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Archives for February 2010

Why everyone is so animated about Disney

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Will Gompertz | 17:17 UK time, Thursday, 25 February 2010


So, the Odeon cinema chain has relented and agreed to show Alice in Wonderland, Disney's new Tim Burton-directed 3D movie. What has all the fuss been about, and does it affect you and me?

Tenniel's image of AliceThere are lots of reasons, all of which boil down to one thing: money. Disney presented its new Alice movie to cinema-owners worldwide with a "drink me" new idea. This was to reduce the time the cinemas had exclusive rights to show the film, known as the "exhibition window" - no DVD sales, no video-on-demand (VoD), no pay-per-view television - from roughly four months to three months. The cinema owners took one look at the idea and chose not to swallow it, fearing that their businesses would be reduced to the size of the door Alice walked through.

At first, all the cinema-owners in the UK stood firm and refused to screen the film. Then one relented, leaving the others with the prospect of seeing their rival cash in. That proved even harder to swallow than Disney's idea.

But the fear remains among cinema-owners that this is the thin end of the wedge. They worry that the end-game for the studios is not simply a three-month exhibition window on the occasional movie. They worry that it's not even a three-month window for every movie. Their fear is that this is a step towards "day-and-date" releasing. That's the trade term for releasing the theatrical version, the DVD, VoD and pay-per-view TV all at the same time.

Tim Burton's AliceThese are the points being debated:

Argument: DVD sales are not making as much money as they used to; an extra month's sales while the film is still fresh in the consumer's mind will help reverse this trend.
Counter-argument: Reducing the exhibition window by a month won't make any difference to overall DVD sales

Argument: The costs of marketing a film are huge. The costs of marketing a DVD are pretty big, too. If you release them together, you reduce marketing costs.
Counter-argument: DVD sales will cannibalise the box-office taking, resulting in a much-reduced return to the studio.

Argument: Piracy has a negative effect on DVD sales. Reducing the exhibition window by a month will help reduce piracy.
Counter-argument: Piracy is a problem, but it peaks very early in a film's run; a one-month reduction in the exhibition window will have little effect.

Argument: If the consumer can buy the film on DVD, VoD or pay-per-view, they won't come to cinemas.
Counter-argument: People go to restaurants when they can eat at home; they go to pubs when they can drink at home; they will still go to cinemas. Only a tiny minority has a home cinema of anything like comparable quality to that of an Odeon or Vue.

Argument: People like going out, they like a shared experience.
Shortening the exhibition window will harm smaller regional cinemas which only receive the print of the film some weeks after the release.
Counter-argument: As above. Also, with more and more digital cinemas likely to appear, the issue of a limited amount of prints is removed.

Ritz cinemaEveryone I have spoken to in the industry thinks it is inevitable that the exhibition window will be reduced, maybe ending up as brief as two weeks. But some have questioned Disney's timing and reasoning and whether the firm will actually see an increase in DVD sales. They suggest a better time for the move would be when VoD becomes the home-movie medium of choice. To cause a fuss now, after the success of Avatar and the clear consumer interest in 3D, will mean those investors who had been preparing to make significant financial commitment to building and renovating cinemas will be scared away.

Two outcomes present themselves. The first is consumer-orientated and technology-driven, which means giving the customers what they want, when they want it, on whichever medium suits them best. The logical conclusion here is day-and-date. Cinemas would just have to trust that there are still enough people who choose their medium and enable them to make money. The studios, who have invested heavily in making the movie, are relaxed about which medium the customer watches it on, just so long as they pay for the privilege.

The other model is France, where there are rules and regulations that stipulate that the exhibition window last four months (it used to be six), a position that the regulations' advocates feel protects cinema. But some argue, with piracy and digital dissemination in the ascendency, will such an inflexible position mean that they have lots of cinemas but nothing to show in them?

Psychiatrists' call for honesty in advertising

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Will Gompertz | 11:13 UK time, Thursday, 25 February 2010


This "before and after" is well-known: it's two versions of Keira Knightley in publicity shots for the 2004 film King Arthur.

