Interview: Lisa Gonzalez

Photography by Alex Thebez

Lisa Gonzalez Interview by Vicki Thai  

Vicki Thai: Can you tell me about how you became involved and what interested you in blogging?

Lisa Gonzalez: I emailed a professor a few months ago and said “I want to gain more curatorial experience. How do I do it?” He suggested I look into using the Internet as a platform, so I sent out a few emails of introduction to blogs, along with my CV.

VT:  When blogging for I Heart Photograph, did you approach them with an idea in mind?

LG: No. I was looking for curatorial opportunities and gaining some experience in online curating. I sent a letter of introduction, along with my CV and when they responded, they requested a proposal of what I wanted to blog about. From there, I further developed some ideas I’ve wanted to address and worked with the IHP team to solidify a game plan.

VT: How long did this process take before you were able to blog?

LG: It took about three months to hear back from them. I assumed they weren’t interested. It was a week or so later that I sent in my proposal after receiving a response. After a few weeks of email exchanges, I was blogging!

VT: IHP is a good example of artists using the Internet as a platform to curate. How do you think the Internet is changing the way for curators?

LG: I keep in mind that the view may be stumbling upon a page, and not necessarily seeking it out with intention. While you may come across that approach at a museum or gallery as well, the click of a link is very quick, and also quickly forgotten. The participatory aspect lends itself easily to an online exhibition because video and links incorporate themselves pretty effortlessly. I think curators need to keep in mind the fact that we are still constructing a space for the viewer to move throughout, it’s just doesn’t have the same type of walls.

VT: Do you think the Internet is a good tool that curators can benefit from?

LG: Absolutely, but I don’t think we’ve done so effectively. It’s just a different beast compared to the traditional way of exhibiting work by physical space. Having an effective and impactful show is the difficult part. It’s a strategy we’re still trying to figure out. Rarely do you hear “I just saw this incredible online show at whatever.com.” The Internet has been great for expanding upon pre-existing exhibitions, but I’d like to see it used as its own entity. It’s no longer the question of if the Internet is a space for exhibitions, but the way those differences are being utilized.

VT:Do you think there is a difference between curating for the Internet compared to an actual exhibition where space is being utilized?
LG: Oh, of course! Richard Serra has two pieces on display at the Gagosian Gallery in NYC. While the photographs online reveal very beautiful architecture, it’s an entirely different experience when walking amongst those pieces! When curating for a space you deal with the materials impact, the size and how the experience may have the potential of being a tactile experience, which is crucial in the curating process. The space where specific pieces are installed may cause reflections, barriers and pathways. Curating online is similar, in that you create a roadway for the viewer to move through, but that path can be abandoned quickly online.

VT:I come across many blogs that have interesting content on Tumblr, but information is being lost because people reblog it for the way it looks, and don’t know the real context of the work. What do you think about Tumblr and the way it is being used?

LG: I don’t think there is anything wrong for liking an image for aesthetic reasoning, but that’s not what I’m interested in. What I think is really fascinating is the language and act of “♥”ing something. It’s become a strange process of validating a photograph and creates a quick turnaround in regard to taste and trend. To answer your question, Tumblr has an amazingly easy user interface which may be part of the issues you bring up. I could potentially validate the action of “removing” work from its original context and “reassigning” it a new one, but I think the abundance of images that are circulating is preventing that type of discussion. It’s much faster to look at a photograph than explore the reasons as to why you enjoy looking at it.

VT:  Do you think Tumblr can be used effectively to curate?

LG: Yes, but it’s difficult. The problem that I see is the frequency in which the content is replaced, but that is also the nature of the blog format. Tumblr has an incredibly easy user interface. It keeps the reader coming back knowing there will be something new tomorrow, in a few days, or a few hours. Unfortunately, I also see it as a process of de-emphasizing the content that is already posted. I personally appreciate a little context with my images. I want to know why the curator posted theses images, and not others.

VT:Is there a trend that you have noticed on the Internet where work can only be viewed online and is only being made for online curating blogs?

LG: I see it as another discourse in photography, the arts, and publication. There are online-only magazines and online-only exhibition spaces. But because the Internet functions in a democratic capacity, photographs are easy to publish and easy to forget. I’ve seen a lot of “posting for the sake of posting”, or posting just to keep a blog active. That’s the difficulty in maintaining a curated blog. You have to keep your intention clear, focused, but open for interpretation.

VT: Have you heard of the term automated curation? Do you think computers, or technology is capable of curating?

LG: No, I haven’t. It sounds terrifying. I suppose in some imaginative sphere computers will be given enough information, as well as limitations, to create some type of method of “curating”. I find curating to be a very conscious process that involves events, ideas, theories and happenings that aren’t involved in the art world. Computers curating… I don’t like the sound of that.

VT:How do you think social media fits into all of this? Should it be used as an advantage to curating?

LG: Sure it should be. Who doesn’t love a good tweet? Expanding on practice socializing over the Internet, symbols, emoticons, and abbreviated euphemisms have crept into not just popular language, but content for artists to use. Social networking may not be the best platform for curating as the rest of the content on these networks may swallow up the “aura” (for lack of a better term) of a curated exhibition. But, it’s already become a subject matter for artists and curators.

VT:Curating can take an artist’s intention of a work out of context, in order to fit a criteria, idea or theme. Is the artist’s intention important in this case?

LG: I always investigate to some length what an artist’s project and/or work is about. I’d hate to misrepresent a photograph because I didn’t know what it was first used for and why. With some understanding, I then determine if it’s appropriate to illustrate what I’m trying to say. I see curating not as reassigning new meaning to a photograph/photographers work, but using it to contextualize my thoughts and ideas.

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