Tom Moody
Since 2002
Works in New York, New York United States of America

Discussions (244) Opportunities (0) Events (0) Jobs (0)
DISCUSSION

Required Reading


Hi, Lauren,
Everyone's agreeing (some more belatedly than others) that Ben Davis didn't do enough homework. Not sure if more museum exposure will help this kind of work if it continues to be "versions" of social media art.
Many of these expressions are very fragile and slight (what Boris Groys is calling the "weak repetitive gesture") so it's easy to change them into something else. MySpace is already kind of a joke four years later, as Davis bluntly pointed out. But thinking back to those "average people" in the video: most of them were making a "hello" to friends and probably hadn't fully absorbed the impact of a million potential accidental viewers. ("Touchingly inept" would seem to be a common thread.) Guthrie is being a bit of a voyeur, snooping around the sites of strangers and making them "famous" in a barely significant way--they are now on a YouTube playlist compiled by "guthrie." Compare the gesture at that stage ('06) to the accidental fame of being relocated to a New York museum to be gawked at as MySpace freaks--sorry, "engaged with"--with the barest minimum of context. These people aren't marketing themselves or "constructing identity"--they are saying hi to friends. Through the institutional magnifying lens, an unknown smart guy skulking around the web (and I say that with the highest respect) becomes an artist whose work is talent-spotting in a reality-cum-Gong show, with the museum, rather than a TV network, as host. (Paradoxically, though, the video version diminished their presence--they went from "touchingly inept" to "boring.") In any case, "version" sounds better than "entirely different work."
But by all means let's include Michael Connor in this committee decision. [cocked-eyebrow-smiley emoticon]
Best, Tom

DISCUSSION

Required Reading


Hi, Jesse,
Didn't see the YTMND show but it dealt with the issues more squarely: you know you're looking at recycled content and considering the subject matter you definitely know it comes from the internet (e.g., Ronald McDonald in a hovercraft with the caption "LOL Usenet"). Still not perfect, though.
As I recall in Guthrie's original YouTube list there were some gaps in the linkage back to MySpace. Probably because the pages or intros changed. But you could see enough to get the idea and trust his method. In fact, you could click around in the list and spend all the time you wanted to get a sense of the project. Not a luxury you had at the NewMu, where a continuous series of talking heads "represent" to the camera. This is standard video fare.
We could email the curator and artist and ask what happened but that would be like asking a surgeon to explain why he left a sponge in a patient's abdomen.
I wonder sometimes if there is a Heisenberg problem with social media art where you are always changing it to display it outside its native habitat. The best artworks will have to remain embedded in that environment or consist solely of documentation that doesn't even attempt to imitate the original (as with many performance works--text and a few representative photos).
Best, Tom

DISCUSSION

Required Reading


Here is the "original" of Lonergan's MySpace Intros: http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=EBF5D6DC4589D7B7

Imagine encountering this in 2006 without any context or explanation (Ben). With only the knowledge that Lonergan (who was linking to many of the same things I was in mid-2006) linked to it from his blog I wrote in June '06: "Lonergan has also been collecting MySpace intros. I really don't know how to talk about this work. I feel a bit like James Stewart in Rear Window watching these normal people doing their awkward and occasionally very funny home movie bits to introduce themselves to a million total strangers. It's completely public domain but feels invasive somehow."

When Rhizome linked to it from its Timeshares (online exhibitions) page it became a different creature (http://www.rhizome.org/events/timeshares/faultlines.php) Now it has an official explanation: "Just as one organizes a setlist or a mixtape, Lonergan sifted through dozens of Myspace 'intros,' brief video portraits of site users, to form Myspace Intro Playlist. In his compilation, the intros are separated from the larger profile to which they belong, to highlight the ways people market themselves, online, to a vast swathe of unknown peers."

Now it's about "marketing," and it's officially sanctioned as Net Art by linkage from an art institution. All questions and doubts are erased about the purpose of the list and who this "guthrie" person is. When the individual intros are later scraped out of the playlist and put on handsome video screens in the New Museum, it becomes a kind of ethnographic or anthropological record of homo sapiens YouTubus "constructing their identities," like statues of villagers in a natural history museum.

So then Ben Davis comes along and says this has nothing to do with social media. Thus does a great example of a new form of expression (someone who may be an artist using a YouTube playlist as something that may be a medium) become the worst example.

Shouting into the wind, I remain,
Tom


DISCUSSION

Required Reading


Everyone loves a food fight. Glad I could entertain. People learn from art history, duh mom.
The Guthrie Lonergan MySpace intro piece still hasn't been discussed. I realize that no one can really comment on that who didn't see the Younger Than Jesus show. But I think it is a good example of something that is "of social media" that is identified as art and transformed into something "of the museum" (with Lonergan's participation or acquiescence) and then is (not unreasonably) misunderstood as "new media" and contributes to bad theory. If I'm right that the piece was altered without adequate context maybe we could get another late admission from Rhizome and the NewMu that "they dun goofed." (The honest way to show the piece would be to have a computer in the museum with a browser set to Lonergan's YouTube page but then museumgoers could go off topic and surf porn--is the solution to convert it to 2 channel video? I don't think so, not without utterly changing it. Maybe just some documentation in the gallery--screenshots with text explaining what it was all about.)

DISCUSSION

Required Reading


Thanks for posting this, Duncan. Seems like we're in a agreement on the main points. Besides a blog, twitter, and dump.fm I also have some fixed content websites. Experience tells me they are not visited anywhere near as much and I use them mainly as archives. That's one reason I date the beginning of "social media art," if such exists, to the advent of dynamic web pages, which I'm calling blogs, that also incorporate discussion features. I believe that expression changes with changes in technology, and we're still puzzling out what changes "social media" have wrought. Two years ago at Rhizome we were discussing surf clubs and the same forces of resistance were claiming they were nothing new. I don't want a timeline, but I do hope Ben Davis reads this thread, some of the earlier discussions here, the threads on Paddy Johnson's blog, and for sure the writing on your blog and Jesse P. Martin's and lalBLOG's before he writes his next essay.