Missing the Point About #Don’t Follow Twitter Art

by Paddy Johnson on July 9, 2011 · 30 comments Opinion

Man Bartlett's #24hPort. Photo: Christopher Kissock

Hyperallergic’s Hrag Vartanian thinks my L Magazine column on Twitter Art is off the mark. As Vartanian tells it, the term itself indicts the author. It’s a cheap ploy for headlines that fails to accurately describe these artist’s practice. Also: Why oh why, did Johnson write a column about bad twitter art and then fail to discuss the most significant artists! I’m exaggerating here for effect – Hrag wasn’t nearly so dramatic — but you get the point. Vartanian believes the examples I chose weaken an already thin case against twitter art (Joy Garnett’s #lostlibrary, An Xiao’s The Artist is Kind of Present, and Man Bartlett’s #24hPort).

Vartanian’s probably right that I could have come up with a better term than “Twitter art”, though the idea that this was a traffic friendly hook used to bring together work with no real commonality is a little far fetched. The truth of the matter is, I don’t believe the pieces have anything to do with one another past their engagement with Twitter. I never made any claims that they did, though I doubt Vartanian would have interpreted much of the article as he did had I more clearly expressed why I chose each artist.

Joy Garnett, #lostlibrary

The point of the article was not to build a case against all Twitter art/artists who use Twitter but simply to select three works that were topical and discuss them. (Yes, I wrote “Twitter art bums me out”, but this was followed by “most of it is bad”, which is not the same as “all of it”.) I chose artists whose work had received attention recently, or were currently running projects. For example, while Joy Garnett doesn’t often use Twitter for performative based work and seems an unusual inclusion, I discussed her work because I believed it likely that she would still be working on #lostlibrary when the article was published. That only nominally worked out — she stopped the project the day my article ran — but at least I had a few hours. Garnett was also an appealing subject since she’s been working online since the late 90’s. This allowed me respond to work from a different generation of artists than Man Bartlett or An Xiao.

An Xiao’s “The Artist Is Kind of Present” was similarly selected for its newsiness. Xiao herself was recently quoted by Christopher Knight at The L.A. Times, the work discussed recently cited in ARTnews. In this case, Vartanian believes I’ve done a disservice to the work. I didn’t mention its critique of the Abramovic online media circus nor our need to connect virtually as much as in person. Also, I didn’t personally experience the piece and didn’t report that she also texted.

On that last bit Vartanian has me — I didn’t sit down and tweet with Xiao — a complaint that would hold more water if I’d never seen any of the artist’s works. But that’s not the case. Just last fall, I participated in Xiao’s “Being Telepresent“, a web cam work which allowed Xiao to “virtually” attend the opening and closing and chat with viewers. Once the performance was completed she posted screenshots of her conversations on Facebook. At the closing party, it turned out she was actually in the gallery office. Surprise!

Nate Hill and friend at the Social Graph opening. Image via: Hyperallergic

Now, obviously this is a different piece, and it doesn’t involve Twitter, but one is clearly just as vacuous as the other. Art that does little more than demonstrate how technology works isn’t very interesting, and there’s a lot of that in Xiao’s work. It’s for this reason, that I don’t think Vartanian’s point about how both virtual and physical connections are things we need is any kind of evaluation of the work. This reality is made self evident every time I IM with an intern who’s sitting across a desk from me. I don’t need or want art to further illuminate that for me.

As for Xiao’s take on the social media frenzy surrounding Marina Abromovic stare-off, it’s worth asking what is being said with this piece. Is it that hype about intimacy can perpetuate a false sense of intimacy over these mediums and in real life? Unlikely given that Xiao’s description of the piece always trumpets precious shared moments. Maybe it is a message about how social media experiences change with context. Maybe it’s about how hard it is to generate the same excitement for a work inspired by Abramovic without MoMA’s press team. Whatever the case, I can think of more poignant work.

