The impact of social media on the art world is most obvious when it comes to distribution. Facebook can organize concerts and performances, or be used as a free gallery to showcase artwork around the world. Websites like Last.fm, Ping and Soundcloud allow users to upload, listen, discuss and share music, while Youtube and Vimeo do the same for video projects.
But how has social media impacted the art itself? Like they did with new technologies in the past, artists are finding ways to use these new platforms to examine how they are affecting the human condition. They have gone beyond doing work inspired by social media to make it an integral part of the art itself. These new “social media artists,” integrate other people into their work and blur the lines between artist and audience.
1. Myspace Into Playlist
During the final years of Myspace, users were allowed to record “introduction videos” for their websites. In 2006, Guthrie Lonergan found these videos on Youtube without any of the context of the Myspace page, and collected them in a playlist that shows the discomfort and awkwardness of people entering the social media age and having to broadcast themselves for the first time. Although the work itself is not social, it was created using content from social media and assembled on Youtube, another social network, to make a statement about human interaction with this new technology.
2. 1st Fans Twitter Art Feed
1st Fans was a social network started in 2008 for fans of the Brooklyn Museum, and marked the first digital membership to a museum. In addition to connecting art fans with museum staff, artists and each other, 1st Fans also started a members-only Twitter feed. On a rotating basis, they give contemporary artists control of the feed to turn the social media stream into an actual work of art. Perhaps the best was artist An Xiao’s “Morse Code Tweets,” where mundane messages tweeted in Morse code provided an ironic look at the evolution of instant communication; how it has changed from transmitting messages of the utmost importance to the utmost triviality. For this project to be interpreted, it demanded its audience to translate the messages using an external website, putting interactivity at the center of the art. Further, the audience could respond, giving the artwork a social aspect only possible in the modern era.
3. Man Bartlett – #24hKith and #GreyMatter
With his performance pieces, Bartlett examines identity, namely the relationship between digital presence and physical reality. In the first, each feather represents a tweet that completes the sentence “I am…” In the second, the wooden dowel represents a 24-hour timeline, with each string symbolizing a message about where a user is in the world. The art isn’t just the physical object he creates, but also the interactive performance of creating it. Social media influence both aspects of his art, and also gives the work its meaning. The completed mannequin, for example, is full of the meaning people prescribed to themselves via social media, where as the dowel becomes a physical representation of the where people locate themselves online. The social element adds an element of randomness, but simultaneously gives the work concrete meaning will exist forever in the Twitterverse for anyone to look up.
4. Riot !n Paris – “Track Me” project
Like Bartlett, the Brooklyn-based alternative rock and hip-hop duo, Riot !n Paris, are also examining the online personas people create for themselves with what they are calling a “social music experiment.” On the band’s website, fans can click a button that sends a tweet to the band asking them to follow the fan’s social media presence. Every day for four weeks, the band wrote a full length, original song based solely on the person’s created social media persona. As people continue to broadcast more about their personal lives, Riot !n Paris found they plenty of material to create a variety of tracks. They also bring into question the validity of online information, as some of the profiles they chose ended up being not entirely accurate representations of the real lives. The digital age has also made the music industry increasingly more personalized, and the Track Me project takes this to a new extreme. Although, it could just be a clever marketing ploy for their next album.
5. D.J. Caruso – The “Inside” Experience
This new concept film directed by D.J. Caruso weds social media with horror films, actually allowing fans to participate in the film’s creation. Fans posted casting call videos to a website, voted on their favorites, posted tips, clues and escape ideas to the fictional character. The filmmakers then used these to determine the film’s outcome. On one hand, it may be an advertising ploy for Intel and Toshiba, who funded the film and manufactured the laptop the character uses. On the other, it’s an interesting concept to bring in a social experience to the making of feature films. It shattered the fourth wall in an innovative way, adding a new level of realism to the horror in a way similar to how The Blair Witch Project used camcorders and Paranormal Activity used “found footage.”