Two archive images from Maria Porge’s article in American Craft, May 2007. A Whole Life: The Art (and Craft) of Ruth Asawa. The image on the left is a representation of the page as published. The image on the right is a representation of the original page with only the author text remaining.
How to think outside the cage that has grown up around art writing? Established art writers find it extremely difficult to find and make public past art writing. On-line archives for art magazines are more often than not missing , locked behind a paywall, and of poor quality. Subscriber archives at venerable publishers such as Art Forum consist of select articles since 2000, in the form of grainy screenshots of articles, often compressing both text and image into black and white jpegs of size 540 x 400. This tiny amount of information is equivalent to reading an Art Forum article on a 1980’s television, with 20% of the screen blocked by a potted plant.
At the same time, galleries like Hauser Worth list archives of press for artists. Is there a way to level the playing field for the authors of the original article?
Reprinting past work within the current publishing and legal climate is especially difficult. Reprinting is especially tricky for art writing, due to an excessive combination of out-of-print art publications, a forking trail of long-dead publishers, haphazard archives, lost or vague contracts, and wishful-to-woeful adjudication of republishing rights. In addition, clearing image rights with any artists (or other rights holder) under discussion is also required, and perhaps the image-maker or recorder as well. The complexity quickly becomes overwhelming, contributing to art history’s glacial pace at online organization and digitization?
An alternative that many art writers employ is to scan the print article and put links to the PDF’s. Depending on the publishing contract, authors may have explicit rights to do this. Some publishers put free versions of their publication or specific articles on their own websites, suitable for re-linking by authors. Several writers do full bibliographies with links to available PDF files.
What is best practice? What is legal? What is common? Could higher-resolution files for Art Forum be hosted at the internet archive?
How does this fit into the author/writer/artist identity elsewhere on the web? Is it linking to an academic or organizational affiliation? Or to academia.edu? Is it this linking to an amazon.com author page? Is it linking to the art writer’s canonical home page?
Is there another way? Is there a way to explicitly manufacture a transformation such that the new media archive’s existence has legal standing? Can transformative works be used to republish and protect fair uses for any of three purposes: preservation, a full-text search engine, and electronic access for disabled patrons who could not read the print versions?