Some of the "enhancements" are more obvious than others; I counted eight. But if the Royal Society of Psychiatrists had its way, there would be another, much more obvious difference.

RCPsych Eating Disorders Section: Statement on the influence of the media on eating disordersIn a statement published this week, the college calls for a "kite mark" to be added to all images that have been digitally enhanced or airbrushed. They think that distorting images distorts our minds - particularly the minds of those who might be prone to eating disorders or to feeling down because their body doesn't quite match up to Naomi's, Kate's, Sienna's and so on. Or to Brad's and so on, for that matter.

According to some in the advertising world, that would mean putting a kite mark on every poster. Better perhaps for a kite mark to be applied to those ads that have not been digitally enhanced or airbrushed. After all, isn't advertising all about selling dreams? Is it not part of the human condition to aspire? It's no coincidence that several notable movie directors have come from working in advertising. Both jobs involve fictions and expertise in story-telling.

Film Avatar and ad for Nancy LamThe difference, of course, is that when we go to watch a film, we know that it is make-believe: that's generally the attraction. Adverts, by contrast, suggest that by consuming the featured products or services it is possible that the perfect life set out in the poster could be ours.

The question is: does society still want to continue to see these aspirational images of sandy beaches, brilliant white teeth and perfect bodies, and treat them as a form of escapism? Or do we want to be awoken from the advertisers' dreams and have a kite mark explicitly pointing out the fakery?

A bold reflection of the American Dream?

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Will Gompertz | 10:03 UK time, Wednesday, 24 February 2010


Last night the long-awaited designs for the new American Embassy in London were revealed. They are by Kieran Timberlake, an architectural practice based in Philadelphia. The big glass cube reflects modernist tastes, but the surrounding water and walkway into the building seem to be a nod to earlier British architectural style - the castle. But then fortification is likely to have been quite high up on the list of "must-haves" on the original brief.

Winning design for US embassy in London and two short-listed designs

The response so far has been equivocal. Some feel that alternative designs presented by Thom Mayne and Richard Meier were more imaginative and a better emblem of American in London. But architecture as propaganda is a tricky business - you can't please all the people etc...

For many, time has not healed the aesthetic wound the current American Embassy inflicted upon its home in the Mayfair area of London. The new building will be on the south bank of the Thames, sitting between Battersea Power Station and the MI6 building. How will it fit into its new neighbourhood - a new best friend or a poor relation?

Hurt Locker v Avatar: The decider

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Will Gompertz | 12:16 UK time, Monday, 22 February 2010


Hurt Locker versus Avatar is the story of this year's film awards season and it's playing out like the final stages of UEFA's Champions League. Avatar won 2-0 at the Golden Globes. Now Hurt Locker has responded with a 6-2 thrashing at the Baftas, leaving things nicely poised for the big decider: the final on 7 March at the Oscars.

Kathryn Bigelow and James cameronThe fact that Kathryn Bigelow and James Cameron are ex-husband and ex-wife adds a bit of spice to the competition, as does the perception that Avatar is a big, expensive "commercial" movie, while Hurt Locker is taken to be a low-cost work of heart. Will the Academy really vote against the 3D spectacular, which many see as the future of cinema? And is it simply a case of one or the other for Best Picture? A Serious Man, anyone?

The general feeling among the cognoscenti I spoke last night was that Hurt Locker won more for its subject matter than for the quality of the movie. And while there were plenty of good tidings for the British clean sweep of best actor for Colin Firth (A Single Man) and best actress Carey Mulligan (An Education), there was a general feeling that home advantage might have come into play.

So we move on to the Oscars, looking into the sediment at the bottom of last night's wine glass for Bafta signs of would-be Academy winners. In the past, the Baftas have only been a partially-reliable indicator of Oscar success. Can Mulligan and Firth complete the double away from home? And will best supporting actress Mo'Nique (Precious) and best supporting actor Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds) score a hat-trick after succeeding at the Golden Globes and now the Baftas?

The one I will be watching out for is Kathryn Bigelow. Last night, she became the first woman ever to win the best director Bafta. And she would also be the first to win the best director Oscar. Now that would be quite a double.

