Evolution of Social Media

As the root of my concept is based around the use of social media it seemed logical to research how various platform have evolved over the years and to look into how they have began to be incorporated into contemporary art.

Firstly I discovered this info-graphic timeline of development of social media websites.


I then found an insightful article by Ben Davis on artnet magazine website. In this piece he analyses the various relationships between social media and contemporary art by using a method called the semiotic square. The principle of the semiotic square is explained below:

“Basically, the Semiotic Square is a way of visually representing a matrix of possible relationships generated by a given opposition. The idea is relatively simple: Any principal opposition between contrary terms — between “a” and “b” — can be expanded to include a secondary pair of “contradictory” terms, “non-a” and “non-b.” These contradictory terms have a natural relation of affinity with the respective contrary terms of the original binary, thus allowing you to form a kind of map of potential relationships within a given presupposed opposition.

A useful example for me is the opposition between “law” and “crime.” It’s not too difficult to see how this simple binary implies two additional terms that relate to the original terms, but are actually their internal negations. What you might call “non-law” — people who act in the name of the law, but act unjustly (your corrupt cops, your dictators, and so on) — is both a negation of what “law” stands for, but also has a clear relationship with the concept of “crime.” And similarly, “non-crime” — those who break the law in order to act in the name of justice (your Robin Hoods, your Rosa Parks) — both contradicts the normal idea of criminality, and has an affinity with the sense of “law,” as justice.”

In this way Davis presents the possible links between and uses of social media within art. The first example is artists using social media as a publicity platform for their work.
The second is art with social media as the subject; it is about social media but does not interact with it.
The third involves artists producing interactive work via social media or using it to develop collaborative projects.
Examples of amateur art that relate to social media would be fan-made videos or mods for games.

I also discovered a useful list of artists utilising social media in their work on the website of Complex magazine. Here I discovered the work of the following artists:

An Xiao – The Artist is Kinda Present

This interactive performance piece was inspired by Marina Abramovic’s performance and the New York Museum of Modern Art, “The Artist is Present”. For this piece Abramovic spent all day, every day, for three months sat at one end of a table in an empty gallery space. Visitors would sit at the other end of the table, facing the artist. There was no talking, touching, no conscious interaction between them. But Abramovic’s aim was to achieve “a luminous state of being” and pass this to the visitors, a kind of psychic energy transmission to the audience.

In An Xiao’s she sat in he gallery space and invited visitors to interact with her via a mobile phone or Twitter. The instructions read:

Sit down with the artist.
Find a comfortable position.

Be present wih the artist in any of the following ways:
A text message to: [PHONE NUMBER]
A tweet to @anxiaostudio.
The artist will respond in kind.
When you have reached a satisfactory connection, or you simply grow bored,
you may leave.

The objective of this piece was to investigate the nature of relationships in contemporary society, in a culture constantly permeated and mediated by technology such as mobile phones and social media.

Rina Dweck – Project Face

In Project Face Rina Dweck produced and uploaded a new Facebook profile picture every day for a year. As may be expected from an artist most were very creative and often took inspiration from famous works of art, for example in one image she painted her face with shades of red and blue in a graphic style inspired by Shepard Fairey’s famous Barrack Obama “Hope” poster. These photos were deliberately ‘created’; transforming and playing with her imageas an exploration of how we portray ourselves online and interact with social media. They are also incredibly playful, many surreal, full of colour, face paints and costumes. I think this is an interesting way to approach the subject as it encourages the audience to consider how and why they communicate theirselves visually via sites such as Facebook. Personally I began to think about the fact that many of us represent ourselves with one photo for a period of time that usually spans weeks of months. Different people are influenced in this decision by what they are trying to tell us about themselves; they’re pretty, they’re fun-loving, they’re a performer, athlete, artist, dog-lover, or perhaps even shy or private about their looks. Regardless of the reasons this remains and idealised view of us, a deliberately chosen representation of a facet of ourselves that we are trying to promote.

This reminds me of the idea that many have followed of photographing themselves every day for a year which is then turned into a stop-frame animation of their changing faces over the course of 365 days.

Nastya Ptichek – Emoji Nation

In this series Ptichek took famous paintings, such as detail from the ceiling the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo or Dennis Hopper’s urban scenes, and overlaid them with familiar terms, emojis and text from computers and websites. For example she positioned Edward Munch’s “The Scream” next to a similar looking emoji from the messaging app WhatsApp. This work explores how we read images and how the introduction of modern social dialect brings a different interpretation.

Lee Walton – Fbook, What My Friends Are Doing On Facebook

For this video project Walton produced short clips, most around 30 seconds, visualising his friends status updates. In one titled “Kristen Griffon Marcozzi is watching the clock turn to 5pm so I can enjoy a glass of wine.” the video shows Walton pouring himself a glass of wine, then cuts to him sitting down at a table, facing the camera, accompanied by a loud clock ticking noise.
I found this work interesting because the literal visualisation of the things people broadcast or the way in which they phrase them can result in a humorous visual interpretation while also asking the audience to consider how their own updates might be updated.

Rachel Knoll – Listen & Repeat

Inspired by the ancient proverb “If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it does it make a sound?” is reimagined as “If a tweet happens in the forest and no one is there to hear it did it happen?”
Knoll placed speakers linked up to live Twitter feeds into trees around a forest in Washington. The artists aim was to consider how modern technology helps us to stay connected to each other but weakens our connection with the natural world.
For me it raises interesting questions about what and why we share on websites such as Twitter and what is the purpose of it if there is no audience? Logically we would surely only post in hope of some kind of response; a like, a comment, a resulting conversation. Yet for many this activity has become such a habit that this conscious thought of who will see it and how it will be received seems often secondary to the desire to simply share. These public forums are for many fulfilling the same role that may once have been held by a private diary or a phone call to a loved one. Does this mean that we are sacrificing our privacy and indeed our intimacy in return for validation via attention and popularity? I am curious about how this has become more socially accepted in recent times.

This research has helped me to identify that although the concept of my work is based around the subject of social media I do not intend to directly involve the interactive side of this media within my work, rather I aim to produce work that examines how it is involved in our lives and influences us in terms of socialising, behaviour and judgements of others. However I am considering introducing an interactive aspect when the work is exhibited. If I pursue the idea of creating pieces that aim to portray a kind of narrative of an individual ‘type’ of person then it would be interesting to ask the audience to give a response to this work and see if they read it in the way I have intended.

I have also decided to produce a set of questions that I will ask my peers regarding their use of and views on social media to open a discussion that will help to increase my own understanding and develop my ideas.










One thought on “Evolution of Social Media

  1. Pingback: Stage Review | angharadfnd

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