Paddle On! London
Second piece on a day trip to London covering events related to digital arts. This one is on the second Paddle On auction put together by Phillips and Tumblr.
I have to admit, I have never been to an auction before, let alone an art one, so have no experience to compare it to. I wasn’t expecting high stakes drama of classic fine art bidding you occasionally see in news reports, maybe the level of excitement of an Ebay snipe or something … I had to wait and see …
The exhibition space at Phillips London is as clean and impressive as you would expect. The works were presented well in an space behind the auction area. I waited here for the seven o’clock start - it was interesting to see familiar (online) members of the current digital art network, from New York and London, congregate in this space (although that slightly strange feeling of recognizing people based solely on their social media profile photos).
The auction itself was timetabled for an hour, but only lasted half than that, for a total of 22 works. No extraordinary high bidding or drama. It was fair to say that what could be considered the better pieces in the collection faired better, but mostly the works received no more than a few offers.
Whilst it was considered an ‘event’ pushing the market for digital art, from the Phillips side of things it just had an air of ‘business as usual’. Not much fanfare, straight into the auction. The male staff were all fully suited, the women all in short black dresses (make of that what you will).
On the Tumblr side of things, I think I spotted one member of the team, if only for them to win a bid for an artwork. Their presence wasn’t really felt.
Once over, it was time to socialize. I didn’t really mingle as I came for the experience and to observe. Free gin and tonics were generously offered to all. It felt though, all of a sudden, that a high school status vibe emerged (as they do) in this network - cliques formed of cool people, conversation time depended on social capital. I wouldn’t say it was ugly at all, but maybe awkward for some.
I did, however, get the chance to speak to someone I knew through a mutual acquaintance from Tumblr, scotty2hotty69, a digital creative who I had not met before. Really great to get the chance to talk and a pleasure to meet. Tumblr itself was the platform which we had something in common, and discussed. He was talking about how it was a great place to find people doing similar things to what he was doing, digital art and animations, works which could be used in VJing and such forth. For me, he was certainly part of the early wave of creatives who found the platform beneficial to creativity, particularly digital works. This was well before (for example) GIFs and Glitch Art had their mainstream renaissance, and certainly laid the foundations of Tumblr being the creative-friendly network it is happy to advertise itself as.
I mention this in relation to one of the problems I had with the event, in particular Tumblr’s involvement. The event was cultivated more to serve Tumblr’s image and to another system than involve those that made it the creative platform it is. To the best of my knowledge, only a handful of artists featured here have any kind of Tumblr presence. It makes me curious, did the involvement occur to satisfy the successful New York cultured aspirational image of whoever at Tumblr greenlighted this? Or was this to play a part of engineering value and PR (I’ll get back to this …)
The collection did feature some artists I actually like, but it was very difficult to care about most of the works on offer. With a few exceptions, on face value the art looked like they could have been produced at some point within the last 20 years. It would have been arrogant to expect some digital art canons to be included, but mostly there was nothing I felt that was special. In many cases it was questionable how ‘digital’ the artworks were, used liberally as a fashionable buzzword. They may ‘reflect’ on points of digital culture, though how acceptable the stretch of the definition is certainly debatable.
The best thing I could say about the event was that this is another track laid down for a digital art market to grow, athough this has been happening for years already. The art market (one that doesn’t have any regulation) depends on intellectual captial to create value and prices: this event certainly was about hype and product, and didn’t feel like a successful contribution to this area.
To describe it, I think the gin and tonics are the perfect symbolic metaphor: free for everyone there, sour and not to everyones taste.
You can find out more at the Paddles On! website here, or at the paddleson tumblr blog here