Reviewed by: Cheryl LaGuardia, Research Librarian, Widener Library, Harvard University
The Open Arts Journal aims to “address the demand for a rigorously compiled, peer-reviewed platform for arts scholarship open to diverse participants,” while at the same time it “confronts the mixed blessings brought to the arts and humanities by current developments in ‘open access’ scholarship.” One of the issues they are confronting is the practice of “dominant platforms for academic publishing” requiring fees for publication from contributors. The publishers aver that “Such arrangements frustrate if not subvert the opportunities presented by digital distribution of academic scholarship for use ‘on demand.’ Thus we avoid them.”
To provide a truly free, “robust and imaginative response to the open access agenda” the journal works at “drawing attention to pertinent themes and topics around which our guest editors and contributors assemble” and “bridging divides between interest groups and offering a platform for artists to show their creative works, and the space for architectural schools and curatorial initiatives to extend their reach.” They “challenge the tendency to ‘overspecialisation’ that so sorely compromises the arts and humanities… [and] seek ways to “engage more widely and benefit from approaches other than the historical.”
Thus the journal uses a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial CC BY-NC license which allows downloading and sharing content with others as long as the authors and the Open Arts Journal are credited. By the terms of this license the material cannot be used commercially without explicit permission. The publication notes that its “content is fully searchable and highly visible to the main search engines, major libraries around the world (including the European Library), leading indexes of arts and humanities journals, and a growing list of arts practitioner and scholarly associations.” However, a quick check of Arts & Humanities Citation Index, Art Full Text, Art Index Retrospective, the Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals, JSTOR, and Project Muse found no articles from the Open Arts Journal indexed in any of them.
That said, there are currently two issues of the journal available online. The theme for issue 1 is: “Cosmopolitanism as critical and creative practice,” and it was edited by Eleanor Byrne and Berthold Schoene of Manchester Metropolitan University. Articles in this issue include: “Cosmopolitanism as critical and creative practice: an introduction,” “The world on a train: global narration in Geoff Ryman’s 253,” “The precarious ecologies of cosmopolitanism,” “‘How dare you rubbish my town!’: place listening as an approach to socially engaged art within UK urban regeneration contexts,” “Towards a cosmopolitan criticality? Relational aesthetics, Rirkrit Tiravanija and transnational encounters with pad thai,” “Parallel editing, multi-positionality and maximalism: cosmopolitan effects as explored in some art works by Melanie Jackson and Vivienne Dick,” “Offshore cosmopolitanism: reading the nation in Rana Dasgupta’s Tokyo Cancelled, Lawrence Chua’s Gold by the Inch and Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger,” “Trick questions: cosmopolitan hospitality,” and “Google paintings” (sketches in oil paints on prepared paper done by the artist over a period of two years when he “conducted a ‘Grand Tour’ via Google Earth, visiting locations across the globe of topical and newsworthy interest, and making paintings of what [he] saw”).
The theme for issue 2 is "Pavilions," and articles in it include “‘Not months but moments’: ephemerality, monumentality, and the pavilion in ruins,” “Folkloric modernism: Venice’s Giardini Della Biennale and the geopolitics of architecture,” and “From the world’s fair to Disneyland: pavilions as temples.” Curious to see how accessible this material is, I tried some Google searches. A search for the title, open arts journal, brought up the journal home page as the first hit. Searches for articles in the journal found spottier results; if I put in the exact title Google found it. If I put in an author’s name, it eventually found the article from Open Arts Journal, often some distance down the queue. If I put in major keywords from the article title, sometimes Google located it, sometimes not (or, if it located it, the article was so far down in the list of results as to be difficult to find).
The question is: is this material worth finding? I would answer, yes, it is. The thematic focus of issues is a fresh approach, and it draws in articles from a seemingly disparate – yet ultimately connected – set of contributors who bring different perspectives to considerations of the unifying themes. Just as the authorship is quite diverse, so too is the writing; not in quality but in approaches and aesthetics. This adds to the distinctive nature of the publication.
This is an open access journal I hope to see succeed. At the time of this writing (in October 2014) Issue 3: “Disturbing Pasts,” is listed as forthcoming Summer 2014, and has not yet been posted on the site. A flyer for this issue, which has been posted, notes that Issue 3 “explores the theme of traumatic pasts and their complex and often dramatic influences on the present day, bringing to the foreground the rich visual and creative responses to such pasts that issue among artists.” That’s an issue I would very much like to see, and I hope it will be posted live on the site soon.
Librarians serving art students, artists, and art scholars will want to look at what’s here now, and, if, having done so, you agree with my assessment, it’s to be hoped you’ll help promote the journal so it may continue the laudable aims it seeks to achieve.