Blog Buzz or Art News? Jonah Peretti Punks Ashton Kutcher

by Art Fag City on May 12, 2009 · 17 comments Events

Jonah Peretti, Ashton Kutcher, Art Fag City
LEFT: Jonah Peretti RIGHT: Ashton Kutcher

The Internet is a buzz! Jonah Peretti punks Ashton Kutcher by pretending to be an outraged twitter fan who didn’t have one of his tweets returned, and Kutcher calls him to discuss the matter. The prank follows a lineage of previous like minded Peretti works — blackpeopleloveus.com, a satirical website dedicated to assuaging white guilt, the nike sweatshop emails, a series of correspondence in which Peretti debates with an anonymous Nike representative over why the company couldn’t fill his request to print “sweatshop” custom Nike iD sneakers, and the Rejection Hot Line, a phone number leading to recorded multiple choice rejection options. Each employs entertainment as a means of engaging audiences.

Peretti’s latest viral project piques AFC interest because unlike his days at Eyebeam, when such “pieces” were labeled “art”, the press now describes the Kutcher punk as a “prank”. Are we simply looking at a shift in semantics due to a change in professional fields, or is this shift indicative of the shrinking distinction between art and everything else? Given the unlikeliness of the Kutcher tweet ever seeing the light of day at the New Museum or MoMA, the flattening effect of the Internet still seems questionable at best. But I am reminded of photographer and art historian Jeff Wall’s 2006 lecture in which he claimed the fusion of art and non-art is an illusion leaving institutional art fully intact, because arts professionals seldom leave their professional circles. In this case, he’s only half right; dealers, curators and academics tend to stay within their field where as artists frequently maintain and shift multiple careers out economic necessity, mirroring their increased tendency to work in a variety of mediums and draw from different sources.  In this light it would seem a flattening of art almost certainly exists, but for the Fine Art world to see those effects significant pedagodical and institutional change will have to occur.

UPDATE: TWhid points out Jonah Peretti never conceived his original projects as art.  Of course, the New Museum did.

*Notably, I was first introduced to the story via New Museum curator and Rhizome’s Executive Director, Lauren Cornell.

* Also of interest: Artist Cory Arcangel now contributes to Buzzfeed.

{ 17 comments }

Heart As Arena May 12, 2009 at 4:50 pm

Leif Elggren, Thomas Liljenberg: Experiment with Dreams</a

Heart As Arena May 12, 2009 at 4:50 pm

Leif Elggren, Thomas Liljenberg: Experiment with Dreams</a

Heart As Arena May 12, 2009 at 11:50 am

Leif Elggren, Thomas Liljenberg: Experiment with Dreams</a

twhid May 12, 2009 at 4:51 pm

hiya,

I’m not sure I would agree with the premise that Jonah ever conceived of (or contextualized) the Eyebeam work you’ve cited as art. In fact, I remember at the time he was pretty clear that he didn’t consider those projects art and held the opinion that art was more or less over.

He more or less moved Eyebeam away from art and more towards tech IMHO. At least that’s how I saw it at the time and I remember other people (OK, maybe just M.River) seeing the same thing.

But of course I could be over-simplifying or remembering wrong.

Maybe he’ll weigh in here.

twhid May 12, 2009 at 11:51 am

hiya,

I’m not sure I would agree with the premise that Jonah ever conceived of (or contextualized) the Eyebeam work you’ve cited as art. In fact, I remember at the time he was pretty clear that he didn’t consider those projects art and held the opinion that art was more or less over.

He more or less moved Eyebeam away from art and more towards tech IMHO. At least that’s how I saw it at the time and I remember other people (OK, maybe just M.River) seeing the same thing.

But of course I could be over-simplifying or remembering wrong.

Maybe he’ll weigh in here.

Art Fag City May 12, 2009 at 4:58 pm

Hi Twhid.

I didn’t know he didn’t contextualize them that way. I’ve updated the post to reflect those intentions, though of course, blackpeopleloveus.com was at the New Museum. Despite those intentions, when you place whatever it is in the context of a museum, it tends to receive that art aura.

Art Fag City May 12, 2009 at 11:58 am

Hi Twhid.

I didn’t know he didn’t contextualize them that way. I’ve updated the post to reflect those intentions, though of course, blackpeopleloveus.com was at the New Museum. Despite those intentions, when you place whatever it is in the context of a museum, it tends to receive that art aura.

twhid May 12, 2009 at 5:35 pm

Hi Paddy,

I didn’t know the NuMu presented blackpeopleloveus.com … once it’s in a museum, it definitely is being contextualized as art.

Plus, I’m not sure you should take my memories as the word on how the work was conceived and contextualized at the time 🙂

twhid May 12, 2009 at 5:35 pm

Hi Paddy,

I didn’t know the NuMu presented blackpeopleloveus.com … once it’s in a museum, it definitely is being contextualized as art.

Plus, I’m not sure you should take my memories as the word on how the work was conceived and contextualized at the time 🙂

twhid May 12, 2009 at 12:35 pm

Hi Paddy,

I didn’t know the NuMu presented blackpeopleloveus.com … once it’s in a museum, it definitely is being contextualized as art.

Plus, I’m not sure you should take my memories as the word on how the work was conceived and contextualized at the time 🙂

Art Fag City May 12, 2009 at 5:41 pm

I’ll shoot Jonah an email and ask him.

Art Fag City May 12, 2009 at 12:41 pm

I’ll shoot Jonah an email and ask him.

Art Fag City May 12, 2009 at 10:35 pm

Via Jonah Peretti:

I am just interested in how ideas spread, how the media works, and how the web is changing the answers to those questions. I have never tried to play the art game or make a living from doing art so the label never fit.

Art Fag City May 12, 2009 at 5:35 pm

Via Jonah Peretti:

I am just interested in how ideas spread, how the media works, and how the web is changing the answers to those questions. I have never tried to play the art game or make a living from doing art so the label never fit.

tom moody May 13, 2009 at 3:02 pm

I saw the installation(s) documenting various Peretti projects and remember wondering what they were doing on a museum wall. An artist might be a prankster but a prankster isn’t automatically an artist. So, what do you do when, as Peretti says, you are not making art, but a curator says “Hey I really like what you are doing and I think it might be art!!” Turn the show offer down? (That would be the noble thing to do–“No, you need to give this slot to someone who actually thinks about this stuff.”)

tom moody May 13, 2009 at 3:02 pm

I saw the installation(s) documenting various Peretti projects and remember wondering what they were doing on a museum wall. An artist might be a prankster but a prankster isn’t automatically an artist. So, what do you do when, as Peretti says, you are not making art, but a curator says “Hey I really like what you are doing and I think it might be art!!” Turn the show offer down? (That would be the noble thing to do–“No, you need to give this slot to someone who actually thinks about this stuff.”)

tom moody May 13, 2009 at 10:02 am

I saw the installation(s) documenting various Peretti projects and remember wondering what they were doing on a museum wall. An artist might be a prankster but a prankster isn’t automatically an artist. So, what do you do when, as Peretti says, you are not making art, but a curator says “Hey I really like what you are doing and I think it might be art!!” Turn the show offer down? (That would be the noble thing to do–“No, you need to give this slot to someone who actually thinks about this stuff.”)

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