May 27, 2015

Art Blogger of the Week: Régine Debatty in Europe and Beyond

It was artist Anaisa Franco who told me about Régine Debatty's blog with the provoking name we-make-money-not-art. Anaisa works with new technology and Régine exactly covers that niche where art and technology meets. So far Régine's blog is the oldest one in this series of art bloggers worldwide - starting as early as 2004. Since then Régine has gained quite a reputation as an art blogger, giving lectures and workshops worldwide, and as such she played a very important role in turning art blogging into a form of art writing that can be taken seriously. Besides that, she also opens up a rather unfamiliar world to me, one where designers, hackers and artists meet.

How would you define your local (national) art scene? 

I am not linked to any local or national scene. I do cover a lot of art events taking place in Europe though. I write mostly about art, science/technology and social issues. So that topic would define my scene.

Are certain trends happening at the moment in your art scene?

I wouldn't talk so much about trends. However, since i work a lot with art that attempts to discuss social or political issues and with art that uses technology in a critical way, i could say that the artworks  i write about often respond to what makes the headlines (or what should make the headlines.) So right now, there is a lot of works and discussions about drones, immigration, mass surveillance, finance, democracy, climate change, genetics, etc.

When did you start the blog and why?

I started the blog in March 2004. I met an artist working with technology. This meeting of two fields -which i had so far assumed were worlds apart- was entirely new to me so i started looking online for similar artworks, experiences and ideas that creatively engaged with technology. I archived my findings in a blog. It was a sort of personal, messy space and i never suspected anyone would want to read it. I had a proper job and at the time and never thought one could make a career of blogging.

What do you like about blogging?

2 words: no boss.
I enjoy the fact that i only write about works and issues i care about. There's no editorial line i need to respect, no advertisers who have the power to influence my content and actions. I also love discovering, meeting new people and learning. Especially learning. Writing a blog has opened up so many doors for me, both professionally and intellectually.

How does art writing benefit from blogging?

ooh! I think an art dealer, an artist or an art critic who writes for magazines would have a more meaningful answer to that question. I'm always afraid of sounding pretentious and self-centered. So i'm going to answer as a person who loves art. I love art blogs because many of them cover exhibitions and cultural events that might not necessarily get picked up by the mainstream art press (if there's such a thing as a 'mainstream' art press), or because blogs cover art in a way that is more personable. 

Are you connected with other bloggers?

Not much. There are some who became friends like Lucie from Happy Famous Artists, Alessandro Ludovico from Neural (which is actually a magazine, not a blog) or Filip Visnic from Creative Appplications.

What is your expertise?

I don't really like to define myself as an expert in anything because i feel that i'm constantly learning (thus filling in vast pools of ignorance.) However, i think that by now i know a great deal about what artists are doing with science and technology and also about how they approach certain political issues. I've been writing about these topics for 11 years now, i've attended conferences, participated to workshops and seminars, done radio shows, interviewed artists, activists and hackers, read books and visited many studios. So that's the kind of area i'm comfortable talking about.

From which field do you come?

I studied Classics at university (Latin and Ancient Greek) and then went on to work in media, mostly radio and tv, in various European countries.

What do you do besides blogging, and does that add to your perspective on art?

Ideally i wouldn't do anything apart from blogging but because i need to make a living i also write for museum catalogues and give workshops and lectures. These are experiences that enable me to stop and take time to reflect with more depth on a certain practice or subject but also to meet and discuss with people i would otherwise not have had the chance to meet.

Do you monetize your blog directly or indirectly (lectures, writing, etc.)? Or does it bring value in some way?

I really appreciate that when you sent me these questions, you also wrote that i was free to ignore this one if i found it too intrusive.

I've always been uncomfortable with this kind of question because one would never ask a journalist, carpenter or teacher about their earnings, but for some reason, there's no such taboo when it comes to bloggers. People i've never met before come to me and ask bluntly : "how much money do you make?" "how do you make money?" these are obviously very valid questions but i wonder if i'll ever get used to them. I have some banners on the blog. Some are paid, some i give away for free to people whose work deserve to get a bit more exposure but can't always afford it. But, as i wrote above, most of my earnings come from writing, lecturing or curating activities.

With that said, i'm going to second what of your previous interviewee said: if i wanted to make money i wouldn't write about art. I think i'd write about sex, design or gadgets. 

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