To sequel or not to sequel: That is the question

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Will Gompertz | 16:29 UK time, Friday, 19 February 2010


There's a story - I don't know if it's true - about a Hollywood studio which commissioned some very expensive market research in the late 1980s to find out which kind of movie made the most money.

Some time, and millions of dollars later, a high-level delegation attended a meeting to hear the results. In a room tense with expectation and solemnity, the moguls were told that the genre most likely to provide a return on their investment was... the sequel.

If it is true, I doubt they were amused. But there is little doubt that sequels can be big business. Initial one-off creations can be turned into lucrative franchises and brands. And although there are too many examples of hideous, cynical follow-ups that debase the original artistic creation, there are also instances where a sequel has proved to be as good as - or even better than - the original story.

Many think The Godfather: Part II was better than The Godfather, and even And Another Thing..., Eoin Colfer's follow-up to Douglas Adams's Hitchhikers series, received some positive reviews, despite the original work's famously loyal fan-base.

Dunsinane and Wide Sargasso SeaWhat's more unusual is to take a very old work and to use a sequel as a device to explore modern issues. David Greig's new play Dunsinane is a sequel to Shakespeare's Macbeth, without iambic pentameter and written in right-up-to-the-minute prose.

Swearing and contemporary colloquialisms such as "there are some positives" abound. The play is not a homage to the great Bard, but an exploration of the broader issues of invading armies. The men in the 11th-Century English army which has invaded Scotland constantly moan about the discomforts of a foreign land. Their leaders don't understand the subtleties of local life and are therefore easily manipulated and fooled.

And then there's the "do-gooding" nature of Siward, an English general, who desperately wants to create a political climate where peace can become the norm. His efforts are witheringly summed-up by Gruach - the forename given by Greig to Lady Macbeth, who Shakespeare clearly failed to finish off properly - when she tells him:

"You're a good man, Siward. It would have been better if you weren't. There would have been less blood."

It's not difficult for audiences to make connections between the events in the play and the current events in Afghanistan.

It prompted me to think about what other classic works of literature have been brought up to date with a sequel, prequel or spin-off, their stories taken to new places by different authors. Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is a spin-off based on Shakespeare's Hamlet. But what other pre-20th-Century plays or books are ripe for a sequel? And what would the plot be? Conversely, are there any works that should be protected from sequels, like listed buildings of the written word?

Maybe all fiction - be it a play, book, TV programme, video game or movie - is some kind of sequel of sorts. In a book by Christopher Booker called The Seven Basic Plots, he argues that there is only a handful of archetypal themes which recur in all storytelling. It's an interesting argument.

How to get your first novel published

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Will Gompertz | 14:55 UK time, Thursday, 18 February 2010


We've all heard it said: everyone has at least one book in them. "And that's where they should stay," I am told by an experienced "reader" - readers being the people a literary agency employs to read the thousands of unsolicited manuscripts sent in every year. In the publishing business, they call this collection the "slush pile".

ManuscriptsBut occasionally a new author is plucked from total obscurity and launched as a "hot" new discovery. Such success gives other budding authors hope that one day a publisher will discover them too, and so begin an exciting new chapter in their life.

That's what has just happened to Stephen Kelman, an unemployed 33-year-old, who had no contacts or experience of the publishing world and sent his manuscript on spec to a few agents more in hope than expectation.

But then, remarkably quickly, he heard back from one. Jo Unwin loved his work; together they honed the novel's structure and then... bingo! His book, Pigeon English, was the subject of a bidding war between twelve of the country's top publishers, resulting in a six-figure advance, international sales and a two-book deal. (You can hear me talking to Stephen Kelman on the Today programme here and see Jo Unwin's profile at Conville and Walsh here.)

