. blog —

"Social Media Art"

in the Expanded Field by Ben Davis


davis8-4-10-15.jpg

"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.

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Comments

Michael Manning 5 years, 6 months agoReply

Tom Moody did a great update on this diagram:

[img]http://www.tommoody.us/images/jul10/davis8-4-10-15_annotated.jpg[/img]

Tom Moody 5 years, 6 months agoReply

Thanks, Michael and miley,
I appreciate that dissent can be slipped in the back door here at Rhizome, when the organization officially endorses one of the more boneheaded essays currently using up bandwidth. Ben Davis's chart is almost humorous enough by itself, without my additions, in the "internet nut who explains the entire universe" sense.
Jason Huff, can you explain this essay since you so highly recommend it?

nick 5 years, 6 months agoReply

What's surprising to me is that as an editor he can write the following three paragraphs. What decade are we in again? That he thinks making these clear cut distinctions is a valid thing to do in 2010 is so regressive as to be funny…if it weren't so frightening.

By "art," let’s say we mean the products of the traditional, professionalized art world, a privileged class of esthetic objects set apart from ordinary communicative acts, authored by a special person called an artist.

For "social media," let’s say we mean all these new-fangled media platforms which are highly accessible, and based around enabling open-ended conversations between networks of participants.

The utility of this operation is that it lets us see that the question of "art and social media" actually involves an opposition between two different fields, with different logics: a relatively exclusive, closed-in type of expression vs. a relatively open, relation-based mode of operation.

Maybe this is a parody essay? Riffing off at least one recent (2009) book that I've read that uses Krauss and the "expanded field" to explain sound art? That's my only way of explaining it, because if it's meant in seriousness we're in a really bad state.

Tom Moody 5 years, 6 months agoReply

Davis writes for a magazine called "Artnet" and that's about his sole connection to the digital world from what I've read of his past articles. Mostly he obsesses about Marxism and class in the gallery world. This isn't a parody–he is trying to write from a regal, top down point of view about subjects he has only skimmed. Phrases like "this faddish obsession," "the chatter," "whatever trendy thing is out there" give away how deeply he's gone into this. But of course Davis is going to set us all straight. I'll take one example, of a piece I know. Davis writes:

>>A perfect example of [new media art incorrectly classified as social media art] is Guthrie Lonergan’s video-art project, shown at the New Museum’s "Younger than Jesus" show, which involved a curated selection of "found" MySpace videos (remember MySpace?), as a reflection of how identity is constructed on the web. The work is "about" social media; it couldn’t exist without MySpace; but it is not itself "social" in the least.

A little checking would have pulled up that Lonergan's project was originally a YouTube playlist, where it worked best–in the element of social media. (This was in fact several years ago, so to heck with Davis and his "remember MySpace?" dig.) Unfortunately Rhizome then linked to the videos directly and it lost some of its "street" connection. Then it was shown at at the New Museum as a two channel video with all the clips running in a set order, on nice screens. That's not even new media, it's traditional video art. As for "how identity is constructed on the web" that's just museum wall label BS and Davis should recognize that. In any case, the NewMu incarnation had nothing to do with the piece's origins and it should have been obvious on its face that it was not a new media work (a series of framed heads talking to the camera? Please). The fact that Davis chose this for the "new media" box for his Hollywood Squares chart shows how little he knows. My guess is if you look at his other examples (Man Bartlett, Nic Rad, etc) you'll find the analysis to be just as superficial.



Salas 5 years, 6 months agoReply

Agree with Nick about the clear cut distinctions currently they sound anachronistic. And with you Tom about Davis writing's style from a top down point of view. Not impressed.
Find his attempt to analyze social media art based on Greimas' Semiotic square was forced. His definition of art doesn't is very "traditional" focused on the art object and doesn't incorporate the experiential art practices such Participatory Art, a practice became popular in the 70's from which the current art social practices maintain its connections.
Wonder what Miranda July and Harold Fletcher think about the essay. They both have been very active engaging audiences both online and offline in a social collaborative kind of way to develop an art practice.

Tom Moody 5 years, 6 months agoReply

Davis is one of those art world people who heard about Facebook two years ago. He doesn't use the word "blog" once in his essay–not because he thinks they're old hat but because he doesn't know what they are. He thinks animated GIFs are virtual presents people send each other on holidays.
He has heard of Wikipedia, though, so you can't be too hard on him.
Still waiting for Jason Huff's explanation for why this is "required reading."????

Jason Huff 5 years, 6 months agoReply


Hi Tom, and all

First off, the purpose of Required Reading is to point to compelling articles relevant to new media. We're not always endorsing them 100%, but also often sharing them with Rhiz readers for the purpose of discussion. (Its a column Rhizome has been running for 2 years.) I thought Davis' article was worth inclusion because its an attempt at defining the field, and its a proposition: The first five sections draw lines between what Davis describes as social media art and other forms of new media. But in his final section, he closes his analysis with some self-criticism: "It’s not a frame to think within. It’s a box that needs to be escaped."

With that in mind, Salas makes a good point about it including traditional definitions of art, and the absence of participatory art, including contemporary practitioners like Miranda July and Harold Fletcher. In my opinion, I appreciate a non media art critic calling for a deeper and broader research of social media artwork - but I agree, to some extent, that an attempt to form definitions at a point of emergence can prove to be problematic, and boxes art in inappropriate ways.

Thanks for writing.

Tom Moody 5 years, 5 months agoReply

Jason, glad to hear about your reservations. Davis's self-criticism at the end is just a little cough of modesty after he has laid out his Grand Unified Field Theory, I'd say, rather than a call "for a deeper and broader research of social media artwork."

Even though you, Rhizome, have been doing these blog posts for two years now is never too soon to start explaining why you endorse the recommended material, or to give needed caveats. If I were writing the disclaimer for the Davis piece here's how it would read:

"In coming into the discussion of social media art at the Man-Bartlett-on-twitter point of entry (i.e., this year), and skipping six years of discussion including such Rhizome-sponsored events as "Blogging and the Arts" (2004), and the Net Aesthetics 2.0 panels in '06 and '08, for example (see http://www.artfagcity.com/2008/06/12/net-aesthetics-20-the-long-of-it/), Davis's semiotic shoehorning is next to useless. He masks a neophyte level of understanding with over-complex grad-school sophistry and a smug tone. But please give it a read for a sense of art world attitudes about media art: as you can see, we have our work cut out for us."

Paul Slocum 5 years, 5 months agoReply

I agree that it seems a little odd to post this article as "Required Reading" on Rhizome without any disclaimer considering how poor the article is. Me and everyone I talked to choked on our coffee repeatedly while reading this article due to things like: Ben's definition of art from the dark ages, poor artwork examples and opinions pulled from another article, and attempts at classification that make no practical sense. Personally, I think Ben appears to be a decent writer from looking at his other work, but this piece is another example showing how the "art world" just doesn't understand new media or the internet because they obviously don't spend any real time with it.

Domenico Quaranta 5 years, 5 months agoReply

The funny thing of this discussion is that it perfectly fits in the first polar opposition discussed by Davis. While Ben Davis / Artnet represent the art field (authoritative, top down, without comments, trying to overimpose a whole theory to a complex scene), Rhizome and the rhizomers represent the social media (bottom up, introducing discussion and demolishing authority). Even more funnily, while Rhizome is making its best to move to the art field (with its affiliation to the New Museum and with the authoritative "required reading" feature), rhizomers bring it back to its "social media" roots (once upon a time it was a mailing list). Welcome to the war of worlds, ladies and gentlemen :-)

Brian Droitcour 5 years, 5 months agoReply

The problem is that there are too few essays by people whose knowledge of new media art is so complete, so integrated in their being that they actually choke on their coffee upon encountering the wrinkled fruits of inferior understanding. What is to be done?

