On February 15 of 2004, Big RED & Shiny launched our first issue. On August 16 of 2010, we launch our last.
I have been doing BR&S for a long time. I've written every line of code that makes this site happen at least 3 times, & I've designed 134 of the issues. This has been my life, several days a week for a about eight years, and I've certainly contributed my share of writing to the project. Matthew Gamber has been editor-in-chief for 126 issues, and wrote for the publication before that. BothMicah Malone and Christian Holland started with the first issue, and in their time became editors. James Nadeau first wrote an article in issue #19, and has been a great editor for the past several years.
There are many reasons why a project like ours can come to an end. It could have been about money, but in this case that was not a factor. It could have been about audience, but we have a great and devoted readership who have always been supportive. Yet, it has become obvious that the time has come to close up shop and make way for the next group of motivated artists to build a voice for their community. Hell, if they'll have me, I'd be happy to write for them, or raise funds, or just stand in the corner of their parties and lend that air of "been there" to whatever they are up to.
I have learned many things in creating Big RED & Shiny, and I have watched the world of online media change dramatically in our time. If BR&S were a human, our six-and-a-half years would put them in the first grade. Yet, online we are old. Very old.
We have been online a full third of the life of the Internet. 1
There was no Facebook when we started. No Blogger. No MySpace. The iPhone was over 3 years in the future. I thought about doing some research on the state of the world in 2004, but it seemed more appropriate to ask Facebook. My status update: "HEY! Tell me in comments what you were doing 6 1/2 years ago, in February 2004...." received 11 comments in about 12 hours, ranging from "Found an erotic massage store in Portland on the 18th and got a Beta fish on the 22nd. You?" to "On February 1st I had one of the most awesome meals I've ever had. Octopus tendril with celery paper, etc., etc. Also, turning 20. I can't believe they served me all those glasses of wine." and "Assiduously avoiding becoming chair of Faculty Assembly. So good no one took notice."
Perhaps that seemed a non-sequiter, but having spent a long time putting content online, it makes perfect sense to me. We are becoming media consumers who want more primary content, information unfiltered by a writer and editor. People flock to Jerry Saltz's Facebook page to read, comment and debate with others in the (virtual) presence of the critic himself. The editors of Work Of Art can certainly present a scenario in any way that best tells the story, but contestants like Jaclyn Santos can also re-create and refute that version online. A quick tweet can save or ruin a career faster than a fact-checked and verified article.
There is an appeal to having access to primary sources. That was one of the great appeals of BR&S for those of us who made it happen. To talk face-to-face with the artist, to see the work up close and hear the debates around its making is an amazing feeling. At the same time, it is impossible to read every op-ed column, watch every hour of CSPAN, and troll every Twitter feed. There is a reason to have editors and filters: they let you know what to pay attention to. I appreciate that Steve Benen reads about politics everyday so I don't have to, and that Kevin Drum wants to parse economics charts, and Digby can filter the media into a coherent (if very left-leaning) discussion. I want an art critic like Jerry Saltz or Katie Siegel to see some of the bad art and tell me to avoid it. I like reading the opinions of food blogs, music blogs and art blogs so I know how best to spend the few years I have on this earth.
I think that the best experiences I have had in the new media manage to encompass both. If I read a post by a blogger I trust, and can follow their conclusions back to primary sources, I trust the conclusions (even if I disagree with them) and feel better informed by both. This we tried to do, wherever possible, with BR&S. We also tried to entertain, and to offer perspectives that you might not find elsewhere. We were often accused of being "too serious" but still felt compelled to push our limits and create content that would inform, enlighten and entertain.
If I were to write a eulogy for Big RED & Shiny, it would probably go like this:
He2 was a friend who made me feel better about myself everyday. There were times when he was too demanding, too bitchy, and too selfish. But there were other times when he was kind, offering me a glimpse of a life that I could not otherwise lead, and introducing me to friends I will cherish forever. He took a lot, but he gave a lot, and though we were never rich together in money, we were rich together in experience. I am sad that I am losing a friend, but I will always remember the time we spent making allies and enemies.
There are a lot of people to thank after nearly seven years. First and foremost is Matthew Gamber, who has been editor-in-chief since issue #9. He has been a great partner, and his patience has cooled my tempestuousness too many times. Along with Gamber, we could not have made so much happen these past few years without the amazing and often thankless work of Christian Holland, Micah Malone and James Nadeau. I cannot ever thank them enough. There are also some former editors who deserve a lot of credit for the project: Sean Horton, Rachel Gepner and Christophe Perez.
I also want to thank all of our contributors over the years -- 170+ at last count -- without whom we could never have done this. Thanks to each and every one of you. There are a handful of contributors I want to single out, those who did yeomen's work and contributed far more than others: Ben Sloat, Thomas Marquet, James Manning, Steve Aishman, and Heidi Marston Aishman -- thank you.
Finally, thanks to those who supported us with donations, advertising and in other innumerable ways. In particular I wanted to thank Camilo Alvarez, who has been an outstanding supporter since the very beginning, Arlette Kayafas and James Hull, who have been extremely generous, and Steven Zevitas and Drew Katz. The LEF Foundation supported us for a long time and we owe a debt of gratitude to Lyda Kuth and Louisa McCall. I hope that they will continue to support this kind of arts discussion, in whatever form the next manifestation takes.
To all our readers and commenters, you have made this worth doing.
The future of BR&S
While we are closing down the journal on September 1, we don't plan to go away entirely. Our archives will be available online for the foreseeable future, as a resource for people who want to read our interviews, articles and other writing. Our Exhibition Listings, Calls for Work and Classes & Workshops will continue to operate, offering free and donation-based announcements. Our editors will continue to provide listings picks to The Weekly Dig.
For the time being, we plan to keep our blog Our Daily RED in operation, moving our lingering interest in arts discourse to this sleeker, more compact format. Of course, Christian Holland can't stop tweeting so if you follow him you will continue to get your news 140 characters at a time.
We'll be having a Scottish Wake for BR&S sometime in September. Check the Twitter feed.