I could name any one of twenty recent artistic developments as this decade's "most important" and make a convincing argument for it. This isn't any special skill on my part. The art world is large enough that quite a few significant changes have occurred over the last ten years; even if it weren't, this would be the hardest decade to sum up by reference to one art movement. Pluralism aside, so far, the creative high points of the millennium belong to television serials and internet communities.
But while fine art's contributions this decade may not come in the most traditional forms, the critical and ubiquitous practice of web curating, at least by name, derives from the long tradition of art curation. Of course, the selecting, sharing and caring of material on the web would likely occur whether or not it was attributed art's professional authority, but the pivotal role arts intuitions played in the development of such practices over the last year has been greatly under-recognized.
Eyebeam's reblog represents one such example. Developed and named by Jonah Peretti, Michael Frumin, Michael Migurski, Alex Galloway and Boris Anthony, the Movable Type hack dubbed "reblog", was designed in early 2004, as a means of making web surfing, re-posting and crediting material easier. Today, we see permutations of the curating technology first built at the Atelier, all over the web. The most popular software operating off the same principles—Tumblr blogs and Facebook feeds—allows users to easily re-post material and create their own custom feed readers, just like the Eyebeam reblog.
It bears noting that while Tumblr and Facebook were established with commercial intent, the impetus for non-profit's reblog was just as practical. The arts and technology organization didn't have the resources to create new content for their site, and they needed a way to get people there. It also provided a more manageable means of curating an increasing amount of material available on the web. "I am just interested in how ideas spread, how the media works, and how the web is changing the answers to those questions." former Director of Research and Development at Eyebeam and co-founder of BuzzFeed Jonah Peretti wrote via email earlier this year. "I have never tried to play the art game or make a living from doing art, so the label never fit." This sentiment did not however, stop the entrepreneur from exhibiting related work at the New Museum in 2005.
Amongst Peretti's first reblogged posts in 2004, I like to think that the BBC article about how Janet Jackson's breast had become the most searched-for image in internet history, pointed towards what he would eventually create with BuzzFeed. The website uses custom technology and editorial teams to create a comprehensive database of the most viral web memes. According to Quantcast, Buzzfeed is the 568th most trafficked website in the world.
The website has almost nothing to do with art, and because Peretti doesn't claim to be an artist, it's probably easy to lose sight of the fact that it was the work done at arts organization that would lead to Peretti's success. But if there ever there were a testimonial for the foresight of art institutions, this would be it.