How We Do “Art” Now: Facebooking etc. as Art

Via Boris Groys, “The Weak Universalism,” e-flux 15 (Apr. 2010) [and as a pdf].

What role is left for artists when strong universal gestures are perceived as bankrupt? We’re left with weak gestures—available only to small or semi-closed participant communities. The premises: if

  1. everybody is an artist (Beuys) and . . .
  2. the avant-garde artist is a secularized apostle repeating weak gestures (à la Agamben/Benjamin); and, further, . . .
  3. the avant-garde artist is part of a group in which participants and spectators coincide, making weak signs with low visibility (e.g., a social network “circle,” a small public, perhaps)—against the strong signs with high visibility of 20C mass culture (the big Public); then

. . . art is recycling with your friends (a Zero Waste approach).

This art need not look like art as we knew it:

Today . . . everyday life begins to exhibit itself—to communicate itself as such—through design or through contemporary participatory networks of communication, and it becomes impossible to distinguish the presentation of the everyday from the everyday itself. The everyday becomes a work of art—there is no more bare life, or, rather, bare life exhibits itself as artifact. Artistic activity is now something that the artist shares with his or her public on the most common level of everyday experience.

So this art, nonetheless, tells us about our world, as we normally take art to do:

art still has something to say about the modern world: it can demonstrate its transitory character, its lack of time; and to transcend this lack of time through a weak, minimal gesture requires very little time—or even no time at all.

Where Have You Been, My Darling?

Thumbnail Profile Picture Snapshot 16 May 2010

FB can be art (I always thought so).


3 thoughts on “How We Do “Art” Now: Facebooking etc. as Art

  1. FB = art, really?

    “It must be strange to be an icon, even if that’s what you’ve chosen for yourself. Although, I guess in this world, of branding, of Facebook, of photo-retouching and plastic surgery and cybersex and virtual everything, we’re all icons, things instead of people, things instead of artists, and our art, if we have any, is a product, like our lives and bodies. Maybe the difference is that some people are good at being icons, and others mediocre. I don’t really need to be a famous playwright. But, I don’t want to be an image, or a thing. If you have to be a thing, instead of a full person, maybe it’s best to be a famous icon? ”

    This passage struck me as so insightful. To be a mediocre “brand” or icon just seems like a waste of time, and perhaps a recipe for unhappiness for an artist. With all the self-promotion we’re expected to do, one can fall into this trap. If you can make the branding work for you, at a high level, that seems probably worth it; otherwise… probably best to just get to work on the art itself.

    • I’d say “sometimes”: perhaps I should question-mark that statement. I know that many artists (musicians, fine artists and other performer) now circulate art and organise performances, exhibitions, etc., thru FB, and that their audience is often fellow creatives. (Of course, most of the activity on FB isn’t art.)

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