Monday, November 19, 2012

Mechanical Turk Review of My Art #39

This is a project where I pay workers on Amazon's Mechanical Turk to review my art and website and pay them $5 for 500 words. This is the 39th review I've received, and the first to directly address the project:

Some people believe that art is a passive pursuit; painters create artwork and people simply view and admire it as it hangs in a gallery. Others believe that art is an active experience and involves the community in its very creation. Paul Shortt is one of the latter. This manifests itself even in the fact that I am writing this review. You see, to Paul even his reviews are part of innovative artwork. Let me explain. The reviews that Paul is currently receiving are solicited. Traditionally, artists held an exhibition, invited reviewers and then held their breath hoping that they would receive favorable press. They had little or no control. Paul Shortt is specifically requesting reviews in as part of a project (yes, an art project) to question and discuss how technology has changed the way artists see themselves. Are artists, businesses, indeed even members of the public, affected by the fact that anyone can now write website reviews that can be seen worldwide? Let's take a restaurant as an example. If you've had a great meal, or a disappointing experience when dining out, you can tell the world via the many websites that specialize in restaurant reviews. You can lie; you can be honest; you are free to say exactly what you want. But can these reviews make or break a business? Can they make or break an artist? What are these reviews saying to the general public? Is this giving us an unnatural power or is it for the common good? Are we defined by the number of Facebook friends we have? Does our number of Twitter followers really reflect our popularity? How relevant are our Pinterest boards? Looking at Paul's website and his previous works, it seems that every aspect of life can come under his creative scrutiny. This being said, when Paul embarked on the review project he purposely removed some of his works from his website in order to manipulate - to some extent - the opinions that would-be reviewers would have. Paul’s project began as a reaction to recent press reports that question online reviews on major websites. Who are these people? Exactly why are they motivated to write reviews? What rewards do they receive for their efforts? Paul’s experiment involves soliciting reviews from the general public, not from professional art reviewers. This gives them much the same validity as an average diner reviewing a restaurant as opposed to a professional food critic. Paul has collated the reviews he has received to date into a book and this will become the starting point of his project, opening up the subject of online reviews for debate. When Paul has requested reviews, he has asked the writers to go to his website and ‘write 500 words about the art you see’. I am one of the reviewers attracted to this project. Yet, you might argue, I am not in fact writing about Paul’s artwork. Am I or not? Isn’t Paul’s review project as valid a piece of artwork as his 'Modern Greetings' project where people greet each other not with a handshake but new and unconventional greetings? I believe so.