This lack of clarity, however, isn’t something Vartanian has a problem with, who instead misinterprets my complaint that ARTnews had evaluated Xiao’s success by how many people the artist meaningfully tweeted and text with that day, as a complaint about artists networking to get ahead! He then goes on to describe the mechanics of twitter use. “Artists who use Twitter…are more like conductors.” Vartanian writes, “They use the medium to tap into a group and explore what they are willing to contribute to the work. Sometimes it can be powerful, but other times a missed opportunity that functions better as an abstract idea.”

Call me idealistic, but I think art should be more than a leadership retreat. Yes, it’s about engaging the community around you, but there’s not much value in it if the ideas themselves are flimsy. As I mention at the L Magazine, this is the core criticism I have with a lot of the work I have seen on twitter recently. There are a lot of ways to address this, but probably the most effective is through a strong work ethic and willingness to evaluate one’s work harshly.

Obviously that’s a good sign for Man Bartlett, who based on his tweets must live in his studio, though I haven’t spoken to the artist enough about his practice to know whether he’s critical of it. Somewhat unsurprisingly, Vartanian’s likes this inclusion; Bartlett’s very active and has a large following. “He’s getting to the point where he could benefit from a thorough assessment”, the blogger opines, promising the feature for another day. In addition to the reasons already noted by Vartanian, Bartlett’s recent commission as a Creative Time Tweets artist this spring also prompted his mention. (David Horovitz and Jill Magid also produced projects.)

Man Bartlett's 24hKith

At this point, it will likely not be shocking to read that Vartanian’s take is slightly different from my own: Vartanian cites the artist’s inclusion of other media as a strength in the work, and again, I don’t see this attribute as particularly consequential if the concept itself is weak. For this reason, I never cared much for #24hKith, a piece Vartanian cites as amongst Bartlett’s better works. Here, Bartlett asks Twitter followers to complete the phrase “I am”, while a live video stream of the artist is projected onto a gallery wall. Bartlett then repeats the tweets aloud, while pinning a feather per tweet on a mannequin as he does it. Over the course of the performance the mannequin is covered.

The problem with this piece is that it’s lob ball information aesthetics whereby the mannequin, the tweets, and the feathers all represent the idea that consciousness and physical presence is made up of countless interactions virtual and real. #24hPort is a  better work because he leaves the trite metaphors out of it, but the only reason asking a bunch of people where they’re going has any appeal at all is because the cumulative effect of Bartlett’s tweets is compelling. Now that only occurs when if the Tweeter in question is skilled, but I’d also argue that it’s completely common to see this happen. I read Melissa Gira Grant’s Twitter updates from Europe religiously when she got stuck in Europe last year due to ash erupting in Iceland, even though objectively speaking they weren’t that interesting. Event- and news-based Twitter commentary can be bizarrely addictive.

I don’t know how Vartanian feels about this, but given that artist is simply exploiting Twitter for what Twitter does, I, for one, would be more satisfied if Bartlett’s projects offered a little Steve Lambert-esque punch. Offering another perspective, Hypothete, a popular commentor and artist, thinks artists working within said medium who want to make a point about it should not complicate the form with other mediums. Of course, since Bartlett often uses different media, by this rationale this wouldn’t make Bartlett a Twitter artist so much as a performance artist with a great knack for self promotion. I don’t see anything wrong with this, though I’d add that this is sometimes an undesirable quality that I’ve come to associate with many Twitter accounts, my own included.


Hypothete July 9, 2011 at 6:10 am

Just to be clear – I said what I did in the context of “artists working within said medium.” That is, if you claim to be using Twitter to talk about Twitter, you are obfuscating your message by not having the art “take place” on Twitter. To go back to Bartlett again, most of his work reads as about the interaction and not the platform, and this is made more clear by the “action” happening over ustream, or in a pile of balloons, or both.

Maybe ASCII tweets could be considered a more direct confrontation of the qualities Twitter itself. Also Cortright’s Injuries was a great example of this – abjection is unexpected in the filtered world of my Twitter feed, at least. I can think of plenty of ways one could comment on the nature of Twitter outside of Twitter as a medium, but if you have to abandon the qualities that make Twitter “Twitter” you’re probably missing the point.

Art Fag City July 10, 2011 at 1:26 pm

Sorry about that. I’ve made that more clear in the text. 

