Making sense of it all.

Over the last two days, artist and Hyperallergic contributor An Xiao has been moderating a discussion on the Hyperallergic Facebook page on the nature of Social Media Art.

Here is a quick recap of some of the topics that have been discussed.

On Tuesday, Xiao asked the artists to talk about their practice and what it means to make “social media art.” The responses seemed as diverse as the reasons for using social media:

  • Artist Man Barlett pointed out that he often integrates social media during his performance pieces as a way to inform and shape the outcome. “I personally view social media as one of many brushes as opposed to a canvas alone,” he said.
  • Christi Nelsen of the inter.sect Art Collective explained that they use social media as the source of their work and “We’ve done several exhibitions where random status updates are sent to the artists who then translate it visually and post it back into the social media stream.”
  • Nic Rad’s relationship with the medium seemed vastly different: “Social media is the dynamic source that I’m trying to freeze.”
  • Lauren McCarthy enjoys the life she sees in the medium: “I use social media to work within the structures of everyday life. I am interested in art that is accessible and maybe surprises, rather than being something that people approach with the mindset ‘I am looking at a piece of art,’ I want to make it closer to ‘I am looking at a piece of life.’ I also play with the tension between embracing social media and questioning it.”
  • Victoria Webb sees it more as a practical tool for her art: “My response has more to do with the economics of making a living online … the necessity for social interaction (ie expanding an audience for sales) became obvious after I lost my corporate job … there are a lot of sites that have aggregated a large audience, but it becomes the artist’s job to educate and turn the buyer into a collector.”
  • Nina Melendandri uses it to complement her painting but she is encountering some challenges: “I personally am still trying to work out an organic way of integrating images (since I am still primarily a painter) into the social media stream without resorting to the ‘look at my last post’ syndrome …”
  • Ellen Yustas K. Gottlieb and Joanie San Chirico both enjoy the democracy of the medium:
  • Gottlieb: “… social media is very powerful tool to reach out to people who love art but don’t belong to the art scene.”
  • San Chirico: “To me, the entire purpose of using social media as an art platform is to involve those who would not ordinarily participate in performance art.”

Wednesday, the question was “What On Earth Is Social Media Art?

Xiao offered an initial definition:

  1. The web plays a key role not just in the marketing or sourcing of the art but the *expression* of the art.
  2. The art is not just crowd-driven or crowd-participated but crowd-created; it inspires the highest level of engagement the audience.
  3. The art is accessible beyond a “typical” art world audience while still being conceptually rich.
  4. The art can be adapted to any device or platform; in other words, the tools are secondary to the work.

And frankly, I can’t possibly do justice to the nuanced conversation that followed, so please check it out for yourself.

The Social Media Art roundtable continues today and tomorrow, and feel free to join in or simply watch the discussion unfold.

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic.

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