Dancing kittens to critical art discourse

Dancing kittens to critical art discourse

Dancing kids, dancing babies, and dancing kittens are great, but they don’t really have a lasting impression. Rickrolling came and went. April Fools’ Day is just around the corner, so maybe someone will introduce the world to the new Rickrolling. Or maybe someone creative will come up with something to use the internet for besides sharing images of shocked prairie dogs. Maybe a couple of deep-thinking artists will open a critical discourse on the arts through the internet.

Social media or anti-social media opens a strange venue for critical discourse in the arts. It is strange because so much of the internet is artificial, yet so many of us have a real and substantive existence within its walls. (Some of my favorite art discussions this past year took place through exchanges of 140 characters or less.) The artificiality of the internet perverts art created in “the real world” to varying degrees. As such, to give an accurate critique of most art works a person has to first see it in person, and only then share his or her views with others on Twitter, Facebook, etc.

What happens when the internet itself is the artist’s medium? There are a growing number of artists that explore our dual realities in creative and substantive ways. These artists explore the capacity of the internet to go beyond some of the limitations of an artist’s use of previous technology to create new environments. Those environments (namely televisions and movies) dictated a passive audience (for the most part, James Lee Byars went to great length to create an engaged, albeit limited audience, through his 1969 television performance, World Question Center). Through the internet, an artist can create art objects through exploring the immediacy of online interactions. This art object can change their audience’s perception and appreciation of the internet as an environment. Interestingly, the artist’s audience can then force the artist to have an active dialogue, because the audience becomes a driving force in re-creating the art object.

This past weekend I came across two social media art projects that are in-the-works. I wanted to give you a heads up about the projects, because they start this weekend (one of which starts and ends this weekend). These artists are particular deep-thinkers, so their performances are sure to leave you with important questions about where the internet can go as an art medium.

(Of course, I am always skeptical of projects that start or have any relationship to April Fools’ Day, but if these are pranks, hopefully they are good ones.)

The first project is by Man Bartlett. Man is a “Social Media Art” star – his work has been covered by Art News, The Huffington Post, and others. His performance pieces are staged conversations (often with Twitter) to highlight how we communicate. He has archived some of his more successful pieces on his website: http://manbartlett.com/

His latest piece involves Casualties of More, which is a new online gallery (created by and staring Man Bartlett). Casualties of More’s inaugural exhibition is of new work by Man Bartlett. Man Bartlett curated this show (the internet does create an environment where the do-it-yourself artist can be gallery owner, director, curator, and star).

Man titled this performance, “Order Us Some Golf Shoes.” He explains that the title is from a line in the movie adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The full quote: “Order us some golf shoes, otherwise we’ll never get out of this place alive.” He explains that this line is important as it relates to his process of navigating and investigating his “way through the contemporary art worlds of The Internet, New York City, and beyond ….” The online only exhibition starts April 1 and runs through April 29th, and he will have an online performance on April 14th-ish. This exhibit will consist of a “signature” online performance, a new video, a new sound work, a new collage, and a new-ish drawing.

The second internet exhibit is by Detroit artist Ian Swanson, titled, “PAINTINSG LIVE!: FROM MIAMI TO DETROIT.” (The misspelling of paintings is on purpose—maybe an assault against auto-correct’s effort to do our thinking for us.) Ian is currently at Pratt earning an MFA, but he continues to keep a foot in Detroit as he explores his artistic process. Ian’s latest work starts online, live on April 1 at 12:00 a.m. and runs through April 2 at 12:00 a.m. His piece is billed as a one-night-only interactive online exhibit of new works, which he will document through his cell phone.

Here is a teaser Ian provided prior to the show:

SSv2 from Ian Swanson on Vimeo.

Ian’s work is a continuation of a recent essay he wrote about the internet’s possible relationship to the sublime.

These are two art experiences that you can go through in real time, which may change your perception of the internet’s never-ending ability to generate ideas. Simply put, you can embrace your unhealthy attraction to holing up in a cave and interacting only through a keyboard and a screen, because you may be opening a door to a new perception that will make you more interesting in the real world.