I suggest that Paul Slocum et al. spell out their definitions of art and its involvement with social media in an open letter to Ben Davis, published as a post on Rhizome. Precedent indicates Davis will take the time to respond. (http://www.tommoody.us/archives/2010/06/16/two-classy-guys/)

marcin ramocki 5 years, 5 months agoReply

I am kinda torn about this one… on one hand we should support main stream art writers who approach the clandestine territory of post-new-media fallout, on the other, the semiotic square thing has serious problems. For me the issues here begin before specific examples of what kind of work fits where… "Art" and "Social Media", even as BD defines them, are not compatible categories which could become binary oppositions. Any semioticians out there on Rhizome?

BTW: "wrinkled fruits of inferior understanding" is a masterful description;)

curt cloninger 5 years, 5 months agoReply

Hi Marcin (and all),

The semiotic square is meant to be applied to obvious semiotic opposites like "night/day." "Landscape/architecture" (Krauss) and "art/production" (Foster) are a bit less obviously oppositional, but they are still in the ball park. Whereas "art/social-networks" seems like a stretch to me. I would never think of those things as inherently oppositional.

More fundamentally problematic is Davis' definition of "art" as "a relatively exclusive, closed-in type of expression." This definition is far too narrow, and it winds up fouling-up his subsequent semiotic square. In inductive analysis, you've got to closely "observe" before you begin to "interpret." Davis seems jonesing to skip quickly on to the interpretation step, but he doesn't spend enough time observing what the work is actually doing, so his interpretations are skewed because they are based on overly simplistic observations.

This article exemplifies a (bad) kind of rhetorical strategy for any theorist:
1) too narrowly determine your field of analysis
2) use a theoretical approach to broaden that field
3) claim to have moved things forward

When really, in this case, the art itself is already way ahead of this analysis. Davis first has to capture the art, then confine it, then release it, then claim he has released it.

So for instance, when Davis says, "The paradigm of 'social media art' that has begun to crystallize often takes its cues from the 'relational aesthetics' tradition," this is exactly historically backwards. You can cross-apply Bourriaud to networked media if you like; you just can't say that networked media "takes its cues" from "the 'relational aesthetics' tradition." Networked media begins in 1994 (arguably with E.A.T. in 1967, arguably earlier). The "tradition" of "relational aesthetics" begins with a single speculative book written in 1998.

I do think there is yet a useful discussion to be had (at least on a "materials/media" level) about the differences between netty art that needs a live interweb connection in order to function (network-dependent art) and other netty art that doesn't need a live interweb connection to function (network-derived or network-topical art). The discussion of these differences gets into thorny issues of curation, archiving, preservation, galleries, location-dependencies, communities of reception – things probably worth discussing.

I also think the concept of what I have called "outsider.net.art" is interesting (again related to life/art, online_culture/gallery_culture dichotomies).

Nor do I think there is anything categorically wrong about attempting to apply a big-picture schema to stuff (to language, to art, to the reproductive habits of domesticated dogs). In other words, there is nothing categorically wrong with intellectual academic art theory. It is not art making, art criticism, art collecting, art history, or art curating; nor does it claim to be (or need to be) any of these things. But it should still be done well.

Davis's square muddies the waters in a kind of dead-end way rather than clearing them up (or muddying them in an interesting/promising way).

Regarding semiotics, Greimas' approach is still a kind of post-Saussurean (or post-Peircean) structuralism, used by Jameson and others to transition into something that might be considered proto-post-structuralism [Alex Galloway studied with Jameson and would know a lot more about all this]. More interesting to me are Deleuzean and Derridean forms of writing (and of art making) which rigorously problematize such structured schemata like this semiotic square. But note, there is a big difference between rigorous problematization and categorical dismissal. To say that something sucks hardly deconstructs it.

++++++++++++++

re: Davis: "The only thing that would be 'social media art' in the full and genuine sense would be a social networking service actually designed as an art project, which would raise all sorts of questions.)"
cf: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ShiftSpace

Best,
Curt

Brian Droitcour 5 years, 5 months agoReply

Well said.

marcin ramocki 5 years, 5 months agoReply

Curt:

thanks for this voice of reason!

cheers
m

Tom Moody 5 years, 5 months agoReply

I wasn't trying to prompt a reply to Davis's muddle. I was asking why Rhizome endorsed it, in light of Davis being wrong on specific examples.

Jason Huff 5 years, 5 months agoReply

Thanks, all. Really appreciate. You're right. This one needed some context.

Tom Moody 5 years, 5 months agoReply

There was a specific example on the table, of how a Guthrie Lonergan piece was transformed by stages from an expression inside social media into standard museum video art fare, and how that misinterpretation caused incorrect theorizing on the part of a "main stream art writer." It's always more reasonable to talk in terms of generalities and comforting timellnes, though.

curt cloninger 5 years, 5 months agoReply

Curt's comforting social media art timeline:
late 1950s: Ray Johnson makes mail art
1966: Kluver and Rauschenberg organize "9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering"
1993: The net supports the interwebs with Mosaic
1994: net artists start making net art
1996: Mark Tribe starts the rhizome mailing list
1998: Bourriaud writes "Relational Aesthetics"
2001: a painter named Tom Moody starts a "blog"

Tom's comforting social media art timeline:
"In coming into the discussion of social media art at the Man-Bartlett-on-twitter point of entry (i.e., this year), and skipping six years of discussion including such Rhizome-sponsored events as 'Blogging and the Arts' (2004), and the Net Aesthetics 2.0 panels in '06 and '08…"

Tom Moody 5 years, 5 months agoReply

Are you seriously saying mail art and EAT are social media? Yes, I guess you are.
That's kind of like saying stage plays were an early form of television.
But keep on spinning the new media history–oh sorry, I guess you're calling it social media now–because you seem to have an appreciative audience for it here in the Rhizome comments.
*rolls eyes*

curt cloninger 5 years, 5 months agoReply

Hi Tom. I consider this a pesonal victory because it is the first time you have ever addressed me directly online. Your mention of stage plays reminds me of happenings, arguably another early form of social media art. The Spoleto festival curating of Mary Jane Jacob also comes to mind. All very much prior to "relational aesthetics."

Adopting a perpetual "egad" tone and rolling ones eyes hardly constitutes criticism. It's just a rhetorical strategy.

Why exactly is Johnson's practice of mail art and the community it engendered so dismissable as an early form of social media art? Why is my reading of it as a form of social media so deserving of your utter bewilderment? It is by no means a claim original to me. Are you trying to define and defend a body of art work that ex nihilo emerges with the advent of Facebook? How can such a claim be defended without the work in question being hijacked and mis-interpreted as derivative of "relational aesthetics" within broader contemporary art critical/theoretical dialogue?