Will Brand July 11, 2011 at 3:40 pm

I think one of the fantastic things about net art in general is that this kind of medium-specific content can occasionally actually be digestible by the mass public. Painting-about-painting isn’t very interesting to me because, frankly, I’m not a painter – the extent of my connection to paint-specific issues is a few hours a week in galleries, and I have to draw on experience and a lot of art history books to figure out what’s going on (after which I often still don’t care). I think that’s roughly the position of most people in the world. Twitter-about-Twitter, though, I can understand: I use Twitter all the time, so I understand intuitively its features, its hashtags and retweets and follows. I can pick out what doesn’t fit quickly, so I can spend more time trying to figure out why it doesn’t fit, and what the implications of that are.

If you make a painting that convincingly reimagines the brushstroke, I’ll look real hard at it and maybe eventually decide that based on my research it’s an interesting painting. If you make a Twitter account that convincingly reimagines the Tweet, I and 200 million-odd other people will instantly be capable of grasping it. That’s why this stuff matters: it’s not because you can communicate instantly (telephones are nearly 150 years old) or with a mass audience (television is nearly 80) or reciprocally (the internet can almost legally drink), but because the limited features and context of Twitter mean that for once the audience understands the medium precisely as the artist/producer does. That doesn’t really exist in any other sphere of online art (how many art viewers understand HTML, or PHP, or even anything but the basics of Photoshop?). That, to me, is the potential (and ultimately the failing) of art on Twitter; it’s a lot more interesting than all these works where it was just cheaper and easier for the artist to Tweet instead of finding a more fitting medium.

Anonymous July 9, 2011 at 7:59 am

Paddy: Thx for the extra thoughts.

I live in an apartment and a have studio. I spend a lot of time in the studio making the various kinds of work I make. But what are you wondering what I’m critical of? My studio? My practice? The work? Not sure where that was directed, but regardless I’m critical of everything. I just don’t usually play that hand. For a while though I didn’t have time to be too critical. That’s beginning to change as I can afford (figuratively) to take on fewer projects, and be more selective about what I take on. One thing I will add, is that similar to an individual projects’ cumulative effect, I believe (or hope) that there is a similar effect on the entire body of performance work. I plan them to be progressions, in many ways. They each build on what came before it. Seeing what worked, discarding what didn’t. One big challenge is that no two audiences are alike. They are unpredictable. And my obligation is to my audience. To create something from my own experiences that hopefully compels them in some simple, small way. In that regard I lay my process bare.

I’m surprised that you’re saying you never much cared for #24hKith. Your reaction to it when I saw you in person after it was finished (at the sound of art release party), was quite positive. I don’t remember the exact words you used, but we talked about it at some length. I remember because I was actually shocked that you seemed to be so into it. You also participated: https://twitter.com/#!/artfagcity/status/8376002107412480 … Is it more convenient now to dismiss your initial reaction? Has your opinion changed over time? Was your initial reaction insincere? 

As far as art being more than leadership retreat, totally agree. However don’t underestimate the power of the conductor. The parameters are very strictly set, a lot of decisions have been made, and considered. My work is squarely NOT in the participatory field. They are often very personal acts that are bolstered by contributions from people. But to successfully manage a huge room full of mostly strangers and their whatever-they-haves takes a lot of leadership. Especially over time. Speaking of time…

Fun times!


P.S. The top photo should be credited to Christopher Kissock
P.P.S. I know you didn’t title it, but #Don’t Follow Twitter Art = #Don. Lulz!

Anonymous July 9, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Hey Man,

I figured you were critical of your practice based on how you respond to online comments but not having talked with you directly about any of it I felt it more accurate to just say I didn’t know. 

It’s true that I spoke to you about #24hKith and was positive though I think you spent more time talking to my mother than you did me about the work. I was happy for you because you’d been included in the show and you’d finished the piece. Also, you’d been up for more than 24 hours and it was your closing party, so this was not the time or place to go into various weaknesses of the piece. I did not think I was going to write about the piece seeing as how we were in the same show. So maybe my reaction was disingenuous, but I’d likely do the same thing again.

I’ll fix the caption – thx for the heads up. 

