Tanner America is critical satire in the form of a Tumblr blog. The site is updated several times a week with "snapshot" style images and brief accompanying captions. Each image depicts a moment from the daily lives of the Tanner family of Colorado Springs, CO: the kids' science projects, camping trips, remodeling the house, purchases from Home Depot, and their neighbor Linda. The images are purposefully mundane and would be of little interest to anyone outside the Tanner's immediate family and friends.
What makes the images satire is the fact that they are clearly, intentionally fabricated. Each image has been noticeably photoshopped in such a way that it becomes an implicit critique. In many ways they resemble JOGGING-style sculptures or performance, as the strange juxtaposition of objects announces itself as fabricated and implies some form of intentionality, some form of critique.
The clearest commentary would seem to be a general critique of white, middle class, heterosexual Middle America. The Tanner's lives are dull, they have too many kids, they are uncritical and indulge in consumerist behavior, they watch Fox News, their Facebook page lists their political views as "Tea Party", etc. In a way Tanner America is poking fun at the suburbs, at the concept of "normal, everyday Americans," and in doing so reinforcing the kind of snide elitism that the Tanners would no doubt accuse "us" of, if they were real.
At the same time there is another critique, not of the values and lives of people like the Tanners, but the way they use the Internet and what it means to them. Taking a look at the default Tumblr theme the Tanners "chose" to use it seems grossly mismatched with the style and tone of the images and captions they post. It looks like a ...
"Art and social media" -- this topic is all anyone wants to talk about these days. The discussion extends from the staid -- the National Endowment for the Arts released a report titled "Audience 2.0: How Technology Influences Arts Participation" -- to more spicy ruminations on what "social media art" offers as a new category, as in the artist An Xiao’s recent three-part series for Hyperallergic.
On the one hand, this faddish obsession with "social media" is understandable. The Facebook Corp. has begun to wrap its fingers around every other aspect of life, so it is clearly logical to ask what effects social media might have on art-making. But at the same time, I find the chatter somehow sad, as if visual art’s power to inspire passion among a larger audience is so attenuated that it has to throw itself on whatever trendy thing is out there, to win some reflected glory for itself.
So, the question for me is this: Is there any more interesting way to think about the topic than the loose and impressionistic manner that it is currently framed? Maybe it’s worth noting that, of all the buzzwords of the present-day lexicon, "social media" is perhaps the only one that is more vaguely defined than "art." Let’s begin, then, by clarifying terms to see if we can get to a more interesting place.
[Note: For more artworks on this platform, be sure to check Jonah Brucker-Cohen's series on iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad art "Art In Your Pocket" on Rhizome, the first installment can be found here and the second here.]
Two heavyweight internet champions - online magazine DIS (check our interview with them here) and image-only chatroom dump.fm (check a statement about the project by co-founder Ryder Ripps here) - will join forces this week for New Style Options, an event where dump.fm users will be encouraged to post fashion and style-related images to a designated DIS portal. If we're lucky, hopefully participants will use New Style Options as an opportunity to venture further into the warped Walmart meets Home Depot meets poolside LA direction of the recent DIS summer fashion spread.
(Installation view at Discovery Museum, Newcastle, courtesy the artists. Photograph: Louise Hepworth)
This interview follows on from a project called “Coal Fired Computers (300,000,000 Computers - 318,000 Black Lungs)” carried out in Newcastle in spring 2010 for the AV Festival. The project, by Graham Harwood, Matsuko Yokokoji with Jean Denmars involved a means of producing a physical diagram between components in production as they undergo transformations across different kinds of time, politics, matter, knowledge, and vitality. The project found a way of working with such things that was particularly powerful. The interview begins with a discussion of CFC but also moves off into databases and a certain understanding of their material force. One thing we don’t cover in the interview is the detail of the Coal Fired Computers project’s work with miner activists, including the inspirational Dave Douglass. (See information on his memoirs here ). More of this can be found in a booklet about the project here, including links to all the groups involved. The interview was carried out by email in May and June 2010.
We invite proposals for panels, artworks, papers and workshops form artists, scientist and academics interested in how the digital and electronic media are re-shaping contemporary society and behaviors. ISEA2011 Istanbul will be open to proposals encompassing a large range of topics under the general theme of interdisciplinarity at the intersection of Art, Science and Technology. It is our intention to appeal to the hard sciences and the humanities as well as the art community.
For this reason ISEA2011 Istanbul will host a large variety of thematic strands ranging from digital art to curatorial studies, from electronic media to digital architecture, from the intersection of art, science and technology to the concept of the digital city, from digital humanities to social media, from nanotechnology and art to urban ecologies, from transculturalism to mobile art, and more.
The ISEA2011 Istanbul exhibition will coincide with the Istanbul Biennial and will provide a fantastic opportunity to showcase contemporary new media arts.
Got a short attention span? If so, be sure to put aside Wednesday evening for Electronic Arts Intermix's Summer Screening "Short Shorts." Drawing from EAI's massive archive of video art, all the works in the screening are under 2 minutes long - meaning that forty-five works will be shown during the entire duration of this forty-five minute screening. Blink or you'll miss it, seriously. "Short Shorts" includes work by Dan Asher, Beth B, Phyllis Baldino, Michael Bell-Smith, Dara Birnbaum, Cheryl Donegan, VALIE EXPORT, Forcefield, Matthew Geller, Gran Fury, Gary Hill, Ken Jacobs, Tom Kalin, Kalup Linzy, George Maciunas, Charlotte Moorman, Shana Moulton, Yoko Ono, Dennis Oppenheim, Nam June Paik, Martha Rosler, Paul Sharits, Stuart Sherman, Shelly Silver, Michael Smith, Leslie Thornton, Steina and Woody Vasulka, Lawrence Weiner and Bruce and Norman Yonemoto. Event begins at 6:30 at EAI in Chelsea.
For those long trips you make take this summer - or for those long stretches in front of the computer - I've assembled a massive list of art-related podcasts, online radio stations, and more. I encourage readers to post their recommendations in the comments.
Digital Arts and New Media (DANM) Technical Coordinator