Internet Archaeology 5 years, 5 months agoReply

Curt, your like that annoying kid in school who everyone hates because he thinks hes so smart and thinks everyone else is so stupid because they have no friends. Your annoying and your theories are pointless, uncover nothing besides the occasional "I told you so". You will retort this comment by saying something about how these quips are hardly "critical theory"… to which i will say "lol"

Internet Archaeology 5 years, 5 months agoReply

lol *you're (fix in like a 10 instances)

Tom Moody 5 years, 5 months agoReply

Curt, you forget, I addressed you once before, to explain why I don't address you.
Social media begins not with the advent of Facebook (Rhizome's "Blogging and the Arts" panel preceded that) but for sure the advent of blogging. So, yeah, about the turn of the millennium. Here's something I wrote on my, um, blog, slightly tweaked:
You're right that "networked culture" existed prior to Nicolas Bourriaud's "relational aesthetics" of 1998, which Ben Davis used as a marker for the beginning of "social media art." But you overshoot retroactively by redefining "new media" as "social media" and tracing it all the way back to the Eisenhower era. This further muddies the muddle.
Blogging culture has partaken of (or accelerated) "relational" experiments such as live readings of twitter messages or YouTube playlists of MySpace intros but it didn't begin with awareness of Bourriaud (or Beuys, or Breton), it began with the invention of "last first" content management systems that allowed easy creation and updating of web pages, and faster networking between pages by means of comments, trackbacks, etc. The more relevant (or interesting) Bourriaud reference might be the "Post-production" essay and connections between blogging and DJ/remix culture; at least there is a shared origin in new kinds of technologies. I'd probably leave Mr. B out of the discussion altogether, since he apparently doesn't follow online stuff at all.

curt cloninger 5 years, 5 months agoReply

Hi Tom,

An example:
One could perhaps claim that "digital programming art" began with Netochka Nezvanova (or whomever). But one couldn't say that "programming art" began there. One could at least take "programming art" back to Sol Lewitt's instructional drawings (and many have), and further back to Gysin/Burrough's cut-ups, and further back to Tristian Tzara's permutational poetry. Because a "program" need not be a "digital program." The ontological category of "digital programming art" leads to media-centric and materials-centric disucssions. The broader ontological category of "programming art" leads to practice-centric, concept-centric, and culture-centric discussions.

"Social media art" is not my term. I'm just using it because it's the term Davis chose to use, and we're talking about his article. But note, Davis doesn't use the term "digital social media art" or "online social media art."

It is tautological to say that "web 2.0 art"' began with "web 2.0 technology." Or that "television art" began with "television technology." Those are media-specific categories that beg their own questions. (Even then, "web 2.0" is some kooky/arbitrary marketing term that doesn't really delineate all that much historically or technologically, other than the introduction of a new marketing meme). Nobody needs an art historian or an art theorist to defend the claim that blogging began with blogging technology. Such a narrowly defined ontology leads nowhere interesting. I don't even think it's all that useful in staking out the parameters of a novel art movement. Because (as Maria says), "Nothing comes from nothing; nothing ever could."

One way to defend a novel nascent/art movement is to reject all theory and history (whether good theory or bad theory) as irrelevant to the discussion of any particular piece of work. This requires a lot of anti-intellectual smoke-blowing, and a perpetual dismissal (without the requisite intellectual dismantling) of any and every attempt at theory. Such an anti-theoretical approach is itself based on a theory and a history. It wants to return to a kind of New Criticism where the text (the work of art) speaks for itself.

This is not a very clever strategy for introducing a body of work and a collection of practices into contemporary critical/theoretical dialogue. For one thing, few believe that such a critical approach is even possible anymore. For another thing, it makes a claim for the "'new" work that is rarely defensible without resorting to a ridiculous narrowing of the criteria which constitutes the new work. More problematic to me, such an approach doesn't lead anywhere. It is an approach of reterritorialization (shutting down dialogue) rather than deterritorialization (opening up dialogue).

A better approach might be something like Ed Halter here ( http://vagueterrain.net/content/2010/02/matter-electronics ), trying to contextualize 8-bit work in terms of materialist film. I'm no great fan of always taking new media back to film (Lev Manovich has worked this mojo repeatedly [arguably] to the detriment of new media theory), but Halter is smart and a good writer and his move makes sense and opens things up in both directions (allowing us to better understand the contemporary work he's discussing, and allowing the work he's discussing to better inform the preceding film practices to which he refers). In other words, it's a successful theoretical move.

Davis's approach here is a much less successful theoretical move. But it does't fail simply because he made a theoretical move at all. And it doesn't fail because of some single instance of misinterpretation of a single piece of work. It fails because the larger theoretical armature he sets up is skewed from the beginning. This accounts for his misinterpretation of the subsequent pieces he discusses.

Regarding Bourriaud, I agree, he is better left out of this discussion (or brought in via altogether different means).

++++++++++++

When have you ever directly addressed me online (talked directly to me [second person] rather than about me [third person])? A link?

If you are so down with the era of social networking, why retreat back to your self-moderated, one-to-many / broadcast-model blog? Why not stay here and dialogue with me on an old school, unmoderated (although not exactly real-time and no longer mailing-list-based) bulletin board? Just link to this thread at your blog and let the dialogue play out here without your administrator-level, para-dialogue meta-commentary.

Jesse P. Martin 5 years, 5 months agoReply

OMG why not just Google "tom moody curt cloninger" to answer your own question? http://bit.ly/h4IDO
[img]http://cdn-www.cracked.com/phpimages/article/8/4/9/19849.gif[/img]



Patrick Lichty 5 years, 5 months agoReply

No. Social media did NOT start in 2000, or 97 or whenever facebook or blogger started. This is the discursive fallacy of the fourth generation of electronic artists; i.e. everything began after 2000. We could say that there was Mail art, easily, or even social chats like The Palace… Or what about the Usenet, or even Englebart's Augment? The idea of a blog being the first social media is only justifiable if we use really, really narrow criteria. As in a prior note possibly a person with enough framework and information to go before 2000, I think there are some good points here, but the 2000's generation's marketing strategy is to dehistoricize New Media in post-2000 terms - and the only way I would do that is in the context of it finally being accepted by canonical institutions liek the Whitney.

Man 5 years, 5 months agoReply

http://twitter.com/whitneymuseum/status/14778056592

:)

I'll have a general response once I've fully read and digested the thread (and back from vacation). Funny that I feel like I've stepped into enemy territory here. And while I'm sure I'll fail the street cred test here (mostly due to my age), I can at least say that I was on Friendster when it was still in Beta (2002?'03?), had a (self-managed) blog in 2003, Twitter account in March of '07, etc… When those became "art practices" for me (or anyone) is a different question. I will say that I like the idea, however flawed/naive, of acting as one bridge between worlds…

Anyhoo more on this soon and glad to see such a lively debate.

Thank goodness for Google Alerts…

Cheers,
Man

Man 5 years, 5 months agoReply

Attach this: whitneymuseum/status/14778056592 on the end of twitter dot com (have a feeling the reason I haven't been able to post is cause of the URL and my noob commenting status)

I'll have a more general response once I've fully read and digested the thread (and back from vacation). Funny that I feel like I've stepped into enemy territory here. And while I'm sure by many eyes I'll still fail the street cred test, I can at least say that I was on Friendster when it was still in Beta (2002?'03?), had a (self-managed) blog in 2003, Twitter account in March of '07, etc… When those became "art practices" for me (or anyone) is a different question. I will say that I like the idea, however flawed/naive, of acting as one of many bridges between worlds. Anyhoo more on this soon and glad to see such a lively debate. Thank goodness for Google Alerts…

Cheers,
Man

Tom Moody 5 years, 5 months agoReply

"If you are so down with the era of social networking, why retreat back to your self-moderated, one-to-many / broadcast-model blog? Why not stay here and dialogue with me on an old school, unmoderated…"

>>Uh, because I don't like you?

