfway down the Early
Drawings page for "July Short Stories" you'll see that
I made a series of fifteen drawings with a theme- the
drawings are tied to very brief texts, the images are
stronger, and they form a small body of work.  That's
been pretty much M.O. during the past three years.

HTML is a really limiting medium: all right angles;
flat hard surfaces and edges; limited color with
uniform intensity; the size of a browser window on a
common monitor.  And just about every time I've
thought, "OK, I've done this long enough, time to
stop," I find some little twist I want to try out.  I
just keep getting more comfortable with the medium and
keep pushing it to be more painterly.  And I think the
fact that I do approach this as a painter has made the
images much more expressive than they sound on paper. 
(This is a good moment to say that you will never know
how well composed Tom Moody's works on paper are-
collages made from computer drawn and printed images-
until you see them for real and recognize that he's
really a painter.)  Despite my painterly approach,
however, I call them drawings; the word "drawing" just
seems more flexible to me, whereas painting, for me,
needs to have some paint.

In the past three years my weblog has become my
studio, an exhibition space, and an archive.  I show
work everyday, seven days a week.  The idea of an
audience, no matter how small, motivates me.  I have
total control over showing the work, storing it, and
saying what I want about it in public.  The archive
aspect is important- I can easily go back through my
work and compare various bodies of work, and you can

See all 2004 drawings (huge!):
See all 2005 drawings:
See all compiled drawing series for 2004-05

Finally, I have a bunch of questions about what I'm
doing.  Some of these I think I might know the answers
to.  Others I clearly don't.  These questions are
related to the HTML medium, to the public weblog
format, and to issues about online art.  These are
some things I'd like to talk about and hear others
talk about.

*What is the art work? The HTML markup? The image that
the browser makes? The way the image is delivered and
made by the browser?

*Is the image temporary, something always being
completely remade, or is it something static? HTML is
instructions to the browser; does the image exist
without the browser?

*The image is made by the browser- is it a
reproduction, an endless, infinite reproducible?

*Which image is original- the one on my monitor or
yours?  The one in Dreamweaver, pre-browser? Or, is an
original even possible?  Does it matter?

*The network as a distribution model- is it art
trucking, and the browser is the loading dock?

*Who owns the work?  Once on the web I really have no
control over it.  Google and archive.org capture
everything- do I own my own work when I can't control
it, and does that matter?  Does Creative Commons
actually mean anything?

*When others take the work as a screenshot and make a
GIF or JPEG- is that still the work?

*Is the code the artifact, or is the image the

*Who would buy this? Is it for sale?  How would one
sell a coded image?

*Currently in weblog culture, like much of the web,
content is free.  What is the value of free? Is it
simply a random act of kindness ;-)  Is free art
really art?  What is the economy of the web? 
Reputation?  Reliablity?  Consistency?  Generosity? 
How is this related to and different from the art

*There are a number of ways the drawings are framed. 
There is often framing in the image. There is a kind
of technologically contextual framing: table; page;
browser; monitor; OS; network; etc.  There is the
chronological, performative framing of the weblog. 
And there is the weblog as a cultural, medium-specific
frame (in the sense of George Lakoff's ideas about how
language frames an issue).  Another way of referring
to all of this is a kind of layering, but I like the
term "framing" because for me it fits the use of
images better.  I'm interested in all of these
different kinds of frames, and what they mean to a
weblog practice.

That's plenty for now.  Good to be here.


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