Yeah, so everyone knows Kanye West has invaded the internet since he got on Twitter, and he has been dropping songs every (GOOD) Friday. But the pop star’s presence online has done some funky things to online aesthetics as well. Just like Kanye has the supernatural ability to create a Twitter trending topic at will (see lipstick … ) and memes seem to spring forth fully formed from his forehead, or iPhone as it may be, he has the single-handed capacity to inspire self-replicating conceptual art moments online.

Internet artists have been taking the raw materials of Kanye’s digital output and using it as the basis for new works. Part collage, part DIY crafting project, the spinoffs are interesting studies in the creative scrapyard of the online world.

The Kanye New Yorker Tweets tumblr takes the rap star’s Twitter oversharing (a daily record of trips, gigs, one-liners, and art appreciation) and matches the 140-character tidbits up with New Yorker cartoons. The results are pretty hilarious, the surreal narrative and excitability of Ye’s tweets match up with the preternaturally blank-faced New Yorker drawings. Rorschach-like at the best of times, the cartoons become canvases for the tweets, taking up whatever meaning they produce, or fail to. The new whole sometimes makes logical sense, but often simply makes for the base ingredients of beauty in surrealism: the chance meeting on a dissecting table of a sewing machine and an umbrella, Kanye on one side and the New Yorker’s sense of humor on the other.

Image from Kanye New Yorker Tweets

The chance collision of these readymade ingredients isn’t too far off from the mechanism of Marcel Duchamp’s “In Advance of the Broken Arm” (1964), a pun of a title that makes the work what it is. After all, without the caption and the artistic intention, the sculpture would remain a shovel. Following quickly on the heels of Kanye West New Yorker Tweets, Cory Arcangel’s What A Misunderstanding! blog also makes use of New Yorker cartoons as medium, automatically re-captioning new ones with the eponymous phrase. (The tumblelog’s conceptual ancestor, though, is clearly the classic bea arthur mountains pizza)

A GOOD Friday cover meme, from RelaxRelapse on

Kanye’s record releases have also made for good artistic fun. Splayed out in a row below the latest on the artist’s website, each single released in the GOOD Friday series has its own cover, a stacked-text title and author and featured guests that brings to mind Russian constructivist graphic design as it does Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzer.

The general audience may be unaware of these aesthetic sources, but that hasn’t stopped zealous Kanye fans from deconstructing how these covers are made. An enterprising post on a Kanye appreciation forum explains:

… make a square in Photoshop. Set the font to Impact and its color to R-245 G-58 and B-75. Type in the rest, and you’ve got it, just make sure the lines line up and form a loose square.

For my own attempt, see above.

What’s interesting about these aesthetic moments it that though their underpinnings are rather conceptually austere, and have interesting artistic sources, they’re popularized by the overwhelmingly populist medium of the internet. How’s that for art for everyone? Bet you didn’t know that thing you were laughing at was Conceptual Art.

Kyle Chayka

Kyle Chayka was senior editor at Hyperallergic. He is a cultural critic based in Brooklyn and has contributed to publications including ARTINFO, ARTnews, Modern Painters, LA Weekly,...

One reply on “Kanye West’s Online Aesthetic Invasion”

  1. good stuff here. can’t wait to see a story on how other people (besides Kanye) have benefited due to this online aesthetic invasion. 😀

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