OK gotta go, people are making Tom vs Curt cartoons and I don't want to be part of such a binary. It's deeply humiliating.

curt cloninger 5 years, 5 months agoReply

yes!

cf: http://ctgr2.free.fr/netSongs/flame-songs.htm

God bless the interwebs.

curt cloninger 5 years, 5 months agoReply

more:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSdHoNJu5fU
http://www.eddostern.com/video/BestFlamewarEver_EddoStern_Med.mov
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2kAnTZBnTg

There is also a classic Saturday Night Live skit called "Monsters of Monologue '94" with Adam Sandler as Eric Bogosian vs. Michael McKean as Spalding Gray.

And there is Brody Condon inviting Tom to an oil wrestling match:
http://rhizome.org/editorial/3563#61910

Tom Moody 5 years, 5 months agoReply

Matthew, when you posted that to dump.fm I thought it was funny. Seeing it here kind of makes me vomit.

Duncan Alexander (Hypothete) 5 years, 5 months agoReply

Ok, let me start off by saying hello and I can't believe I'm registering specifically for this discussion!

I think it might be most helpful at this point for a recap. The most problematic component of the essay by Davis seems to lie in his definitions, and I think everybody here would agree with that. Here's the quote again:

By "art," let’s say we mean the products of the traditional, professionalized art world, a privileged class of esthetic objects set apart from ordinary communicative acts, authored by a special person called an artist.

For "social media," let’s say we mean all these new-fangled media platforms which are highly accessible, and based around enabling open-ended conversations between networks of participants.

So according to Davis, we can eliminate anything immaterial from our definition of art, and it looks like everyone caught this one. Now, it seems to me that we have several different definitions of social media flying around in the comments, and Davis doesn't help with his hand-waving about "new-fangled media platforms" coupled with his awkward attempts to fit artwork he likes into that definition. Some people here are taking the term at face value - media that is social - and tying it to unrelated, non-derivative 20th century art. If I were unfamiliar with the term "social media," that is exactly what I'd do. Honestly, it's hard to quantify how much participatory art from the 60s has shaped art online. In fact, I'd argue most new art online comes from interesting combinations and hacks of new technological services as they become popular, in a constant state of "rediscovery."

But anyway, I am familiar with the term, and I'm saying that "social media" is a really crappy term for a number of reasons. This makes it even crappier for people such as Davis who want social media art to be a thing - SOCIAL MEDIA ART, like CUBISM, like IMPRESSIONISM. Before we continue, I think that we can agree that when Davis talks about "social media," he means at the very least (or wants to mean) media that is occurring online. Now for the reasons that "social media" is a crappy term:

1. The internet has always had a social component. It has gone through several phases of social-ness, not limited to but including (a) Usenet-centric communities (b) IRC-centric communities © localized forum-centric communities (d) blog/journal communities (e) Facebook/MySpace/YouTube/etc. communities. People live online across most of these platforms. It's hard to say where social media starts, unless you count the whole thing.

2. When people use "social media" these days, they usually use it in a sense like "we want to use social media to market our X" which translates to "we want to advertise on Facebook, Twitter, and have a viral campaign on Youtube." This boils down further: "we want to advertise where the masses are active online." So the phrase "social media" can refer to virtually any service, commercial, indie or otherwise, where people are currently present and communicating. We just didn't have a term for it until recently.

3. Because we now have a phrase that means "where the masses are active online," we of course want social media to be a solid THING. Like RADIO. Like TELEVISION. But social media is more slippery than that.

As we've discovered in the most recent comments, websites have degrees of interactivity. I run a blog (shameless plug 1) and also a website (shameless plug 2). The blog allows for anyone to comment - even anonymous individuals. The website is static html - it's just a place for me to put some of my pretty stuff and hope people read my CV. Which one is "more social?" You'd probably choose the blog. OK, now let's say we throw my Facebook profile, my Youtube page, and some Livejournal I started when I was 13 into the mix. What's more social? Well, again you'd probably choose Facebook or Youtube. But let's consider: what if Kanye started marketing his "paintings" on his blog instead of Youtube? That might be considered even more of a social media marketing technique, even though he would be harnessing word-of-mouth (old school!)over Facebook ads. The problem is that the internet is dynamic, and people are constantly intrigued by new ways to communicate, and so when something is online and has any interactive component, it's impossible to say what is or isn't social media.

Now that I've stated my case, let's return to the problem at hand: Social Media Art. Based on my previous arguments, it should be obvious that I am against any sort of timeline construction or "start dates" for social media - even more so for social media art. Anyone with any art history knowledge should know the Alfred Barr Chart of Everything . Belief in this sort of comfortable linearity in human thought is what has kept people digging up the rotting corpse of Postmodernism and parading it around for the past 10 years. Timelines in art encourage bad art historical jokes that are unintelligible to people without BFAs, notions of purity and essentialism, and worst of all, retconning. Art - especially social media art - must take into account the identity of the audience. That said, the internet has allowed for a lot of different audiences to develop and amplify and isolate, and so we get major divisions IRL in perceived timelines! (Ask anyone off the street to name a living contemporary artist, it's fun.) So what I'm trying so say is, it's more important when a work entered a particular social sphere than when it was made, and it's more important online that we look at who we're talking to with our art, and who can talk/is talking back. Any work that exists specifically online can be commented on and riffed on and mutilated and sent to printers in Taiwan to make rugs out of. I'd say that any artwork that exists in the presence of the masses - so accessibility first! - can be labeled as "social media art," and because of the transience of social media, that definition is useless.

I hope you made it through that! Here's my cartoon. Good night!

Duncan

Duncan Alexander 5 years, 5 months agoReply

Hi Rhizome! I've been trying to publish a comment, but nothing is showing up. I'm going to try posting this in chunks, so forgive me if in 8 hours my commentary is duplicate-splattered all over the board. Here goes:

et me start off by saying hello and I can't believe I'm registering specifically for this discussion!

I think it might be most helpful at this point for a recap. The most problematic component of the essay by Davis seems to lie in his definitions, and I think everybody here would agree with that. Here's the quote again from Nick:

By "art," let’s say we mean the products of the traditional, professionalized art world, a privileged class of esthetic objects set apart from ordinary communicative acts, authored by a special person called an artist.

For "social media," let’s say we mean all these new-fangled media platforms which are highly accessible, and based around enabling open-ended conversations between networks of participants.

So according to Davis, we can eliminate anything immaterial from our definition of art, and it looks like everyone caught this one. Now, it seems to me that we have several different definitions of social media flying around in the comments, and Davis doesn't help with his hand-waving about "new-fangled media platforms" coupled with his awkward attempts to fit artwork he likes into that definition. Some people here are taking the term at face value - media that is social - and tying it to unrelated, non-derivative 20th century art. If I were unfamiliar with the term "social media," that is exactly what I'd do. Honestly, it's hard to quantify how much participatory art from the 60s has shaped art online. In fact, I'd argue most new art online comes from interesting combinations and hacks of new technological services as they become popular, in a constant state of "rediscovery."