So, how did he do it? I spoke to Ms Unwin and others in the publishing industry, who had this advice:

 &nbsp• Only write a book if you feel really, utterly, compelled to. It takes great commitment and is long, laborious work that will probably never see the light of day.
 &nbsp• Don't submit your whole manuscript, just a synopsis and the first three chapters.
 &nbsp• Be different. Publishers are always looking for new ideas and approaches.
 &nbsp• The words, it won't surprise you to hear, matter. Polish and hone.
 &nbsp• Find out what the agent's taste is before sending a manuscript. If they specialise in historical non-fiction, they won't be remotely interested in a contemporary novel about rock music - however good it is.
 &nbsp• Do not give up the day job. The average advance for a previously-unpublished writer is £5,000, which is also likely to be not far off your annual income as an author.
 &nbsp• You've heard it before, but write from experience. Stephen Kelman did.
 &nbsp• Be realistic. Over 133,000 new books were published last year; why will yours stand out?
 &nbsp• Don't write a trilogy and send it in. This happens!

Stephen Kelman's experience was a bit like an accumulator bet coming off: the odds were very long and involved an unlikely series of events all falling into place: being picked from the slush pile, finding an agent willing to invest six months helping to shape the book, having twelve publishers vying for your signature, securing a six-figure contract and then selling it to a further ten countries. That's unusual.

And of course, being published is only the first step. Next is the dual pressure of hoping the book sells and the dreaded "second novel". And I don't want to be a downer, but for every JK Rowling there are thousands of AN Others.

Be lucky.

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EastEnders: Social realism or out of step with modern Britain?

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Will Gompertz | 14:00 UK time, Wednesday, 17 February 2010


It started back in 1975 with one of Hilda Ogden's fags. Then her Stan drew me in with his dodgy trash. And by the time of the needle incident in Mike Baldwin's factory, I was hooked. Before long I had moved on from Corrie to EastEnders; the newer, harder stuff. It took me 18 years to get clean again without having to resort to soaps.

Colin Firth and Julianne MooreThat was until three weeks ago, when I went to see Tom Ford's debut movie, A Single Man. Some have enthused about Colin Firth's performance, but I couldn't get past what a dead ringer he was for Ken Barlow. In some shots he was quite clearly Ken. And that upset me. Why was Firth/Barlow making merry with Julianne Moore? What about Deirdre?

I tried to put it out of my mind, but work didn't help. All around the BBC there are posters promoting EastEnders' 25th anniversary. It was all too much; I buckled.

Last night I watched EastEnders for the first time in years. It's billed as social-realist drama; aimed to reflect the truth of modern living, albeit in a condensed and dramatic manner. And it is clearly a successful formula, if your measurement for success is audience figures. But has it been a true reflection of London's East End over the past quarter-century?

Sign for Albert SquareIt has dealt with some very big issues such as Aids and breast cancer but, as Mark Lawson asks, writing in the Guardian yesterday, has it tackled the big issues of modern life? He points specifically towards multi-racialism, but what about the growing gap between rich and poor, the gentrification of London and soaring house prices, the obsession with fame, gang culture and poor schools? And is there enough humour? Does it have a lightness of touch, a quick wit and a warmth that is a prominent part of a close knit community?

I can't judge after just one episode, but I'd be interested to know your thoughts. Is EastEnders a worn-out soap or compelling contemporary drama?

What surprised me was how little the programme appears to have moved on. Last night's show didn't feel any different to the last one I saw some years ago. The script, set, editing, actors, tone-of-voice were all very similar. But maybe that's the secret of its huge success; that the audience enjoys the familiarity and formula and that's what makes it so addictive.

How will our architectural legacy be judged?

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Will Gompertz | 17:29 UK time, Friday, 12 February 2010


My colleague David Sillito made this film about dereliction in city centres caused by property developers running out of credit. The report shines a light on the plight of the centre of Bradford, which looks as though it's been the victim of an overnight bombing raid.

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Bradford's story is not unique; all around the country you can find derelict, inhospitable urban landscapes created by developers whose ambitions outstripped their bank balances. Will this, and the rapid growth of nondescript out-of-town warehouse shops be seen as the architectural bequest that tells the story of our times?

Architecture reflects the society for which it was created: a truthful legacy of an age. So what about now and the built environment of the early 21st Century? The Georgians had a plan; so did the Victorians - but do we?

Are one-off "statement" buildings created at the expense of a coherent architectural master-plan for a community? Are new buildings adding to a neighbourhood so that it gels functionally and visually?

