tom moody

"Microsoft Store Paintings" - possible unconsidered meanings

In an essay for Rhizome.org, "Painting by Numbers," Brian Droitcour employs some flawed reasoning in support of Michael Manning's digital painting series "Microsoft Store Paintings."
The essay features three reproductions of paintings Manning made on Windows 8 demonstration tablets inside a Microsoft retail store, as well as Manning's Instagram photo of the outside of a store. The post is tagged "Microsoft Store Paintings." But painting in a Microsoft Store is a joke, right? Microsoft may be Brand A in the business desktop PC market but it has famously missed every recent trend: browsing, search, voice, pods, pads. "Microsoft Store Paintings" also invokes a laugh because everyone knows Apple is the "computer for creatives" due to assiduous marketing to designers, illustrators, and even artists, a contrarian breed typically uncomfortable being associated with a brand (Campbell's Soup notwithstanding).
Yet despite the tag and the pics, the essay tells us that (i) the import of Manning's work is its use of multiple platforms (including the iPad and Apple smartphone), and that (ii) this ecumenical approach somehow disproves tech pundit Bruce Sterling's assertion that the Worldwide Web has broken down into smaller, corporate-branded enclaves.
None of this makes any sense in terms of the critic's role in explaining, justifying, or contextualizing artwork, or otherwise.
Droitcour confesses, somewhat strangely for an institutional writer placing a series of paintings into art history, that "as much as I enjoy looking at painting I don’t really like to write about it." To respond vernacularly: But that's your job, dude.
Discrimination and specificity in writing about painting might help viewers process an impression they have when they click through to Manning's site, which is that the Microsoft Store Paintings look rather different than the iPad paintings: let's go out on a shaky branch and say better, as in crisper, wider, with less self-conscious filtering and special effects, more like paint. This leads to an untenable conclusion: that Microsoft, the also-ran company, got something right, or that Manning found something innately right in a branded product, and that the series isn't just typical smirky new media irony but might raise some intriguing questions about the meaning of a "gesture" and the means of simulating a gesture in the post-painting era. The politics of expression instead of the tired old politics of branding. That's an essay to be written about this work but it doesn't matter because it's already been canonized.

- tom moody

January 27th, 2013 at 8:39 am

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