But anyway, I am familiar with the term, and I'm saying that "social media" is a really crappy term for a number of reasons. This makes it even crappier for people such as Davis who want social media art to be a thing - SOCIAL MEDIA ART, like CUBISM, like IMPRESSIONISM. Before we continue, I think that we can agree that when Davis talks about "social media," he means at the very least (or wants to mean) media that is occurring online. Now for the reasons that "social media" is a crappy term:

1. The internet has always had a social component. It has gone through several phases of social-ness, not limited to but including (a) Usenet-centric communities (b) IRC-centric communities © localized forum-centric communities (d) blog/journal communities (e) Facebook/MySpace/YouTube/etc. communities. People spend their time online across most of these platforms. It's hard to say where social media starts, unless you count the whole thing.

2. When people use "social media" these days, they usually use it in a sense like "we want to use social media to market our X" which translates to "we want to advertise on Facebook, Twitter, and have a viral campaign on Youtube." This boils down further: "we want to advertise where the masses are active online." So the phrase "social media" can refer to virtually any service, commercial, indie or otherwise, where people are currently present and communicating. We just didn't have a term for it until recently.

3. Because we now have a phrase that means "where the masses are active online," we of course want social media to be a solid THING. Like RADIO. Like TELEVISION. But social media is more slippery than that.


On to part 2…

Duncan Alexander 5 years, 5 months agoReply

As we've discovered in the most recent comments, websites have degrees of interactivity. I run a blog (shameless plug 1) and also a website (shameless plug 2). The blog allows for anyone to comment - even anonymous individuals. The website is static html - it's just a place for me to put some of my pretty stuff and hope people read my CV. Which one is "more social?" You'd probably choose the blog. OK, now let's say we throw my Facebook profile, my Youtube page, and some Livejournal I started when I was 13 into the mix. What's more social? Well, again you'd probably choose Facebook or Youtube. But let's consider: what if Kanye started marketing his "paintings" on his blog instead of Youtube? That might be considered even more of a social media marketing technique, even though he would be harnessing word-of-mouth (old school!)over Facebook ads. The problem is that the internet is dynamic, and people are constantly intrigued by new ways to communicate, and so when something is online and has any interactive component, it's impossible to say what is or isn't social media.

Now that I've stated my case, let's return to the problem at hand: Social Media Art. Based on my previous arguments, it should be obvious that I am against any sort of timeline construction or "start dates" for social media - even more so for social media art. Anyone with any art history knowledge should know the Alfred Barr Chart of Everything . Belief in this sort of comfortable linearity in human thought is what has kept people digging up the rotting corpse of Postmodernism and parading it around for the past 10 years. Timelines in art encourage bad art historical jokes that are unintelligible to people without BFAs, notions of purity and essentialism, and worst of all, retconning.

Part 3…

Duncan Alexander 5 years, 5 months agoReply

As we've discovered in the most recent comments, websites have degrees of interactivity. I run a blog and also a website. The blog allows for anyone to comment - even anonymous individuals. The website is static html - it's just a place for me to put some of my pretty stuff and hope people read my CV. Which one is more social? You'd probably choose the blog. OK, now let's say we throw my Facebook profile, my Youtube page, and some Livejournal I started when I was 13 into the mix. What's more social? Well, again you'd probably choose Facebook or Youtube. But let's consider: what if Kanye started marketing his "paintings" just on his blog instead of Youtube? That might be considered even more of a social media technique, even though he would be harnessing word-of-mouth (old school!) over Facebook ads. The problem is that the internet is dynamic, and people are constantly intrigued by new ways to communicate, and so when something is online and has any interactive component, it's impossible to say what is or isn't social media.

Duncan Alexander 5 years, 5 months agoReply

(a note: Rhizome is blocking my attempts to use urls in posts. These were more annotated.)

Duncan Alexander 5 years, 5 months agoReply

Now that I've stated my case, let's return to the problem at hand: Social Media Art. Based on my previous arguments, it should be obvious that I am against any sort of timeline construction or "start dates" for social media - even more so for social media art. Anyone with any art history knowledge should know the Alfred Barr Chart of Everything (look it up on Google Images!) . Belief in this sort of comfortable linearity in human thought is what has kept people digging up the rotting corpse of Postmodernism and parading it around for the past 10 years. Timelines in art encourage bad art historical jokes that are unintelligible to people without BFAs, notions of purity and essentialism, and worst of all, retconning. Art - especially social media art - must take into account the identity of the audience. That said, the internet has allowed for a lot of different audiences to develop and amplify and isolate, and so we get major divisions IRL in perceived timelines! (Ask anyone off the street to name a living contemporary artist, it's fun.) So what I'm trying so say is, it's more important when a work entered a particular social sphere than when it was made, and it's more important online that we look at who we're talking to with our art, and who can talk/is talking back. Any work that exists specifically online can be commented on and riffed on and mutilated and sent to printers in Taiwan to make rugs out of. I'd say that any artwork that exists in the presence of the masses - so accessibility first! - can be labeled as "social media art," and because of the transience of social media, that definition is useless.

I hope you made it through that! Good night!

Duncan

curt cloninger 5 years, 5 months agoReply

Hi Duncan,

I still think it is a legitimate critical activity to relate contemporary art practices to previous art practices. Not in order to construct a hermetic Alfred Barr chart of linear cause and effect (the same kind of cause and effect implied when Davis claims that "social media art" "takes its cues" from relational aesthetics). This makes it seem as if someone like Guthrie Lonergan has closely read Bourriaud (or that he has read someone in Artforum talking about Bourriaud). I don't think any of that is particularly relevant.

But the flipside is this – just because an artist is willfully (or accidentally) ignorant of art history, this doesn't magically keep them from falling into the same dead-ends traps as previous artists, nor does it insulate them from being critiqued based on the assumption that previous art history did actually happen. I don't mean that everybody posting to dump.fm needs to read Robert Smithson or Allan Kaprow. It is just curious to me how quickly some members of this community cry foul when any practice prior to 2000 is mobilized to contextualize their work. It's like kids covering their eyes and thinking that this keeps other people from seeing them.

So, for instance, I can write a theoretic essay contextualizing "surf clubs" in relation to a larger ongoing art dialogue about "the everyday" ( http://lab404.com/articles/commodify_your_consumption.pdf ). None of the artists mentioned in my essay need to have ever read de Certeau. Perhaps my essay will lead a curator to contextualize an exhibit ( http://mybiennialisbetterthanyours.com/statement.html ). None of the artists in that exhibit need to have ever read de Certeau. An artist and her friends may enter into the ongoing public dialogue about their own work (via words, animated gifs, links, dismissals, parodies, exhibits) – thus re-enacting (willfully, intentionally, or ignorantly) the old conceptual art attempt to control and contextualize the reception of one's own work.

Best,
Curt

Duncan Alexander 5 years, 5 months agoReply

Last post! When I say "any artwork that exists in the presence of the masses - so accessibility first! - can be labeled as "social media art,"," I mean online works, but I hope that was implied. Just wanted to make sure that was clear.

Tom Moody 5 years, 5 months agoReply

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.