Anonymous July 9, 2011 at 4:35 pm

Hey Paddy,

Got it re: criticality. Thx.

Haha, I spoke with you about the project for as long as I felt like you were interested to talk about it. Despite my typical online behavior of LOTS OF INFORMATION/SELF-PROMOTION ALL THE TIME, I am very sensitive to how much I talk about my work IRL with people. That said, whether or not you plan on writing about a work or not shouldn’t change your reaction to it. Regardless, I appreciate the thought, and look forward to reading more.

@powhida:twitter raises some great points. As far as the relationship to “liking” goes, while it’s hard to parse the artist from the person, there are minor distinctions. When I am “performing” it is a meta-version of myself. I draw a parallel to hyperreality (in the Baudrillardian sense). An invisible mirror. Quick! Someone register invisiblemirror.tumblr.com! 😉

Lastly, I am a sensitive/emotional artist but I wouldn’t be posting here if I didn’t genuinely care about the work, furthering the work, and especially expanding the larger context within which it’s placed. Regardless of the distinction between art and artist and how people feel about me OR my work. I have an amazing, supportive and evolving audience, the vast majority of which will probably never see this page and any of our comments. My ultimate commitment is to them, and to my vision. However limited or expansive.

J. Doug Hastings July 9, 2011 at 9:02 am

Everyone agrees on the need to be critical, but so much of this comes down to taste, and taste to personal experience. So much reaction to social art period comes down to how someone reacts to social interaction as a whole. I’m a pretty deep introvert and any art piece that relies on the importance of social interaction to human life turns into an exercise in alienation. Abramovic’s piece, which I experienced in lesser form, recreated at the SF Abramovic Institute by a disciple, just struck me as something I felt guilty for not being struck by. I spend 90% of my life pretending that those who are present aren’t.

That doesn’t mean I dismiss any artwork that appeals to a more social sensibility. In fact, Xiao’s work appears to be from an introverted framework (as she tweeted a sort of defense of introverts a week or 2 back separate from her work). However, her work is still a form of expressive introversion. An attempt to connect. On an intellectual level I can connect to it and to the more (seemingly) extroverted works of Bartlett. I’m actually not claiming to be critical here, but presenting an alternative view.

Rather, the social media work that has struck me most viscerally wasn’t intended to be art at all, but is a computer science competition that shows the fallibility of the social networks: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20928045.100-fake-tweets-by-socialbot-fool-hundreds-of-followers.html In this competition engineers designed algorithms that could control twitter profiles, infiltrate networks of friends, gain followers and responses.  The article exaggerates the effect had, and to what degree the computers “fooled” humans, but to me the exercise is as important as any of the human’s work in the field.  Where 1 brand examines the nature of human interaction this examines the fallibility and shallowness of the same.  Neither is complete without the other.  However, 1 is being conducted in a fine art context, while the other is a computer science experiment.

