Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Is Blogging Art?

I was sad to hear of the death of Lisa Bonchek Adams on Saturday.  What's strange about that statement is that I only knew of her existence for a week.

When I was at Mepkin Abbey, talk turned as it often does to the practice of writing.  One of my friends mentioned Adams and her blog.  We talked about how Adams had gone from blogging to only having the energy to tweet.  We talked about the viciousness of cancer, which seems to afflict so many people these days.

After reading Adams' blog, I felt sad at the thought of that voice, that content, reduced to 140 characters.  The blog is a treasure.  Hopefully we'll have it with us for a long time yet.

At Mepkin Abbey, my friends and I talked about how much information is too much information.  In a follow up e-mail, my friend talked about the videos made by breast cancer patients who had talked candidly about the surgeries and their aftermaths.  She talked about how useful they were as she decided how to treat her own breast cancer.

I think of my own discovery of Our Bodies, Ourselves, the first edition, in my college library.  I was awed by the honest talk.  I valued it more than I can say and in such a variety of ways:  as a resource, as encouragement, as a record of the variety of ways one can inhabit a body.

And now, we have an explosion of those resources.  It's an amazing time we live in.

So yes, they're resources.  But are they art?

I've been trying to figure out how I feel about all this writing/photograph posting/videography that we have so much of these days.  Is it an art form?  Just more public journaling?  Something new?  A variety of something old?
Perhaps the answer is as it has always been:  some of it is very new, while some of it is a variation of what's come before--or not even a variation but something old style made with new tools.  And some of it rises to the level of art, and some does not.  And perhaps some of it won't be declared art for many decades/centuries. 
Are there Facebook posts that rise to the level of art?  Tweets?
Does art have to be considered/sculpted/revisited before we call it art?  My friend says we're seeing a new development, that we've never had writing this open before.  I would agree.  Even those memoirs which seem so shockingly raw have an element of being manufactured.
And because of her blog, Adams has so far raised over $100,000 for cancer research.  But even if she hadn't done that, her writing would be valuable to a wide variety of people:  her family, fellow cancer patients, and people who appreciate fine writing.  No small thing.
And yes, I'd call it art.


Jim Murdoch said...

Blogging’s come a long way from its humble origins. Bloggers get interviewed on news channels nowadays. Respect is earned and they’re earning it. I do think we’re at the stage where the term “blog” is about as helpful as the word “book” is. I’ve written a book, several books as it happens, but what does that tell you about me or, indeed, my books? I also write a blog which, to borrow your term, is “considered/sculpted/revisited”. My articles are well-researched and can take me weeks to finish; few take me less than three days to actually write once I have gathered my notes together. They’re not chatty or light and rarely go off-topic; I do my chatting in the comments. Are they art? I’d like to think they’re artful but maybe I’m splitting hairs. Allen Ginsberg wrote, "First thought, best thought." It’s a thought. Not everyone will agree with him but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a point. I’m editing a novel just now that I wrote years ago and I’m not changing any of the story. My “first thought” is still there. I’m just tidying around it. You wouldn’t believe the number of times I use the word ‘look’. So I’m changing some to ‘see’ or ‘view’ or ‘think’ or cutting them completely. The essential meaning is unchanged. And that’s what’s important. Of course there will be those who’d argue that there was little wrong with the manuscript when I picked it up bar a few typos and they’d be right. I think what most blogs reflect is a modern approach to art. Everyone is so busy days but that doesn’t mean the natural urges have gone away. People still want to write and to communicate. Blogs are one way to do both and we’ve learned to accept that many of them lack polish but not heart. While I’m tied up editing this year I’m posting old poems and they’re probably being read by more people now than they were when they appeared in small press magazines back in the seventies and eighties. They are art. The blog is only the medium and I think we need to start to think of blogs as nothing more than that.

Kristin said...

Jim, great ideas here. Thanks for sharing them!