Participants in this year’s Social Media Art panel by #ArtsTech: (left to right) Man Bartlett, Shane Brennan, Ryder Ripps, Jayson Musson, Annie Werner and Amber Hawk Swanson. (all photos by Hrag Vartanian for Hyperallergic)

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.

Ryder Ripp and Jayson striking a pose before the Q&A session.

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.

The live feed from the event can be viewed here.
Further reading: Man Bartlett talks about the event and the Tweets around it, here.

Ben Valentine is an independent writer living in Cambodia. Ben has written and spoken on art and culture for SXSW, Salon, SFAQ, the Los Angeles Review of Books, YBCA, ACLU, de Young Museum, and the Museum...

5 replies on “A Report from #ArtsTech’s Social Media Art Panel”

  1. Being a skeptic about the capacity of “social media” to actually BE social, the article and the video of the event helped me see some possibilities. I appreciated Shane Brennan’s comments because, as the article says, he was able to step back from being immersed in the media in order to evaluate the potential of social media for art.  It can connect the artist and their art to a wide audience and that potentially massive connection may be a platform for generating social change through social media.
    That said,  the author of this article notes that actually being with these artists in their fully embodied selves in a fully actual, not virtual, space adds something to the appreciation of the work of those artists.
    Finally, what is the influence of the social media on the art done through social media? Yes, media can be used to present art created in and for another space. How does the art change when then presented on social media? Further, when artists consider the media as part of the art, rather than just the medium to present the art, what changes?

    1. Thanks for your comment longdistanceswimmer. There are definitely artists now who are embracing social media and an online platform as part of the medium for their artworks. Using the internet as a tool to show your work to a wide audience is powerful and important, but there is more potential within the platform. What is interesting is when the art created in this online sphere becomes more like a happening, where the viewers become participants and the role of the artist as sole creator is no longer true. This democratice engagement through participation and the sharing of creation is really exciting to me. You can see it happen in Man Bartlett’s twitter performances, Ryder Ripps’ online forums, or in work by Brad Troemel. 
      So to try and answer your questions more directly, artists are finding ways to use social media as a community, with shared involvement and participation. That means less praise of authorship and more on engagement. Also, if you put all art online, making it really accessible, than the people can actually decide what is good and bad through their own reblogging, reposting, liking, and comments, instead of the megarich buying work and telling us it is good by putting it in a museum. In theory that could make ‘good’ art thrive and ‘bad’ art be left behind…
      Does that help? 

          1. I commented on:

            “if you put all art online, making it really accessible, than the people can actually decide what is good and bad through their own reblogging, reposting, liking, and comments, instead of the megarich buying work and telling us it is good by putting it in a museum. In theory that could make ‘good’ art thrive and ‘bad’ art be left behind…”

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