Posted inOpinion

US National Intelligence Is Now on Tumblr

If you follow the news these days, you might be worried about the American government and the secrecy and ruthlessness with which it has been conducting itself. You might be concerned about the National Security Agency (NSA) reading your email, or dismayed by Bradley Manning’s 35-year sentence, or horrified by the Joint Special Operations Command’s (JSOC) dirty wars. But if you’ve been worrying, there’s good news: you needn’t anymore. Because President Obama made a Tumblr blog.

Posted inOpinion

The Mesmerizing Duality of Mugshots vs. Facebook Profile Pics

We live in a world shaped by the proliferation not just of social media, but also of surveillance. Sometimes it seems as if we’re constantly presenting and re-presenting ourselves, selfies upon selfies, in an effort to counteract the official narratives imposed by others. It’s telling that the nonstop images flooding our eyes everyday generally fall into two categories: sponsored, advertised, sanctioned by some larger corporate or government (or both, since the two are ever more inseparable) body; and self-made/amateur.

This tension is at the heart of a tumblelog that’s fascinated me ever since I saw it mentioned on the Slog a few weeks ago: In Duplo.

Posted inOpinion

The Aesthetics of Gendered Dumbness

CHICAGO — What happens when blogs GURLDONTBEDUMB and WEIRD DUDE ENERGY face off in the reblogosphere, dueling it out in a viral battle-of-the-sexes? This post compares these two Tumblrs, both of which index hyper-gendered pop culture tropes, readily spinning off memes for the easy consumption of an A.D.D.-addled web audience.

Posted inOpinion

Which Artist Did It Better?

Sometimes it’s not so much about who did something first, but who did it best. In the technology start-up world, it doesn’t matter that dozens of other companies were creating video upload sites before YouTube; YouTube just hit the right combination of community, buzz, and content. Art history is the same. Enduring fame, of the centuries-long variety, doesn’t come to the artist who first followed through on an idea, but to the one who did it the most prominently.

Posted inArt

The Way We Share: Transparency in Curatorial Practice

We’ve heard the argument that everyone’s a curator online by means of blogging and reblogging, but what about the professional curators who are responsible for producing major physical exhibitions — how are they using social platforms? The ability to publicly explore new theories, archive research, and participate in creative communities, has signaled a new era of openness and transparency in curatorial practice. One example is the research blog that accompanied Paola Antonelli’s Talk to Me exhibition in 2011 at the Museum of Modern Art. The site, stunningly bold and rigorous in its approach, chronicled projects to research, readings, and inspirational ideas for exhibition design. By providing visitors with a backstage tour, Antonelli and her team aimed to shed an honest light on curatorial process, revealing over a year’s worth of research that lead to the exhibition.

Posted inArt

Tumblr, Art, and Web 2.0 Ecologies: The Medium Is Still the Message

On the eve of web 2.0, there were a few sites emerging like Zing.com, an early place for photo sharing. The technology of self-surveillance wasn’t up to speed at that point to make them stick though. Facebook and smartphones would go on to complete the social shift to “sharing.” “Overexposed Dancing” was one of our early works that anticipated this change.

From 1997 to 2003, we worked together on a series of internet art performances, all of which were archived on Cary’s website, Restlessculture.net. Our performances took place on eBay, Evite, Ofoto, MySpace, and a host of other early social media sites that no longer exist. Taking off from Marcel Duchamp’s concept of the readymade, we called these performances “digital readymades.”

Posted inArt

Organizing the World

This brief essay will focus on something that I think is important to Tumblr — the need to negotiate with media already in circulation. It is a desire that has been expressed variously throughout the 20th century by other artists and writers who negotiated, or thought about how to negotiate, with a world overflowing with images. Already in the 1980s you have media theorist Vilém Flusser describing a “telematic society of image producers and image collectors.” Before that Susan Sontag had already discussed how just about everything had already been photographed. Today, Hito Steyerl emphasizes that “postproduction has come to take over production wholesale.”

Posted inArt

Our Reblogs, Ourselves

For centuries, images were a fairly quantifiable, classifiable thing. One could, if one wanted, generally divide them into two categories: those made by artists and those not; artworks and everything else. There were always complications, of course — where did photojournalism fall, or works made by bad artists, or family photos — but the lines were pretty distinctly drawn: no matter the content or method, art images were those created by artists toiling away in studios or monasteries or workshops; they were shown in galleries and museums and sometimes books, framed very clearly as capital-A Art. Plenty of artists have worked to undermine or discredit this system, like Richard Prince, who upset a lot of people when he started rephotographing Marlboro ads in 1980. Theoretically, the question with Prince went: was this art or copied advertising? The work, however, was shown in specifically designated art spaces, with Prince’s name clearly attached to it. It was undoubtedly art, even if people at first didn’t agree on its qualifications.

Posted inArt

The Measure Of Success: Making Art in the “Like” Economy

One of the unique things about the internet is that it’s a quantifiable space. Every action that takes place online is basically an exchange of data, codified in ones and zeroes. Everything you do on the web is increasingly measurable and trackable, which is one of the reasons we’ve come to live in the age of what is being called “Big Data.” With metrics being such a pervasive part of internet culture, the net has developed its own unique value system, which tends to favor and reward two things: the size of your audience (number of eyeballs) and that audience’s level of engagement (how deeply people interact with your content).