Jesse P. Martin 5 years, 5 months agoReply

Thanks for the Rrose GIF, Mr. Cloninger. If one is going to liberally contextualize "social media art" (and I agree that the term - and especially Davis's semiotic-squaring of it - is fairly useless and off-base) with pre-internet art practices, the collaging hijinx (mash-ups?) of the dadaists and surrealists clearly offer the seeking, historicizing rhetorician a substantial precedent to tango with. The comparison would even work for those less prone to verbal acrobatics, since truncations, misspellings, nonsense, and general wordplay was as prevalent with them as it is with the text-messaging, OMG, IDK, BFF, LOL factions of today. L.O.L.H.O.O.Q.

Still, despite the playful pamphleteering by the artists of yesteryear, there is something paradigmatically different about how text and image are generated, disseminated, obliterated, reconstituted, etc. on the web (take dump.fm, for instance). This is where even the most astute and well-intentioned comparisons/conflations would fail, because "social media art" involves its own particularities that are simply not analogous to earlier practices.

You can also connect the propensity for people to adopt, conceal, fabricate, and double personae via "social media" in the same manner that Duchamp projected Rrose (though via photographs, etc.). I mean, for all anyone knows, you and Mr. Moody could be the same person (lol jk: but your adversarial discourse has given this nest a much-needed shaking, and I regard anyone with the word 'cloning' in their name with an eyebrow raised). Though I'm still puzzled as to why you claimed that Mr. Moody never addressed you directly, when it was easy to find that he did so on these very pages (though on another topic/thread). How we all so often forget the specifics of our own experiences - and in the short-term, too boot - makes a case for how challenged our ability is to relate even the generalities of things that involved other people from long ago…

I like Duncan's breakdown, too. I especially like how it's full of quotations, lists, links, etc. - it's dynamic in a manner that only "social media" can be, and presented in a way that only someone who has invested more than a cursory, glowering glance (i.e. Davis) into the workings of the web could muster.

curt cloninger 5 years, 5 months agoReply

Hi Jesse,

re: cloning, my uncle and I have the same name. He is http://curtcloninger.com . It's not like being named mike jones, because we aren't legion, we are just two. ego surfing at google is fun.

Yes, of course the use of web art/images/text is different than the use of pre-web art/image/text. But "difference" is not like a binary on and off, where something is either altogether different or altogether the same. (Here I borrow from Derrida; I will spare you the theoretical details). Something would have to be extremely radical and novel for it to be completely and altogether different than anything else. A sewing machine, an umbrella, and a dissecting table are all similar/different.

Plus, I would hardly say that the web after 2000 is unimaginably incomparable to the web prior to 2000. Or that the net/web from 1968 - 2000 is unimaginably incomparable to all sorts of things prior to 1968 (Gysin/Burroughs, Kaprow, Bush's Memex, Borges' fiction). technically, nastynets is similar to 4chan which is similar to dreamless.org which is similar to livejournal friend groups circa 1997. I do think RSS-ability matters, but I won't go into why here. For my money, the interesting differences are not really in the technology. I am more interested in a new willingness to embrace corporate-generated pop culture detritus (net.tritus) as a lingua franca for gleeful/unethical word/image-play. And even this move is not without historical precedent.

As one who researches and writes about the aporias of performed language, dump.fm and spirit surfers are of particular interest to me. (As the next new art_scene rising up from Williamsburg to take Chelsea by storm, I could not be any less interested.) And to my detriment, I am still inexplicably interested in this ridiculous, derelict, abandoned, ghetoized, rhizome community discussion area. "rhizome_RAW, I wish I knew how to quit you."

re: Tom Moody not directly addressing me, I was mistaken. I see that he did directly address me a couple of times there at the beginning before he gave up on me. I have never felt that not liking someone was a reason to stop talking to them. I didn't particularly like Tim Whidden in 1998, but I kept talking to him and now we are lovers. It just goes to show you.

From The Bowels of Rock and Roll, I remain,
the [img]http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41xznrYBOmL._SL500_.jpg[/img] /
the [flash]http://www.youtube.com/v/qXzWlPL_TKw[/flash]

T.Whid 5 years, 5 months agoReply

"I didn't particularly like Tim Whidden in 1998, but I kept talking to him and now we are lovers."

It's true. I'm carrying Curt's love child. It's a miracle.

Jesse P. Martin 5 years, 5 months agoReply

[size=50]"too boot" L.O.L.H.O.O.Q.[/size]

Tom Moody 5 years, 5 months agoReply

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.)

Tom Moody 5 years, 5 months agoReply

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


curt cloninger 5 years, 5 months agoReply

Hi Tom,

I agree with you about this particular piece and its subsequent (re)contextualization(s). Institutionalization wasn't likely to formally disrupt abstract expressionism all that much (discrete paintings meant to be hung on walls can be hung on any walls), but institutionalization often drastically modulates network experiments (as you observe above). The challenge to any "contemporary net artist" who wants to make this move (from net subculture to gallery/museum space) is for her to control the context of this translation/modulation as much as possible. AIDS 3D seems adept at controlling these contextual shifts (indeed, that may be their main strength as artists; but then they are arguably gallery artists more than they are net artists). Sometimes, it seems like a net artist knowns a curator who has a space, and the curator invites the net artist to have a show, and then the net artist is forced to scramble to come up with something to fill the space that is somehow related to their online work. For example (cf: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mriver/tags/loshadka/ or http://www.newrafael.com/broken-self-at-spencer-brownstone-gallery/). Not that there is anything wrong with such scramblings, particularly when the artist is afforded creative control of the translation between online space and gallery space.

In the case you mention above, you'd really have to ask Lauren and Guthrie about their curatorial/artistic relationship involving this piece. Few Rhizome "employees" read these threads (although I imagine it is the job of some beleaguered intern to "just keep an eye on them.") You could always contact Lauren and Guthrie directly and invite them to respond. There is a radical social networking platform known as "Facebook" to which they both belong. It allows you to send a real-time message directly to another user via a user-friendly web application interface. Or there is this pre-web1.0 internet communications platform known as "electronic mail." It is a bit more complicated/fussy, requiring stand-alone application ("client") software, but it still works in a pinch. Who in their right mind could blame them if they choose not to respond?

Your affectionate uncle,
Screwtape

Jesse P. Martin 5 years, 5 months agoReply

Lonergan's MySpace Intros were "originally" collected to be viewed as a YouTube playlist, correct? In that context, I think they'd definitely fit into the "social media art" category ("social media" because that's what MySpace is, "art" because Lonergan is an artist who is working with/within "social media" to collect, present, and create his work). Presenting the intros on video screens definitely makes Lonergan's work more museum-friendly, but it also lobotomizes the work so the museum wouldn't have to deal with people touching things and the messiness of (gasp) allowing people to navigate the playlist in its "native form." I can see how/why a museum and/or curator would make a decision like this, but to do so without an explanatory placard or acknowledgment of how such revisions would fundamentally alter the (experience of the) piece is negligent. Davis' subsequent (mis)categorization of Lonergan's work seems to be a direct result of the museum's reframing/stripping-down of the piece, since I imagine that it was his reliance on their misinformation that led him to his erroneous conclusions.

I think that I'm just summarizing what you've been saying all along, but I'm just trying to make sure that I'm following! In the end, this all seems like a call for museums, critics, artists, etc. to be more mindful of (and, ideally, directly engage with) the contexts in which works are generated, because to not do so can/will lead to wrongheadedness. Especially with net art ("social media art?"), it's probably important for the people who are going to cite specific works to, uh, engage with the work in its indigenous setting (rather than relying solely on an institution's authoritative recalibration/soundbyting of said piece).

