The Blog and the Salon, Part I

I am by no means an expert on the topics of salons or blogs, but I do know my fair share of French history. I did, after all, study Art History in Paris and have a ravenous appetite for everything and anything early modernist. So my introduction to one of the greatest salons of the twentieth century came first through not a person, but a house. And what a house it is! Villa Noailles was built between 1923 and 1927 by Robert Mallet-Stevens for art patrons Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles and was featured in numerous avant-garde films of the period, including Man Ray’s Les Mystères du Château de Dé.

You might ask how any of this relates to the famed salons of yore or the modern day blog. Well, the Vicomtesse de Noailles was without a doubt one of the most influential (and eccentric) art patrons of the twentieth century, hosting numerous parties at the Villa Noailles which, amongst others, propelled the careers of Salvador Dalí, Balthus, Jean Cocteau, Man Ray, Luis Buñuel, and Francis Poulnenc.

While the Vicomtesse was herself an aristocrat (and a direct descendent of the Marquis de Sade), her marriage to the Vicomte de Noailles secured her position as a French socialite, enabling her (and her husband) to support and finance the works of emerging artists including those of Man Ray, Poulenc, Cocteau, and Buñuel and Dali. While it may be a stretch to compare her to the reigning queen of the blog, Arianna Huffington, similarities, even at the personal level, emerge. For one, both married prominent men and used their associations as a base for their cultural empires. It is also interesting to note that both of their husbands had a liking for men.

All personal comparisons asides, the salon, like the blog, is about connections. Unlike social networks (and public forums) that focus on sharing, the blog, similarly to the salon, revolves around support. Basically, I can blab about anything I want on a social network and can never be heard. The sheer amount of voices in a public forum mutes smaller voices. Blogs, like the salon of the Vicomtesse de Noailles, encourages like-minded “smaller” voices to be heard. While financial support, as in the case of the traditional salon, can be part of the equation, the distinctive feature of the blog is its ability (because of its focus and therefore, smallness) to nurture and support these voices to fame. It is not a coincidence, nor is it demeaning, that salons were the business or “university” for women. Strong-minded female entrepreneurs like Arianna Huffington (and in my opinion Rowan and Vaneeesa, among others, in SL) have picked up where the salonnières have left off, using contemporary technology to their advantage.   Kathleen

Author: Kathleen Cool
I am a graduate student studying how people experience informal education, particularly art, in virtual worlds such as Second Life. My background is in both Art History and Computer Science. Please feel free to email me or IM me in SL (Kathleen Koolhoven) if you have any questions regarding my current research or want to participate in my study.

1 thought on “The Blog and the Salon, Part I

  1. Fantastic Kathleen! Your BlogSalon idea is so compelling in general, and of course, specifically for us.

    It’s interesting that you see them as so much more powerful or functional than social networks. I think meetups can function this way too. Actually I think Unconferences have real power in this way, unlike the “conference” which is very very top down (yes of course there’s a ton of meeting and interaction there, still they are kind of hierarchical things) but the Unconference tends to really push interaction as I hope we can do here on iRez.

    Social nets, like giant Facebook are for me the new phone book and the world’s greatest baby photo sharing website. That’s really powerful for many people. I imagine the “Creative Memories” company must be hurting. Or perhaps the DIY / tactile crowd is keeping them in good shape, IDK. But either way, for most peeps today Facebook is Creative Memories on steroids.

    As you say though, I think that space has so many voices and it keeps it at the level of “lite beer” instead of a more idiosyncratic “dark ale” that has real substance to it.

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