William Powhida July 9, 2011 at 2:06 pm

The photo of Nate Hill and friend smiling along with An Xiao really captures the overall mood around social media art in the months leading up to Paddy’s article #Don.  It was a pre-critical moment where the social aspect of the work and the relationships established between artist and audience made for some good times all around. Look how happy everyone is in that screen shot, grinning from ear to ear.  That was part of the festive mood of Hrag’s show, the Social Graph. I also contributed a sketch (so analog) of how the art world is a highly organized set of personal and business relationships.  It’s roots are in the Internet and access to information, not social access the artists, collectors, and dealers depicted.  
What sets apart Man and An’s (mAn) projects from my Jurassic contribution is that both pieces offered social access to the artists.  mAn work earnestly, ostensibly as themselves in their projects without much pretext. Whether An is in the gallery or California is not much of a pretext.  The only thing separating either artist from the viewer is the interface.  What’s sort of new and also part of the problem is that there are not many other genres or mediums that require so much access to the artist socially during the work.  In order to participate in either An’s Skype piece or #24kith, the viewer has to make contact with the artist, and of course establishes a social relationship.  Somewhere, floating in the viewers mind, is an emotional ‘like’ button, which they either press or do not press about the artist as a person.  It seems invariably for mAn that their personalities become intertwined with the work.  So, any critique of the work also implicates who they are as people.  This makes it hard to then say ‘look, this isn’t about you…it’s about the work’, which is what professors try and teach sobbing art students during even the most gentle of critiques early on.  Many artists find it difficult to separate themselves from the objects they produce, ‘my art is personal, it’s my soul…’, which is all but impossible with mAn’s work.  If there were a list of materials for either of these pieces they’d include Artist, web cam, Internet access, and other people.  These works don’t happen without the artist, and unlike performance art, where Brecht’s 4th wall still holds, both of them are hanging out waiting for you to talk with them.  They aren’t wearing masks, despite the layer of technology.Notice, in the photo again, Nate Hill.  He’s wearing a milk man outfit.  I have met Nate and I still don’t know Nate.  I’m not sure who Nate Hill is or what he believes.  Maybe he’s a total asshole or a great guy.  I’m glad I don’t know, because Nate’s performances call into question identity and creating a critical distance for appreciating the performance and the artist.  I’ve never experienced that distance with An’s work, sunglasses not withstanding at Escape from New York.  (I couldn’t bring myself to sit with An, I had already begun to loathe my own participation on twitter and all social media, and I really didn’t think it was a critique of Marina, just a way of getting the art into #artstech).  Man on the other hand does apply certain boundaries to his performance, but through my interactions with him personally and in projects like #24hPort, I know I am still interacting with Man, not some enigma like Nate’s strangely frightening “Punch Me Panda.”  This intimacy that An and Man’s social media projects require and perpetuate after the duration of the projects (they continue to tweet and interact as people in between projects) has created an awkward relationship for critique of the work.  To critique the projects also invites personal judgment.  Personally, having met both An and Man before experiencing most of their twitter and social media projects, I have had a hard time saying anything critical of their projects.  The fact that some of the loudest criticism so far has been from anonymous douchebags claiming that Man and An have gotten ‘ink’ is absurd.  When you do something new or experimental, that should be acknowledged and discussed.  

Now we have begun the second part, the discussion of the works themselves.  The moment captured in the screenshot has passed, it’s not all going to be smiles from here on out, and for mAn, it’s going to be particularly rough in that it involves them socially.  This is the awkward part of social media art, there is no way to separate the artist from the work. They are the medium as much as the technology.  If you don’t like Man or An, you might not like their work or conversely, if you aren’t moved or engaged like Paddy, there’s no way to politely assign the blame to an inanimate object.  Any discussion of the works necessarily involves both artists, who are accessible probably at this very moment to respond to the discussion.  Carolina Miranda asked on twitter something like “what artist can you tell is an asshole just by looking at their work?”  I get that alot, “I thought you’d be a total asshole…” which I definitely can be.  With mAn’s work, they are such nice people and what I think Paddy is saying, is that they make very polite work.  It’s nice.  For most of us, nice means bland.  So, this the beginning of a longer discussion that other critics and viewers will start to discuss.  

I’ve written this long response, in part,  because I think social media also poses a broader problem that Paddy started to get to at the end of her post when thinking about self-promotion.  Building networks requires a lot of ‘liking’ and positive affirmation.  Critique, criticism, negativity, cynicism…not so much.  I feel like my ability to critique anything has been compromised by the relationships social media fosters.  This is counter-intuitive, ‘social media brings people together!”  Well,  perhaps the artist and critic should not be so engaged, so part of the community if it means we start to lose our ability to see clearly and have honest discussions without worrying about upsetting somebody or losing a few hundred followers.  

Man and An, you’re awesome people and young artists.  Welcome to the second part of your careers.  



Tim Whidden July 9, 2011 at 8:33 pm

 “the viewer has to make contact with the artist, and of course establishes a social relationship.”
Self-promotion or whatever but… 

MTAA’s TIME!® should be understood as a precursor and/or early foray into ‘social media art.’ http://mteww.com/time/ (from 1998)

Stephen Truax July 12, 2011 at 7:16 pm

As per usual, Bill, you effectively reject any work that does not mire itself in the harsh economic realities or the horrifying (and sometimes even evil) nature of the social networks of the commodity market we’re (artists) all participating in. You cite Nate Hill’s unidentifiable public personality to his credit, his slightly scary work (#PunchMePanda is but one terrifying example, the bouncing Subway riders and gargling milk women are probably more scary) more interesting than An happily waving from the other side of the screen, or Man ruminatively — his voice cracking with exhaustion — reading Tweets and carefully sticking them to a mannequin.