There is no shortage of brilliant architects, old and young, who have the passion and vision required. But many feel that their ambition to make buildings that are sensitive and thoughtful to their surroundings - which add to, not diminish, the place in which they are built - is not shared by planners and developers.

Last year, Richard Rogers resigned his position as an adviser to the London mayor, in part because he was frustrated by the lack of urgency in implementing an architectural strategy for the city's public realm. Another leading architect I spoke to said that political leadership is vital - that the grand vision has to come from the top.

Of course, there are many visionary developers. For example, Peter Millican collaborated on London's Kings Place with architects Jeremy Dixon and Ed Jones, who also re-shaped the Royal Opera House and National Portrait Gallery. The result is an office block with additional services that has made a positive contribution to that part of the city.

Nottingham ContemporarySimilarly, I was in Nottingham this week - listen here or watch here - at the twelve-week-old gallery, Nottingham Contemporary. At a cost of just under £20m and designed by Adam Caruso and Peter St John, it appears to be a welcome addition to the old lace-market area in the city centre; the council says that it has brought more visitors and trade for the shops.

But the feeling remains that profit, expediency or the desire to commission a "landmark" building is all-too-often put before the broader architectural concerns of a local community. And as David's report shows, inadequate planning can destroy the heart of a city.

It would be good to have your views. What do you think will be the architectural legacy of our age?

Why Peter Brook hates art and culture

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Will Gompertz | 12:35 UK time, Tuesday, 9 February 2010


He is nearly eighty-five years old and is known for his charm and his sense of fun. Don't be fooled, though, by the cuddly elder-statesman bit: Peter Brook is as passionate and outspoken as ever. I asked him why he often says that he hates arts and culture.

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You can also see my report on Mr Brook's play Eleven and Twelve for the Ten O'Clock News.

Posthumous publishing and the Dead Authors Society

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Will Gompertz | 13:14 UK time, Monday, 8 February 2010


While I was discussing the death of ­JD Salinger with a publisher the other day, he speculated on the possibility of unpublished Salinger manuscripts coming on to the market.

Portrait of JD Salinger (Tempura on board, 1961) by Robert Vickery, courtesy of the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DCIf they were around, he would like to see them, principally to understand why Salinger chose not to publish while apparently still writing. "Writers", he remarked, "have egos. They want people to read their work."

If the manuscripts exist, and if they ever come to the market, they are likely to become the next posthumous publishing sensation - regardless of how good they are. Of course, posthumous publishing is not new: novels by Jane Austen were published after her death, including Northanger Abbey. But I am told by publishers that they sense a growing trend.

Recently books by Vladimir Nabokov, Irene Nemirovsky and Siobhan Dowd have captured a great deal of attention. And in the near-future, two of the most hotly-anticipated new books come from authors who are no longer alive: a new Roberto Bolano following the success of ­2666 and David Foster Wallace's Pale King.

But that is the tip of the beyond-the-grave publishing iceberg. Tens of thousands of books by authors long-since dead - and correspondingly out of copyright - will be available this spring in a new initiative of the British Library. Readers will be able to see 65,000 books from their collection, 35-40% of them unique to the library. This can be for free using Amazon's Kindle device - I am told they are talking to other suppliers - or as a purchase of a print-on-demand physical book from Amazon.

Letters from Salinger to Joyce Maynard, auctioned by Sotheby's of New York in 1999Meanwhile Google is driving forward its Google Books platform, which is the subject of an ongoing wrangle between retailers, executors, publishers and lawyers. The debate centres on Google's ambition to digitise the millions of books that are out-of-print, but crucially, still in copyright. Google presents the plan as a public service and as a revenue-generator for authors and their estates. Others, such as the US Department of Justice, are concerned that it may be monopolistic and market-distorting.

We may be looking at a new boom in publishing, though some think there are already too many books published each year; it will be interesting to see the effect on new novels by new authors.

Giacometti: What makes an artwork worth £65m?

