Mark Rothko’s Chapel & My Photoblog
Mark Rothko tried to paint the ineffable. Rothko had very precise ideas about how he wanted a viewer to experience his work. He did this years before Instagram. But, safe to say, Instagram would have been the exact opposite of what Rothko wanted.
Rothko convinced a rich guy in Texas to build a chapel to permanently house his paintings. To let them be experienced in an unhurried, meditative space. At least for those few willing and able to go to Texas. Instagram is available to every smartphone user on the planet. And if your photo gets 1,000 likes, it probably means that 1,000 sets of eyeballs each looked at your picture for the 1 second it takes to double-tap their phones. Maybe less if some bots were involved.
Exchangeagram Moment, Bitches!
I’m thinking about the many choices we have in documenting our digital lives. All the software platforms. All the hardware devices.
The blog “you” are looking at now was created last week. It contains a few moments from my life here in 2021, and a few moments from my SLife back in 2009.
And when I say “You are looking at now,” I really mean “I, Kate Nova, am looking at now”. Since I can’t imagine hardly anyone else will ever look at these pages. What I’ve realized in these few days is that I’m fine with that. How much of the sharing that we do, the identity expression that we post on Exchangeagram or elsewhere, is actually self-identity reinforcement?
I think we’ve all had the dull background sensation that Scrolling, or “Doom Scrolling” through Instagram wasn’t the healthiest thing in the world. With the recent leaks of internal research, we know now that Facebook, or “Meta,” has known for years that Instagram viewing is harmful to viewers. One particularly troubling example is teenage girls concerned about body image. Instagram makes them feel worse about themselves. And, ironically, when they look up something, “The Algorithm” (Social Media equivalent of what the church might call “The Pope”) will feed them ever more content that makes them feel ever worse.
SING-ALONG MOMENT: Feel free to sing that old song “I fought the law and the law won.” But change the lyrics to: “I fought the algorithm and the algorithm won.”
Sometimes we post content on platforms like Exchangeagram to show off to our friends how much better our lives are than theirs. A less cynical way of saying this is that we’re sharing our lives with our families and friends both near and far.
What does it mean to post a crappy selfie, with your arm sticking in the photo, and terrible light, and shit resolution, in a pixelated, too-dark scene, on Exchangeagram and then get a zillion “Likes” from friends, family, and strangers?
If “You” reading this now is anyone other than “Kate Nova,” that’s cool. Surprising. Amazing. But “you” is probably just “me.” And I’ve realized, I’m fine with that.
Back in the first part of 2009 I was working as a latex model at Kai Heideman’s shop Powers of Creation (POC). There was a handful of us POC models, or “Mannequins” as Kai called us. My BFF at the shop was Charly December. We had a stupid-good time parading around in shiny latex outfits.
Ever since those days I’ve always wanted to make something like this blog. A simple place to put memories of some of my almost always ridiculous, and perhaps occasionally meaningful, moments.
I actually did this back then. Every day I posted pix of ridiculous outfits, antics, friends, and shop visitors on a site called “DailyBooth.” DailyBooth launched in February 2009 and was defunct by the end of 2012. Airbnb made a talent acquisition for the DailyBooth team, and as usually happens with platforms that don’t win the lottery and become gargantuan winner-take-all players like Exchangeagram, they simply deleted everyone’s photos.
Thanks for donating your life to build our property. We don’t need you anymore. We’re deleting your wedding photos on Friday.
I’m Back, Baby!
After losing all those life moments on DailyBooth, I’m finally back with life moments here on KateNova.uk. Which will live on forever. Until I someday get sick or die and stop paying my internet bill. At which point these words your reading now will be deleted. And I’m fine with that too.
One nice thing about the snazzy WordPress theme I’m using here on KateNova.uk is that, like pretty much all themes these days, it’s “Responsive.” I don’t have to make one site for desktop/laptop and another for phones and tablets. The theme figures out how you’re viewing and adjusts the content accordingly.
Which is awesome.
I picked this “Masonry” or “Grid” or “Portfolio” or “Photoblog” style theme because here at my studio I love seeing a bunch of images up on my 65″ monitor.
When I view the site on my phone, it looks great. But, it also looks more-or-less like Exchangeagram. How different can anything look on the tiny screen real estate of a phone? On the big monitor, I feel like the home page and category/archive pages are a survey of my virtual life. Of people and places. Of moments. On a phone, it feels like more Doom Scrolling.
Platforms, Social & Selfish
I put the posts that are up here so far, up in the last week. I spent last Thursday shuffling through all the platform choices for where to host this thing:
Facebook vs Twitter
I’ve always loved Twitter and I’ve always hated Facebook. But I realized some time back that there is massive engagement on Facebook. Twitter seems to work for some peeps out there, but I’ve never found real connection or good interaction there.
If what I care about is eyeballs on my content, then it has to be Facebook.
But Facebook is ugly. Not to mention a monster. Spending a day thinking through all the choices, I realized that something that looks good to me is more import to me than how many people see it. Facebook & Twitter are out.
AFAIK, IRL nobody actually uses Plurk. But for SL, Plurk has always been huge. Kind of the way that IRL IG has crushed Flickr, but for we avatars, Flickr dominates.
