Perpetual Provisional Selves: A conversation about authenticity and social media

(0)

On December 4 at Art Basel Miami Beach, I was part of a panel titled "Instagram as an artistic medium," along with Hans Ulrich Obrist, Klaus Biesenbach, Simon de Pury, and Kevin Systrom, the CEO of Instagram.

I gave a presentation about my project Excellences & Perfections [recently presented as part of the First Look online exhibition series], a carbon copy of a talk previously given at the ICA. After my presentation, the talk became pure propaganda and the words "genuinely," "self-expression," "creativity" and "community" were mentioned without further discussion. The panel ended with Systrom saying that the platform he had created was a tool for users to be authentic.

For several weeks before the panel, Rob Horning and I had been having the following conversation on Google Drive, which deals with many of these topics. —Amalia Ulman


Ed.: Perhaps it's a little backwards to make the artist start the interview, but I thought it might work this time. What do you think? 

AU: I think Rob should start; he doesn't know me, so he might have a few questions…?

Ed.:I think that's a good idea.

R: I will do some more background reading today, and return with some questions. Also, I will be this serif font for the purposes of this conversation.

Okay, I will be using this blue one—also printing some of your writings today to read through/ take notes.

Trying to get it together but need more time. I have to finish a few other things today, then I can give this my full attention tomorrow! I think I want to talk about the sort of narcissism that makes it hard for me to conduct interviews, and what that has to do with performing the self on social media—an endless interview with no interviewers and competing interviewees projecting the questions they want to answer onto an audience that may already be largely preoccupied with questions they were wishing to be asked. What keeps interviews from being performances—what can define them outside that sphere, if anything? The tactical presentation of self in social media makes the genre conventions of the Q&A suspect; we don't presume we are getting straight answers, but instead "straight answers"—a calculated pose that evokes the reified sensation of sincerity. Yet the more aggressively one tries to convey sincerity, the more cartoonish one's behavior seems to become. All the old tropes of sincerity can't withstand the foregrounding of self-construction in social-media profiles, and the way these are increasingly used to mediate reputation. Maybe this is why sad earnest types are always pleading for "new sincerity" while seeming to epitomize the ultimate nadir of insincerity. Being boring no longer connotes sincerity (or the absence of irony, which is wrongly equated with sincerity). Danger is the new sincerity. 

Can one write revealingly about narcissism in a narcissistic way, or is that like trying to convey the emotion of boredom by writing sentences so boring that no one can tolerate reading them and instead finds more interesting things to do? Is there an interesting way to be boring? Is that the ultimate goal on Facebook? Is that the end Facebook has been engineered to make users pursue, given that being boring is the safest way to protect oneself from accusations of being craven or narcissistic?

READ ON »


Corpus Continuum

(0)

Jennifer Cohen, Grey Lines in Formation (i), Excerpt, at P.P.O.W, 2011

At a recent day-long conference at The CUNY Graduate Center, Professor Patricia Clough discussed the concept and formulation of the body via feminist and technoscientific discourse. In summary and reduction, the body's various meanings draw from multiple lineages. Current definitions include: the body is a container of consciousness, its consciousness is potential; the mind is disembodied; conversely, the mind is embodied and endosymbiotic with the body; the body is material/gendered/sexless/constructed; it is situated and locatable. The range of defining qualities indicates the spectrum of debate, and the body's importance in arenas beyond academic conversation (e.g., shaping the literature in jurisdiction and personal rights). Academia is laying the groundwork for evolving nomenclature, and reconsiderations of the figure of life. 

An attempt to grasp the body’s metaphysical nature highlights assumptions of the past: modes of inquiry, method, and research were long established along philosophical terms of defining primary qualities that cannot be changed, and secondary qualities that are provided by humans. While incredibly useful in definitive classification, those steady states wobble now that we can almost transform primary qualities. In nanotechnological reality, an object can occupy two places at once and atomic level rearrangement can occur, leading to a multitude of tangible forms. 

Matter is in constant process and tends towards movement; mobility implies some level of consciousness or intelligence. Algorithmic in behavior, matter has the capacity to change itself through its interactions. It can hold multiple explanations, just as light can be composed of both particles and waves. That relational definition of light, as discussed by Karen Barad via Niels Bohr, is determined by its measurement apparatus: Depending on the object and what it's in relation to, variable definitions ...

MORE »


RECOMMENDED READING: Marx After Duchamp, or The Artist's Two Bodies

(1)

Excerpt from Marx After Duchamp, or The Artist's Two Bodies by Boris Groys on e-flux. Groys offers a portrait of artistic production and labor as it relates to technology, Duchamp's readymade, and the artist's body:

Gillian Wearing, Everything in life…, 1992-1993, from the series Signs that say what you want them to say and not signs that say what someone else wants you to say, color coupler prints. via e-flux

At the turn of the twentieth century, art entered a new era of artistic mass production. Whereas the previous age was an era of artistic mass consumption, in our present time the situation has changed, and there are two primary developments that have led to this change. The first is the emergence of new technical means for producing and distributing images, and the second is a shift in our understanding of art, a change in the rules we use for identifying what is and what is not art...

 As masses of people have become well informed about advanced art production through biennials, triennials, Documentas, and related coverage, they have come to use media in the same way as artists. Contemporary means of communication and social networks such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter offer global populations the ability to present their photos, videos, and texts in ways that cannot be distinguished from any post-Conceptualist artwork. And contemporary design offers the same populations a means of shaping and experiencing their apartments or workplaces as artistic installations. At the same time, the digital “content” or “products” that these millions of people present each day has no direct relation to their bodies; it is as “alienated” from them as any other contemporary artwork, and this means that it can be easily fragmented and reused in different contexts. And indeed, sampling by ...

LINK »