[NetBehaviour] a little project

Edward Picot julian.lesaux at gmail.com
Thu Apr 13 21:26:22 CEST 2017

Michael -

I like it! I found myself reading about forty of them. They're oddly 
moreish. The brevity of the text helps. I like the little arrows which 
point from sections of the text to the places on the map where the thing 
being described occurred or was seen - partly because I think your 
inclination as a reader is just to read the text and ignore the maps, 
and the arrows help to tie the two things together. Another thing I like 
is that each separate run-route with its accompanying block or  blocks 
of text has its own visual identity, which helps you to keep track of 
where you've got to in the Flickr thumbnails at the bottom of the 
screen. Writing-wise I think the weaker sections are the more 
self-consciously descriptive ones, where the diction can sometimes get a 
bit 'poetic' or bogged down with artistic references. The best bits are 
the sections where the thing you're describing seems to absorb you more 
completely - the pairs of gloves appearing mysteriously on the grass 
verge, for example, or the ginger-haired boy smashing twigs in half with 
his forehead.

At first I found myself thinking, 'It's a shame to waste this on Flickr; 
he should work it up into some kind of web installation'; but then after 
a bit I started to think that maybe using a ready-made facility like 
Flickr for this kind of new media diary was the most appropriate 
thing... I still can't quite make up my mind.

- Edward

On 13/04/17 14:13, Michael Szpakowski wrote:
> https://www.flickr.com/photos/szpako/albums/72157676652502324
> Last summer, after a gap of some years, I started running daily again. 
> I did this because I had stopped taking a small dose of an 
> antidepressant and although I was careful to withdraw slowly it hit me 
> hard - I experienced a renewed depression and anxiety which was much 
> worse than that which I had originally taken the drugs to combat. I 
> was unwilling, though, to return to the drugs if I could possibly 
> avoid this.
> The running helped me cope and, as I get slowly better, continues to 
> do so.
> In early 2017 I started documenting some of my runs using the ‘measure 
> distance’ function on Google maps,taking a screenshot of the resulting 
> image and posting it to the photo sharing service Flickr. I have been 
> interested for a long time in things that somehow hover between image, 
> diagram and text and this seemed like a fruitful example of that. Once 
> I’d made and posted a few these it seemed only natural to append to 
> the image some commentary on my run, things and people seen and noted, 
> my state of mind, the weather… a kind of highly compressed diary 
> superimposed on the run documentation and something which fitted with 
> my long standing interest in the way that the internet allowed very 
> naturally for long form aggregations of often diverse and lapidary 
> components. (For years, from 2003 to the present day, I have been 
> making small videos and posting them to the internet, a practice I 
> have compared to the Japanese literary form Zuihitsu, literally 
> ‘following the brush’ - a kind of miscellany.)
> Each piece takes quite a long time to make and I’m very conscious of 
> working against the clock to complete and post each one. I’m also 
> mindful that, although I work hard to make my texts flow, sometimes, 
> to meet my self-imposed requirement of posting on the same day as I 
> run, I have to accept a certain improvisatory quality (which might be 
> a polite way of saying the texts are not always as polished as I would 
> ideally like.)
> I was deeply involved in almost the first wave of ‘net-art’ - it 
> brought me into image wrangling and gave me an opportunity to have 
> people look at my work and even to get it shown in institutions too. 
> I’m saddened by the now overwhelming corporatisation of this space 
> which has, it seems to me, destroyed many of the possibilities for art 
> which were so exciting in the late nineties of the last century and 
> the early noughts of this one. Much digital and networked art now 
> seems to require large amounts of tech and funding and to have moved 
> closer and closer to everything many of us felt was disagreeable and 
> backward looking about the art world. Little of it now lives on the 
> net. The kind of enthusiast I was would now get channelled into spaces 
> specifically made for ’enthusiasts’, for ‘amateurs’ - the kind of 
> intermingling that was completely natural back then has almost 
> completely disappeared.
> One of my responses ( the other is to work in more traditional 
> practices, such as painting) is to try and maintain a toehold in 
> places like Flickr, which although certainly corporate and equally 
> regarded by both art world commentators and those who own it as a 
> space for the masses rather than the charmed circles of the art world, 
> nevertheless retain, if one looks carefully, echoes of that earlier 
> promise. One finds artists, who, whether they would style themselves 
> such or not, are making work of depth and lasting interest as well as 
> in some sense pushing back boundaries.
> Finally I want to say I have no idea whether this work is any ‘good’. 
> I know I have a need to make it, I know that on my good days it seems 
> worth making and it seems to me to offer something that, if not 
> original (what is? what is? - we had *that* brought home to us 
> forcefully by the network, and a good thing too), at least synthesises 
> a number of practices in a way which still seems native to the 
> internet as well as drawing on some interesting tendencies in 
> contemporary art, particularly the kind of romantic conceptualism I 
> associate with Richard Long and Sophie Calle as well as with groups 
> like Collective Actions.
> If you have a moment please take a look. It’s a big ask but if you 
> have time I would welcome your thoughts, whether positive, puzzled or 
> negative.
> best wishes
> michael
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