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Will Gompertz | 08:59 UK time, Friday, 5 February 2010


A life-size bronze sculpture by Alberto Giacometti has been sold at auction in the UK for the world-record price of £65,001,250. But how can a piece of art command such a price, especially in today's economic conditions?

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The answer, according to Melanie Clore, Deputy Chairman of Sotheby's, is five-fold: condition, rarity, reputation of the artist, competition, and confidence that the piece will at least hold its value.

If each of the five tests is passed, then it's game on in the auction room. Here's how the piece, Walking Man, fits those conditions:

Condition: Top-notch. Walking Man had never been outside and was very well looked-after.

Reputation: Blue-chip. Giacometti stands the test of time; art historians now consider him to be one of the most important sculptors, not only of the 20th Century, but also of any century.

Rarity: The piece gets marked down a little here. It was from an original edition of six (you can see three of the six in the following galleries: Carnegie Institute Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, the Fondation Maeght in Saint-Paul de Vence in southern France and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York). But it picks up points due to the great rarity of a "lifetime-cast" Giacometti sculpture coming to the market.

Homme Qui Marche by Alberto GiacomettiCompetition: A lot. And a lot more than there used to be. There were bidders from at least 30 countries active at the sale at Sotheby's. Melanie Clore says that when she started working there 20-odd years ago, you'd be lucky to have bidders from two countries. Now, more competition drives up prices. She cites modern communications as a major factor. But you could also point to the geographical widening of the super-rich and the rapid growth over the last 10 years of modern art museums and galleries, all of which need high-quality works of art to attract visitors.

Investment: Solid. According to Clore, this is not a speculators' market. She says that however obsessed with or enamoured of a work of art a collector may be, anyone paying this sort of money wants to have the reassurance of knowing that, in the future, the price is likely to rise. Buying a piece by an artist such as Giacometti - who has a long-established global reputation and whose work will only become rarer - is, she surmises, a fairly safe bet.

All of this makes me wonder which single work of art I would buy if it came on the market and money were no object.

The answer today (I can change my mind later) would be Paul Cezanne's Mont Sainte-Victoire from 1904. What about you? What work of art would you "buy"?

Daniel Barenboim: See his hands in action

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Will Gompertz | 13:20 UK time, Wednesday, 3 February 2010


This footage is truly extraordinary. Here is Daniel Barenboim, the celebrated pianist and conductor, playing a very tricky trill with one hand, while conducting an orchestra with the other.

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I persuaded Barenboim and London's Southbank Centre to give me this short clip of him playing Beethoven Concerto No 3 with the Berlin Staatskapelle on Tuesday night at the Royal Festival Hall in London. The camera was mounted just to his left and gives us a chance to see something that most of the live audience couldn't - Barenboim playing the piano.

It was an extraordinary event to witness. Barenboim sat with his back to the majority of the audience; his piano was set at the centre-front of the stage where the conductor's podium would normally go, allowing him to simultaneously conduct. That takes some doing, especially when you have a global reputation to uphold in both disciplines.

Barenboim is not only considered to be one of the most gifted conductors of his generation, but also one of the world's greatest exponents of Beethoven's piano pieces, bringing remarkable knowledge and sensitivity to his playing.

And when he wasn't conducting or using both hands to play the piano, he was wiping his brow with a handkerchief. All of this masterfully executed without the music in front of him. He received a standing ovation at the interval, which, like the occasion itself, is a very rare event.

Thanks to those who have commented on my previous two posts. Particularly to mikeofthewest who provided this link in response to the video I posted of 40 finches playing Gibson Les Paul guitars.

I also remain very interested in seeing more high-quality examples of medium-specific internet art; there must be some out there?

40 wild birds play a Gibson Les Paul guitar

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Will Gompertz | 14:32 UK time, Tuesday, 2 February 2010


This caught my eye. It's funny and oddly compelling.

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The film is of an installation by a contemporary French artist called Celeste Boursier-Mougenot. It's very Marcel Duchamp, the French artist who started the conceptual art ball rolling nearly a hundred years ago.