The idea that any public critique of an artist’s work is EVER taken with a professional level of emotional distance is absurd. The awkwardness you feel about criticizing An and Man’s work is evident in any critique of any artist — and in my experience in New York, take it with less professionalism and critical distance than any critique I ever had in art school.

Cynicism, irony, negativity, and critique are not the only methods to effectively make work. An and Man are excellent examples of where positive energy, and a genuine attempt to make something new, (I believe you refer to this as nice, and therefor bland) are successful contributions to contemporary culture. Their success is evidenced by the enormous reaction their work draws from their audience; you yourself wrote 1100 words on the subject. I would further posit that new media might be one of the best places to make this kind of an attempt — the new technology is not weighed down by 3000 years of Western art history to fuck it up. 

What An waving and smiling from behind the camera, inciting Nate and Rose to wave and smile back, or Man walking through Port Authority (arguably the most soul-crushing building in all of New York) earnestly trying to engage people to interact with him represents to me — PERSONALLY — is the possibility of something new, and happy, and positive, might actually have the potential to be successful in the 2010s.

Anonymous July 12, 2011 at 10:11 pm

I think the hope is that there’s some level of professional distance, at least with regards to the use value of criticism. I remember Brian Sholis lamenting a while back on artforum that as a critic, he really wanted to engage artists in discussion, and found it frustrating that most shunned away from it. One success of social media is that artists are actually much more willing to engage in criticism. If you believe in the value of criticism, and I’d guess most critics do, writing about social media should be immensely rewarding. 

In any event, I did not read William’s comment as being so blinded by his own interests that it distorted his view point. If there have been disputes between the two of you, maybe that’s for a different thread. 

Nate Hill July 9, 2011 at 3:30 pm

Guess since my name came up here and picture, I’ll chime in.

I like to go where the people are. If I had found popularity quickly in the traditional gallery world, I may not have found it necessary to perform in the street, subways, people’s apartments, and promoting it on twitter and blogs. But it didn’t happen that way for me, and once I saw that an alternative route of dispersion was working, I went that way even though I never made much money.

Some people call this “attention seeking” or “self promotion”. That’s
fine. My ideas are out there, and at the end of the day that is the most
important thing to me.

Personally, I don’t have any grand message about Social Media. I put my art where people see it. (Is that a message?) When I have an idea, I channel it in a way that the most people possible will experience it.  Man has also mastered this, and I hope he finds this to be a compliment! 🙂

Of course, galleries and critics can push work forward intellectually, but all too often those communities are closed, and I want everyone. That means you, your sister, and your mama too.

I think what Bill started to touch on by talking about “nice means bland”, and something that I enjoy thinking about a lot, is striking a balance in art-making between creating something intellectually interesting without making it intellectually intimidating. This is a tricky balance that I live by with my work and that, again, I admire Man for. 

Mark Billy July 9, 2011 at 3:51 pm

#twitterart is so June 30th 2011.  

Anonymous July 9, 2011 at 4:38 pm

Thx Nate! Right backatcha.

Magdasawon July 9, 2011 at 4:45 pm

Social media also brings change to the of formerly unchallenged “critic’s voice” as Paddy’s post gets immediate response from Hrav, other commenters and artist, forcing her into “explaining herself.” Some of it is pushing the discussion forward, some not so much. 

Gretta Louw July 9, 2011 at 6:58 pm

I have been following this debate on Twitter and social media art unfolding with great interest. I believe that this critical engagement with recent trends in this new branch of art practice is crucial to its development and ongoing improvement. This is true of art practice in any medium. So kudos to artfagcity for getting the ball rolling, there’s probably a lot of people who have waiting for it.

