FFFFOUND!, art curating for the masses

posted by Jason Kottke Oct 26, 2007

Alexander Bohn wrote a glowing review of FFFFOUND! at Speak Up the other day. My FFFFOUND! fandom is documented elsewhere, so I'll comment instead on an observation Bohn made in his initial paragraph:

Graphic design might not work in the white cube, but it flourishes on a white background. A new mutated strain of design blog has evolved: The Randomly Curated Other People's Images White Background Site, or RCOPIWS. Sites like Manystuff, Monoscope, Your Daily Awesome, and VVORK (among countless others) offer designers and design aficionados a constant flood of typographic morsels, interesting photos, arresting new art, and the like. One such site sets itself apart, notably, from the other RCOPIWSes: the collaborative image-bookmarking site ffffound.comallegedly, but unconfirmed, initiated by online fiend Yugo Nakamura.

Among the many things that the internet has democratized is curating, a task once more or less exclusive to editors (magazine, book, and newspaper), art gallery owners, media executives (music, TV, and film), and museum curators. They choose the art you see on a museum's wall, the shows you see on TV, the movies that get made, and the stories you read in the newspaper. The ease and low cost of publishing on the web coupled with the abundance of sample-ready media has made the curating process available to many more people. Smashing Telly is David Galbraith's rolling film festival (or TV channel). By simply listening to the music that you like, Last.fm allows anyone to put together their own radio station to share with others. kottke.org is essentially a table of contents for a magazine I wish existed. Shorpy has freed old photography from the nearly impenetrable Library of Congress web site and presented it in a compelling blog-like fashion.

In the case of FFFFOUND! and other RCOPIWSs, I would argue that these sites showcase a new form of art curating. The pace is faster, you don't need a physical gallery or museum, and you don't need to worry about crossing arbitrary boundaries of style or media. Nor do you need to concern yourself with questions like "is this person an artist or an outsider artist?" If a particular piece is good or compelling or noteworthy, in it goes. The last week's output at Monoscope would make a pretty good show in a Chelsea art gallery, no? It'll be interesting to see how this grassroots art curating will affect the art/design/photography world at large. Jen Bekman, who has roots in the internet industry, is already exploring this new frontier with her nimble gallery and the Hey, Hot Shot! competition. Others are sure to follow.