Social Media Is Like Performance, Says Hans Ulrich Obrist

by Corinna Kirsch on February 11, 2014 Blurb

A view from Tirana, Albania where Edi Rama commissioned the re-painting of Soviet-era buildings.

A view from Tirana, Albania where Edi Rama commissioned the re-painting of Soviet-era buildings.

Well, this happened. World’s most-famous traveling curator Hans Ulrich Obrist chatted with the Prime Minister of Albania (and artist) Edi Rama in this month’s Artforum. Obrist brings up social media, and how its “model of continuous interaction” might reshape the world, even museums and biennials. One problem: Albania might not be ready for that. I’ve included some excerpts from the interview below; it’s full of the lofty observations about how the world works that Obrist’s never short on.

OBRIST: Biennials put different places on the map. But at the same time, the biennial is obviously not a sustainable presence: Every two years a city gets an injection and then nothing. You need that kind of injection every day, not every few years.

RAMA: Yes, and that’s how I want to see Albania and Tirana and the Balkans as a whole: as a kind of repeatable and recombinant event.

OBRIST: Performance—ritual—is paradoxically enduring because it’s infinitely iterable. And I don’t think it’s far-fetched to connect this idea of the iterable event to your use of social media—a model of continuous interaction.

Performance is repeatable, biennials are not. Social media is repeatable, like performance. The two go on.

RAMA: I was pretty much the first person to use Twitter for public debate, or really at all, here. And this sort of debate in real time is fantastic. As prime minister, I decided to hold regular sessions on Twitter. I go online for two hours answering people’s questions.

OBRIST: But how many Albanians actually have Internet access?

RAMA: We’ve made a lot of progress.

Whoops. Only 45.3 percent of Albanians use the Internet. Obrist tries again.

OBRIST: How can these digital platforms translate into physical public space?

RAMA: Well, one thing I want to do is to build an interfaith museum. Albania is a unique case because Muslims, Christians, Catholics, Orthodox, all coexist in peace here. We had a period of horrible persecution under Communist rule, churches blown up with dynamite and religious artworks burned in the streets. And yet we also, historically, have had an atmosphere of great tolerance.

And…the answer (on how to translate digital platforms into physical space) is an old-fashioned museum. Maybe it’s not time to reinvent the wheel just yet, not when Twitter, it’s safe to say, is not everyone’s global alternative.

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