In the first place I believe that there is something valuable in breaking new ground, even if there is still far too much emphasis placed on the primacy on newness, a state of affairs which is a particular blight for new media art forms. I remember watching Man’s #24hkith, my first experience with his work, and feeling the jolt of being at my home in Berlin, late in the evening, contributing something absent-mindedly on Twitter and immediately having it fed back to me through the live video stream of his performance, knowing that it was simultaneously being received by an unknown number of other internet users as well as a live audience in New York City. There was something unexpectedly powerful in this immediate, intercontinental feedback loop and also something a little scary in how easily the internet and this technology can amplify off-hand comments, seemingly giving them more importance than they are due. The artists who identified this potential in the technology at their disposal deserve recognition for that.

Of course, as commentators have pointed out, the art practice cannot then remain at this exploratory level. It needs to then rapidly move beyond testing what the medium is capable of and into the territory of deeper content. I think in this way it becomes less relevant to talk about it as a practice based on a particular technology and more useful to examine it critically in the same way that we would evaluate other forms of performance art or public intervention/ art actions. As ultimately, most of the works that have been mentioned in the debate so far would fit comfortably into one of these two categories (to the extent at least to which it possible to categorize any art pieces according to these labels).

Based on this premise, I am looking forward to seeing work that utilizes the new developments in social media and online networking in a way that comments more strongly on these developments themselves and the impact that they have on society. Above all I think that even performance pieces that exist predominantly in the online world need to adhere to the same standard of discipline and commitment that we have come to expect (or if not, then that which we should expect) from performance artists working in more traditional ways.

Previous comments have insightfully pointed out that explicitly making these demands and being critical of artists with whom we have a social connection of some kind is much more difficult than it often is with artists in other genres. It is, however, crucial that we overcome this awkwardness because otherwise the discussion around this important work becomes nothing more than a round of back-slapping; which is why I find this debate so encouraging. I believe it should be and is possible to have a sensitive yet constructively critical discussion about performance art (in which, after all the body and person of the artist is also inextricably linked to the piece) and online performance art (as Nate Hill has referred to it) or social media art. This seems like the right time to perfect this form of  critical discussion within the relatively new realm of immediate, online feedback rounds.

Joshua Johnson July 9, 2011 at 8:27 pm

I think there is a question as to locating the consequences of the medium via its essence as a medium, versus what the artists are locating (or adding to) that essential quality through the medium. Paddy seems to have a point when she questions the value of exposing the difference between a physically present communication and the mediated interaction provided by the technology. In a readymade sense, simply by picking up video chat or Twitter you are acknowledging a technical media screen between you and the other person you are conversing with, since by placing something within the realm of art, you are separating it from its casual social function and regarding it as a thing to be reflected upon. For that reflection to occur, hoever, it seems only necessary to do it once. To not over-simplify, one should notice that there have not been a great deal of Fountains since Duchamp, or at least not ones whose rupture is instituted as a generic signifier of the status of the object qua its cultural reception. To add to the language of the readymade since Fountain is to comment on the particularities of that object as it relates to its structural significance in the present, and thus once the medium is displayed reflexively as an object, we must find new ways to challenge its limits in relation to what the culture will tolerate — the question, it seems to me, is are these artists challenging the limit of the medium, or are they merely re-iterating the qualities already inherent in the medium without further reflection? Does framing a Twitter conversation in relation to the interaction with a famous performance artist make me question the boundaries of how Twitter functions as a medium, in particular ways that were not already evident merely through reflection on the medium from personal experience? Personally, throwing in Marina Abramovic’s history and work adds little to my consideration of the medium, or at least, it seems to be a simplistic investigation of the medium in a 1+1 art kind of way. 

Jesse P. Martin July 10, 2011 at 6:58 pm

Dear To Whom It May Concern,

Is it archaic – and redundant – to end blog comments with a valediction (especially if the comment-software clearly and firstly furnishes your comments with your name, photo, links to your blog/profile/etc.)? Or is this another exciting way for an artist to exhibit/express the “SELF-PROMOTION ALL THE TIME” (ironic?) practice-tactic mentioned above? For artists who are supposed to be at that heady threshold of the “second-part of (their) career” (and torchbearers of “new or experimental” Twitter &/or Social Media Art movements), it seems like a rather conservative tic/throwback to the quill & papyrus days of yore.

