On Wednesday I attended “Social Media Week Edition: Social Media Art,” the newest in a series of Arts, Culture and Technology Meetups. These meetups, organized by Julia Kaganskiy, global editor for The Creators Project and co-director of Blue Box Gallery, are all about the potential for technology in and out of the art world. Wednesday’s event included Annie Werner, the Community Ambassador for Tumblr, Shane Brennan, assistant curator for Creative Time Tweets, Amber Hawk Swanson, a performance artist living in Brooklyn and Chicago, Ryder Ripps, a provocateur and hacker who co-founded OkFocus, and Jayson Musson, artist and creator of Hennesy Youngman. The night was moderated by Man Bartlett, who has created a name for himself as an artist who continues to engage with social media on many levels. The goal of the night was to explore how and why artists are using social media in their practice.
I came to the event because of my interest in how culture and technology can work together to become more accessible and engaging. I see social media platforms as ripe for artistic intervention and exploration, but also as an exciting and problematic corporate arena that appears like a public space. The panelists and organizers have quite the reputation among young contemporary artists, and I could not wait to hear their ideas around these engaging platforms.
Shane Brennan was the speaker that spoke to my interests best. Having commissioned artworks from artists Man Bartlett, David Horvitz and Jill Magid that relied on Twitter for creation and dissemination, Brennan was able to speak most directly about social media and its potential as public space. Brennan equated Twitter to a virtual soapbox in a public space, allowing everyone to have their voice shared at an equal volume. This egalitarian space, where public conversations are connoted by a hashtag and created equally by the participants, is not about producing a static object but an ongoing engagement. As skeptical as I am about utopian thinking about the internet, I can’t help but share Brennan’s enthusiasm about work that completely exists in and also created by the public.
Swanson, Musson and Ripps have engaged with different social media in various manners, and they were quick to credit their engagement for their large following. This online following brings up an interesting discussion about the difference between an artist’s identity online and off. These discussion are becoming more important to us, artists or not, as we choose to have more of our identity available online.
After the the talks, everyone stayed to meet and talk more. Musson and I talked about his path to YouTube stardom beginning as a means to usurp his faculty’s power over him. Musson’s success illustrates social media’s power to grant the creator’s the right to share. This user-power is what really draws so many to these social platforms. It was great to meet one of social media’s relative success stories, with his most watched video having over a 130,000 plays, and to find him so humble. This I guess is really why I came to the meetup; I could have streamed the event live for free, but the event was more than that, it was a gathering of people engaged with social media on many different levels meeting each other outside of Facebook, a change to get a real dialogue going about how art and technology are meshing together to affect all of our lives.