John Cleese and Michael Palin in the sketch 'French Lecture on Sheep Aircraft' taken from Monty Python's Flying Circus Series 1, Episode 2 - Sex and Violence (recorded 30 August 1969; aired 12 October 1969)Duchamp pioneered combining everyday materials, philosophical comment and humour, an idea that seeped into places like the 1960s pop group the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band (they wanted to call themselves the Bonzo Dog Dada band, but worried people wouldn't get it) and Monty Python.

But Duchamp's more radical idea was to introduce chance into the creation of art. In 1913-14 he made 3 Standard Stoppages, a work of art that was the result of the random actions of mechanised contraptions. At the time, he was largely dismissed as a crazy Frenchman, but he inspired an entire avant-garde movement in art as well as the music of John Cage and the choreography of Merce Cunningham. Duchamp was not short of self-confidence, but the idea of adding chance to the creative process was rather humble.

"That's so random" is a common refrain nowadays, referring to a supposedly non-logical thought or event. It was also the clarion cry of the Dadaists, the anti-art, anti-rational early-20th-Century art movement that argued that it was rational thought that led to World War I.

Duchamp was much loved by the Dada movement. I wonder what Dadaists would have made of the internet. It's interesting that, as far as I am aware, no contemporary artist has yet harnessed this extraordinary technology to make a significant artwork. Of course, maybe I'm wrong and am missing something great - do you know of any net-based art works that are worth a look?

Maybe you have made one (an artwork made specifically for the medium, as opposed to a film such as the one above, which uses the net only as a means of dissemination)?

If you, like me, can't find any net-based art of note, why do you think that is? Why, when there's been such a boom in contemporary art around the world, has no artist made the medium of the web his or her canvas? And if someone were to use the net as a medium, as opposed to making an image, or a video, or even an interactive Flash animation, what would the resulting art look, or sound, or feel like?

Duchamp and the Dadaists would have had hours of artistic amusement creating spoof websites, unintelligible Wiki entries and general questioning of the status quo.

Keith Richards, birds and Eric Clapton

Perhaps that is what Celeste Boursier-Mougenot should do next after the installation of his 40 Finches work opens at London's Barbican art gallery on 27 February. Like Duchamp, he seems to understand the creative potential of random acts and non-directed participation. He's already proved in this artwork that while Keith Richards and Eric Clapton might be masters of the Gibson Les Paul, even they cannot play it like 40 wild birds - not a chance.

Update 5 Feb: On Tuesday I asked: if, like me, you can't find any net-based art of note, why do you think that is? It was a question that had the effect of chucking a large stick into a hornet's nest, and some of those commenting here and around the web are aghast that I should even pose such question.

Many comments have included links to a wide range of internet-based art. Some of the work I knew well; others I didn't and enjoyed seeing. Thanks to all those who provided links. Thanks also to Roberta who made an interesting comment regarding the post generating a useful archive of some net-based art. It's a good point; please continue to add links.

But my question was of eminence not of existence. As the Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller said recently to Charlotte Higgins of the Guardian, "I'm still waiting for someone to use the internet, really use the internet. We're still in a post-Warhol era. We haven't got beyond it."

Of course there is plenty of net-art about and has been for some time, and for the net-art cognoscenti there are stand-out works and practitioners. But for some, which includes many museum curators as well as Jeremy Deller, there hasn't been that moment of epiphany, where they feel they have seen a great work of art created using the medium.

That doesn't make them wrong or ignorant; it's just the subjective nature of the arts. And I don't think they're alone. Why, when the internet has become such a central part of people's everyday lives and at a time when there is enormous interest in contemporary art, is there not one net-based artist or artwork that, say, the layman would recognise by name or output?

To ask that question is in no sense to belittle the often intelligent, thoughtful and fascinating nature of net-based art, and it is not about being unaware of the presence of that art - it is to generate a debate: why, to many in the art world and the public in general, is it "not of note"?

Maybe it's just a issue of timing. It took a while for video-based art to gain real traction. Curators have told me that it was not until the likes of Bruce Nauman in the 1970s that artists using video started to become relatively well-known. Perhaps, just by having this debate, knowledge of net-art will increase in the public consciousness. It certainly has in mine.

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