Style & syntax matter – especially since these are text-based programs/forms/forums. This is what I get from what Hypothete wrote above – and a Tweet he sent to AFC regarding this also makes me wonder what kind of Twitter Art (TwitArt, or TwArt) that a resurrected/zombie Greenberg would fancy (prob. ASCII, Weiner’s sexytweets, any shortened URL, etc.).

Also, one of the reasons that the conversation about the types of TwArt above so quickly turns into conversations about (what I’d call) the fake-y, cloying “positive affirmation” culture that permeates much of the conspicuously-ambitious ArtWorld is because the work itself is supersaturated with the tone & veneer of a that very careerist lifestyle/worldview/lemming-hording mentality (and is already “tak(ing) place” in those physical spaces). It kinda makes me want to respond to it full-throttle in sarcastic-hater-troll-asshole mode, because that’s the critical gag-reflex that work & conversations like this trigger.

Warmest Regards & Truly Yours,


Anonymous July 10, 2011 at 8:24 pm

Dear http://jessepatrickmartin.blogspot.com/,

Thank you for taking the time to point this out.


Jesse P. Martin July 10, 2011 at 8:54 pm


Jesse P. Martin July 10, 2011 at 10:58 pm

*whew* & *thank you*

Does the rainbow-feathers- & Mac-bearing table in the 24hKith pics have taller legs at one end, or is it keystoning as the result of digital photography magic (and/or wonky flooring)? Also, why a suit and no shoes?

John Pyper July 11, 2011 at 8:24 pm

Now we get to the important questions: Why a suit and no shoes?

Jennifer Chan July 10, 2011 at 8:25 pm

“Art that does little more than demonstrate how technology works isn’t very interesting.” 

Patty I could not agree more. I have been to a few openings where I have seen with skype/twitter feeds with people sitting in front of the camera and saying “hi” to the audience or doing random things, and running out of things to do. While that is still real time performance the act of being present via a remote camera is not that novel or amusing and does little to show what the artist’s relationship or opinion on widespread use of the technology is. For the same reason I am hesitant to livestream openings of exhibitions of web-based media in gallery spaces, as that image of people just walking around a normative exhibition space looks real boring, distantiated and actually non-interactive on webcam. 

Will Brand July 11, 2011 at 3:46 pm

Dear “Jennifer Chan”,

I am here at and transmitting a message mediated by Disqus to you. Please reflect on the implications of this transmission.



Guest July 10, 2011 at 8:30 pm

here’s the real twitter art: http://twitter.com/grey

Shamus Clisset July 11, 2011 at 3:35 pm

I just see this stuff as the necessary baby steps taken when new formats and media are introduced and when artists start to incorporate them into their work. I think it’s kind of inevitable for people to just incorporate and juxtapose the technology into these kinds of works before it progresses further. 

there’s nothing wrong with the way the works mentioned have incorporated the technology so far, but hopefully it builds toward something more. and when someone finally really flips the script on it, it could potentially become really compelling. 

the key is to do or make something that really transforms and creates something new out of what’s currently possible. just inserting Twitter, or any other platform, into a gallery or studio context is only the beginning.

Jonas D Dodge July 12, 2011 at 6:22 pm


BULKKAâ„¢ July 13, 2011 at 12:45 am

We are looking for new artists to feature!
Get in touch!

Ardmara July 12, 2011 at 6:25 pm
Joy Garnett July 14, 2011 at 1:54 pm

I wonder if now, after Paddy’s posts and the various threads, since folks have had a chance to think about it all some more, whether it might be a cool thing for each of the artists here (me, An, Man) to engage in something more formal like a round table, or better yet, a series of interviews, to flesh things out. There’s a lot more to discover and uncover about each artist’s work, including with regard to our distinctly different uses of social media (twitter included)…. It would be interesting, and definitely useful, imho, to be able to focus on specific questions /challenges, not on the fly but in a way that would allow some thought and reflection before answering….just a thought 😉

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