Last Thursday, we ventured up to Haskins Laboratories in New Haven for the opening of “Status Update” and for the “Big Love” panel with Matt, Paddy Johnson, An Xiao, Sharon Butler, and Sharon Kleinman. While I couldn’t hear much of the discussion, (wrangling a loud 10 month old in the midst of 50+ intent listeners does not make for an attentive wife/spectator) I did walk away with some perspective on what I feel is a new direction for artists – albeit a venturesome few at the moment. I’ve tried to think of a couple words that sum up what seems to be happening in the exploration of social media, as both a medium and an avenue for artists, and very simply put it is “social collaboration” – artists using either the attention of, or the activity of, digital social masses to make art.
What makes social collaboration so unique? It absolutely depends on a digital audience or a digital source to make it happen. Could Rachel Perry Welty have completed a 16 hour long performance project in which she update her Facebook status every minute answering the question “what are you doing” without a social mass? Not likely since it was centered on Facebook and performances inherently need an audience – those being the individuals subscribed as her “friends”. And what about An Xiao? Her work is entirely Twitter centric, even if a few postcards exist in the physical realm. Though Matt's portrait project produces physical portraits, they are sourced from a social mass and is somewhat dependent on the openness of it’s participants. It’s likely I need to flush this idea out a little more and when I get some time, I might do just that. The suggestion of a movement with artists as social collaborators may be a bit premature, but I suspect it might be worth a bit more thought.