That having been said (and apologies for any of my rehashing redundancies), I noticed that many of the intros on Lonergan's list don't link to their subject's/user's MySpace pages. Some do (you have to click on their name - which will lead you to their YouTube channel - and then look on their 'profile' and hope that they've linked to their MySpace somewhere on the page), but most don't. It's possible that many of the MySpace pages have been removed (or that I'm bad at navigating YouTube/MySpace/the internet), but it's interesting that Lonergan's "original" piece also has the potential to negate the contexts of the intros (though Lonergan does mention that they're from MySpace) through his "curatorial" reframing of the works within a YouTube playlist.

Jesse P. Martin 5 years, 5 months agoReply

Also, if Lonergan's list is meant to serve as a kind of archive (I feel that it is), then reducing it to just videos strips it of its essential referential function AS an archive (it's kind of like showing a video of various encyclopedia illustrations, but without saying they're from an encyclopedia). Instead, we're just left with a bunch of very similar video-answering-machine-messages that prompt us with MySpace-specific lingo that we can't access in that format. I'm not saying that it's necessary for any artwork "collection" of like subjects is required to bring us to their source(s) - though in the case of Lonergan's list, it seemed like that was a part of the nature/intent of the work. I dunno…

Jesse P. Martin 5 years, 5 months agoReply

And this exhibit http://bit.ly/cy3nhq looks like a similar project by Lonergan (and Paul Slocum and Max Goldberg) where "social media" becomes "social media art" by being represented/contextualized in a gallery-type exhibition, but with explanatory text (written by Lonergan himself). Again, it appears as a (re)curation of a kind of archive, though Lonergan admits that many of the included "artworks" weren't necessarily made by people who would consider themselves as artists (like with the MySpace authors). Also, it's interesting that this show didn't appear to include a way for viewers to actually navigate the site it's based on, either (it's essentially presented as video art, though computers are used as screens).

Tom Moody 5 years, 5 months agoReply

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

Maxwell Paparella 5 years, 5 months agoReply

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).

While this would probably be the "most accurate representation" of a work of art originally intended for the internet, it also sounds like no fun. While the video art incarnation of Myspace Intro Playlist at YTJ has led to at least one pretty bad misinterpretation, it was at least effective in engaging an audience in a way that I suspect sheets of papers and screenshots tacked to the wall might not have been. (Also not convinced that Davis' dopiness is entirely due to a curatorial mis-step, dude needs to google some stuff.)

A "net art = video in galleries" formula can't be taken as the standard for materialization of this kind of art – or even a particularly good example – but most current net art relies on visual aesthetics as well as the networked environment it is presented on. To reduce works like Myspace Intro Playlist to words on a page would explain (rather than display) their networked elements while mostly disregarding other aesthetic qualities. YouTube is a website for videos, after all.

Maybe net art will never materialize satisfactorily, but as what we think of as the internet expands to include (and subsequently dominate) nearly every facet of modern life I find it hard to believe that galleries and museums will be exempt. Thanks to mobile technologies, there is no longer any reason to associate the internet exclusively with your desk, or even your laptop. What if museum-goers were able to use their phones (or brain-chips!) to treat Myspace Intro Playlist as a hyperlink to the "original," online work? That would be cool.

Tom Moody 5 years, 5 months agoReply

A photo of Chris Burden nailed to a Volkswagen, with the nails presented on a small plaque, is boring compared to the actual event, but that is the artwork as it is now constituted. Until we get those brain chip acoustiguides, none of the alternatives are great.

Jesse P. Martin 5 years, 5 months agoReply

Then there's this - http://bit.ly/bpUGZ3 - which I kinda like (even though it's a thrice-removed, bloodless "reconstitution" rendered à la Longo, but compact and w/grid). Though I'm sure that a lot of people who've seen the drawing don't necessarily know about Trans-fixed. Besides Burden's name acting as the drawing's title (and it being drawn from the widely-used documentation photo of the performance), there's nothing to explicitly inform a viewer of the "original" in "its native habitat" outside of those free-floating referents.

Maxwell Paparella 5 years, 5 months agoReply

I know what you mean Tom, but I still have to argue for engagement over accuracy. Relegating net art to framed documents and snapshots would seem to be a step backwards for the form. Net art is way different than performance art in a couple fundamental ways, so it seems counter-intuitive to treat them in the same neutered, sterilized way in a gallery context.

There is a "you had to be there" imperative to the Chris Burden documentation that most net art purposefully circumvents. Internet viewers need not worry that they are getting an "authentic" experience with an art, since use of the internet as a medium in many ways questions what "authenticity" is anyway. I think documentation would have been helpful in the case of Mypsace Intro Playlist, but actually seeing the videos is the big thing.

Tom Moody 5 years, 5 months agoReply

Maxwell, turning off the hyperlinks and stripping out the CSS is neutralizing and sterilizing. As noted below, the videos lose their "charming ineptness" as videos. The work becomes another collection of amateur narcissists mugging for the camera and it's boring to stand and watch. On YouTube you can fast forward or move to the next item or go watch that sneezing Panda video again. The point I'm making is MySpace Intro Playlist is a kind of renegade act of curation that exists below the level of institutional recognition–almost a parody of what a museum does with ethnographic style video. To put that into a museum without the frames of embedded irony kills the idea. Not saying that some hypothetical, visually engaging Net-creation can't be "versioned" for a gallery–you are taking a specific example and arguing generally.

Maxwell Paparella 5 years, 5 months agoReply

…another collection of amateur narcissists mugging for the camera…

I guess what I'm saying is that this is the internet that I grew up with, and–curatorial transgression and "irony" aside–I think it's kind of great to watch, and even more fun to see in an "art" context. The content is not secondary to the concept, in my mind, although I understand that other interpretations would have it that way.

Lauren C. 5 years, 5 months agoReply

Hi,

The installation of Guthrie's Myspace Intro Playlist in YTJ was actually first conceived for another exhibition called The New Normal, curated by Michael Connor, which opened at Artist Space in '08. Guthrie and I both felt the two-screen installation worked as a gallery version of the piece, and so we repeated it for YTJ. I understand the work experienced a shift in meaning with this version, but I was also interested in trying out a non-interactive display, and so was Guthrie. The idea of a version was important to me: while I understood the work had an original form & location, I also felt it could have different versions in new contexts that were valid. Tons of people engaged with Myspace Intro Playlist in the gallery, and then further explored Guthrie's work and his writing. That comprehensive engagement is a critic's job too. One single instance of an artwork doesn't need to define it totally, just like one single example of an artist's work doesn't define him/her.

I don't think that you can blame problematic art criticism on these instances of art exhibition, if I'm understanding this thread correctly. If there is a problem, I would say its that there are relatively few instances of recent internet art installation to go by. To counteract that, we need: 1) More of these installations, &/or more knowledge of ones that have happened and 2) Strategies from artists about how their work should be shown whether its in galleries, explicitly not in galleries, or across multiple contexts.

My best practices for installation (and all else) are always evolving and that happens largely from seeing examples, and through productive conversations with artists.