I started to poke around Plurk to see if it’s still popular with the SL crowd or not. Before I could actually answer that question, I was reminded of how much I hate Plurk. The interface has some truly interesting ideas in it, but it’s mired in this confusing, off-putting morass of screen-chaos. Why would I bother committing my digital life to that? Regardless of how many avatar eyeballs may or may not still be there?
Instagram vs Flickr
I’ve always hated Instagram and loved Flickr. IRL, Flickr is in sad, sad shape. But for avatars, it’s the place to go! Flickr hosts an astonishing number of SL avatars, SL photos, and SL photo groups.
I searched Flickr for groups on a few different virtual worlds:
- World of Warcraft – 11 groups
- Minecraft – 2 groups
- Fortnite – 0 groups
- Second Life – 3,319 groups
Flickr & Tumblr
Flickr & Tumblr were both so cool once. Then they suffered through years of neglect and abuse at Yahoo. They’re still kind of cool. SmugMug wound up buying Flickr. Automattic bought Tumblr. Both platforms were good choices for hosting these moments of my virtual life.
Flickr is fantastic. And, after Facebook, the most engagement an avatar is going to find for their glorious selfies. I like Flickr a lot more than FB, so it was a real option. The layout is… fine. It’s a good way to look at a lot of images on your screen. But it’s not elegant. It’s not ugly. But it doesn’t treat each image with the care and handling I’d like.
Hanging, Salon Style
In art exhibitions when you cram too many paintings or other works into a not-big-enough gallery space, it’s euphemistically called “Salon Style Hanging.” It’s not terrible, but it doesn’t give each work the space to breathe, to resonate, to be experienced, as I’d prefer. Flickr is good. But Flickr is a very dense, Salon Style Hanging.
Mark Rothko was so serious about the way he wanted his sublime paintings to be experienced that he convinced some rich person to build a chapel to permanently present them in.
The great thing about Exchangeagram is that anyone, anywhere in the world, can share your moments. You can only experience the Rothko Chapel if you’re willing and able to go to Houston, Texas.
“Visitors to Houston” is a lot more limiting that “People anywhere who have a phone.” But not every human needs to see every thing. There are far more things in this world than anyone can experience in a single lifetime. For the few who manage to make it to Houston, they can experience Rothko’s work in a way that no human has ever experienced anything on Exchangeagram.
For anyone who doesn’t make it to Houston, there are things in your neighborhood that can be deeply experienced: a sunrise, a blade of grass, art and nature of all kinds.
Tumblr has so many cool, amazing, fantastic themes to choose from. Often the most cool themes are the most LIFO (Last In, First Out) or “New stuff on top, old stuff way down there somehwere.” These themes can be super pretty, but the earlier moments are so far down they lose connection.
I want it both ways.
I want not-so-blog-style LIFO that the past loses all connection to the present. But not-so-Salon-Style-Hanging that everything is just data to be assigned a few “likes” and ignored. I want a masonry style theme that lets me see a lot, but has enough room for individual moments to breathe.
Tumblr has themes like I’m describing too. Some very cool grid themes. No, Tumblr wouldn’t, for an avatar like me, have the engagement of Flickr, but it could be visually more pleasing. But Tumblr, in spite of all the cool aspects and the fantastic “Archive View” which I like to call “Zeitgeist View”, is kind of a mess. Tumblr doesn’t allow comments. I don’t expect much engagement. Still, I want the possibility of engagement. Yes, it’s not hard to patch Disqus into Tumblr so people can comment. But in the end, Tumblr just felt a bit messy. A bit fussy.
If you’re keeping track, what I spent all of Thursday doing was, one-by-one, crossing every candidate off the list except WordPress. Unlike every other candidate, WP is not a “Social Media Platform.” It doesn’t come with a community. Which means, unless I pimp my WP content on those social platforms, it’s pretty much going to be me looking at these pages.
Today WordPress powers 43% of the sites on the web.
The good news is that unlike DailyBooth, WordPress, the platform, isn’t likely to go away anytime soon.
But my stuff can still go down if I stop paying my internet bill.
And realistically, all “Dynamic” web content will break or fall to vulnerabilities sooner or later. If you really want your stuff to have a chance to live on, it probably has to be “Static” web pages, like Jekyll, for example.
But I’ve already said that I don’t necessarily need more eyeballs than mine to see this “diary.”
And I’ve already said that if I’m gone, my stuff can go too. I don’t need it to live on forever. Since nobody is likely to look at it anyway.
But for now, while I’m here, and my eyes are sharp, I’ve found a platform and a theme that strike a near perfect balance between dense Salon Style Hanging, and Isolated, Curated, LIFO Scrolling.
At least for those of me who look at it on a 65″ monitor.
On your phone, everything is pretty much Exchangeagram, bitches!
Retired latex model. Flirt, tease & friend without benefits. Say “Hello!” I won’t bite! (not even if you want me to) Over the years so many “SL Killers” have come & gone: Cloud Party, Blue Mars, InWorldz, Sansar, HiFidelity, and more. Mostly gone now. Zuckerberg’s “Metaverse” is in trouble. Meanwhile, SL keeps pressing on. Even so, don’t take it for granted. SL could die, or changes to SL, or changes in your life, could cause this beautiful dream to end. Even if the dream does continue, beloved characters might exit the stage. Savor every moment.