Thanks, L

Jesse P. Martin 5 years, 5 months agoReply

Hi Lauren,

I agree "that comprehensive engagement is a critic's job, too," and it seems that such a belief is what prompted other commenters to respond to Davis' article being endorsed - without explanation - as "Required Reading" on Rhizome. That Davis claims MySpace Intro Playlist isn't "social media art" but, instead, "new media art" appears as a glib and misinformed statement that resulted directly from the piece being exhibited as video art at YTJ. Sure, Davis could've done some of his own "comprehensive engagement" of the work and Lonergan (by using the internet!) before he declared the piece as "a perfect example" of what isn't "social media art" - but that would've required him to not rely solely on what was packaged for him as a mere "video-art project" at the museum. I agree that it's interesting for works to have "versions," but in this instance, divorcing MySpace Intro Playlist from "outside its native habitat" actually seemed to have encouraged a denial (at least for Davis) of the very specific experience and format that was the subject, form, and context of the original work.

While I entirely support an artist's decision to (re)present their work as they see fit, I'm not sure that I see the benefit of turning MySpace Intro Playlist into video-art (besides its making for a cleaner, more familiar, non-interactive, museum-friendly format). And Davis' subsequent tunnel-visioned view of the work seems like an unfortunate result of this decision, which was only made more convoluted (and somewhat ironic) by his artnet article being re-posted/endorsed on Rhizome at The New Museum.

Thanks,

Jesse

Tom Moody 5 years, 5 months agoReply

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

Guthrie Lonergan 5 years, 5 months agoReply

Re: "turning MySpace Intro Playlist into video-art":

To get this out of the way – I think putting a computer with a mouse in the gallery/museum is rarely a good solution to exhibiting Net Art physically. The experience of going up to a monitor and clicking around in a gallery looks and feels silly – it becomes a little like "interactive media art", or using an ATM… Not that I don't appreciate the bold nerdiness of a computer in a gallery, but it would fall so flat next to non-Internet work (sometimes a whole mini-computer-lab in the context of a specifically Internet art show seems to look okay http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zsqDvomS8QM#t=00m31s.) You can never bring that private computer viewing experience into a gallery/museum, anyway, and attempting to do so would mislead viewers into thinking that they have experienced the online version. So, I think it's always going to be a problem of translation for Internet Artists when we go into the gallery – sometimes its more like documentation of an online performance.

I can't remember exactly, but I'm pretty sure the wall text right next to my piece mentioned the original YouTube context, and I know that all of the New Museum text about me emphasizes that I work on the Internet, and talks about Nasty Nets, etc.. Regardless of the confusion, I think the piece is interesting in a gallery/museum. The Intro-ers point off the sides of the monitor encouraging you to read more about them – a joke that many of them came up with independently, thinking ahead to their video being embedded inside of a Myspace profile – but now they are pointing to things inside of the gallery/museum.

I agree that the original online Myspace Intro Playlist on YouTube is the better version of the piece (though I am biased towards the online experience) – because it is such a simple one-click computer user action, and because the artist is at the same online "user" level as those speaking in the intros (though burning DVDs isn't that much more technologically advanced than sharing a video online?) Showing things "live" off the Internet vrs. recorded on a DVD – I worry that this kind of distinction is too technical and lost on most viewers anyway? John Michael Boling has shown his 53o's YouTube pieces as looping YouTubes embedded in a web page in a web browser running on a computer hooked up to the Internet – perhaps people can still grasp how this is significant in a gallery context? I know that I really appreciate it as an Internet art fanatic. (However, it is not a solution that works for an entire playlist… And does it become about showing the interface? What about a recording/screenshot including the interface? This isn't always very interesting..)

Many of the Intro videos are slowly being taken off of YouTube – this is what happens to "live," linked pieces like this – and unlike with JMB's weddings, funerals, guitar shredders, etc., I won't be able to replace the videos (until they come back in fashion after whatever post-Facebook networking site lets you embed videos on your "info" page again!) So this DVD version is a more permanent documentation of a "live," linked YouTube playlist piece that will slowly disappear.

"professional gear"/"nice screens" – I'm sure other Internet artists do things differently, but I often think of monitors and DVD players as part of the institution rather than part of the piece (is this naive?).. I would not suggest that the New Museum use crummier equipment than usual for my piece so that it could look more "Lo-Fi" or anything like that. (I hoped it did look a little like the New Museum found some guy on the Internet and then he put a couple of burned DVD-Rs in the mail – which is not far from the truth.) The two-screens thing is primarily just to make it more watchable for someone walking through – you can see more of the videos in a shorter amount of time, at half attention, and the pairings are more random – making it more of a database than a sequence.

I think the bigger issue bugging us/you here is institutional endorsement (even by Rhizome?) of an art practice based on being a normal Internet user – the surf club vibe. I don't think Internet art should just be online… I think it needs to be thrown into the physical mix with the offline art sometimes to be a part of the larger Art discussion – rather than be ghettoized the way "Media Art" often is (..which breeds bad art.)

Jesse P. Martin 5 years, 5 months agoReply

Hi Guthrie,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on your MySpace Intro Playlist; it does seem that the piece has always embodied the conditions/problems of (re)framing, so it stands to reason that presenting it in a gallery-type format would continue to complicate/compound those issues even more. It also seems that net art displayed in a gallery will always require it to be somewhat removed from "its native habitat" (at least for now), because it's almost like trying to share the experience of reading in private at home (or browsing through ones library) in a museum.

The degree that net art should be "theatricized" (and/or "aestheticized") to exist outside of "its native habitat" is up for debate, though how much this (re)framing will supplant and/or obfuscate the primacy of experiencing net art on the net will remain a sticking point. Besides exposure, what's the benefit of showing net art in a gallery/museum, anyway? Just to "be a part of the larger Art discussion?" This is important, but it seems detrimental if people/critics keep viewing (re)framed net art in galleries and go away without understanding that these works are from the net (or ideally experienced on the net) - especially if one of the reasons for exhibiting net art in museums is to educate viewers on the particularities of the form (and save net art from being "ghettoized" and/or misunderstood).

And I agree that just plopping a computer w/mouse & keyboard in a museum would seem "silly" - even if that would be one of the most "authentic" ways to present the piece!

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Tom Moody 5 years, 5 months agoReply

Hi, Guthrie,
First off, sorry for engaging my psycho-stalker on this page, who is now posting sound files and such. Hard to have a conversation with that kind of kindergarten stuff going on but I guess that's the idea ("I will not be *ignored*, Tom…")
The sound file can be turned off autoplay here: http://rhizome.org/editorial/3702#62740

As you know I've defended MySpace Intro Playlist through its various incarnations. When Rhizome first linked to it Paddy Johnson criticized it ("It is a cabinet of curiosities I feel I'd rather see on blogger Jason Kottke’s remaindered links, than to have it exist on the more aggrandized Rhizome Timeshares page") and I re-posted what I said above, by way of explaining how well it worked as a "sub-institutional" piece.
Re: "nice screens," it's an issue, I think, because now the Guggenheim is doing its YouTube biennial or whatever and Hewlett-Packard is going to provide hardware to show YouTubes on. Hardware is a way of "normalizing" the content. I'm not suggesting crappy screens would have worked any better for MySpace Intro Playlist.
At the end of the day I think some things work better "underground" and I can think of many pieces of yours that could represent you better (and probably be easier to adapt) than this one. What set me off was seeing my own qualms about the piece's subsequent interpretations confirmed by a layman writing for Artnet.
Best, Tom

Tom Moody 5 years, 5 months agoReply

Ha ha, just realized that link opens in a new tab or window so it only compounds the sound problem. My kingdom for a moderator.

curt cloninger 5 years, 5 months agoReply