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Art in the age of the network and the mechanical

Art in the age of the network is of an act, a process. Since its a process, variables of the process become a part of Network Arts  (or Social Arts) makeup, its language. Variables like inclusion, exclusion, interactions, routines, procedures, iterations, protocols.

A process through a network adds another layer of elements; hubs, connectors, permission givers or pace makers; there are lots of names. The simplest diagram of the network effect of the social network is laid out by the tipping point, here:

  • Connectors are the people who “link us up with the world … people with a special gift for bringing the world together.”[6] They are “a handful of people with a truly extraordinary knack [… for] making friends and acquaintances”. [7] He characterizes these individuals as having social networks of over one hundred people. To illustrate, Gladwell cites the following examples: the midnight ride of Paul Revere, Milgram’s experiments in the small world problem, the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” trivia game, Dallas businessman Roger Horchow, and Chicagoan Lois Weisberg, a person who understands the concept of the weak tie. Gladwell attributes the social success of Connectors to “their ability to span many different worlds [… as] a function of something intrinsic to their personality, some combination of curiosity, self-confidence, sociability, and energy.”[8]
  • Mavens are “information specialists”, or “people we rely upon to connect us with new information.”[9] They accumulate knowledge, especially about the marketplace, and know how to share it with others. Gladwell cites Mark Alpert as a prototypical Maven who is “almost pathologically helpful”, further adding, “he can’t help himself”.[10] In this vein, Alpert himself concedes, “A Maven is someone who wants to solve other people’s problems, generally by solving his own”.[11] According to Gladwell, Mavens start “word-of-mouth epidemics”[12] due to their knowledge, social skills, and ability to communicate. As Gladwell states, “Mavens are really information brokers, sharing and trading what they know”.[13]
  • Salesmen are “persuaders”, charismatic people with powerful negotiation skills. They tend to have an indefinable trait that goes beyond what they say, which makes others want to agree with them. Gladwell’s examples include California businessman Tom Gau and news anchor Peter Jennings, and he cites several studies about the persuasive implications of non-verbal cues, including a headphone nod study (conducted by Gary Wells of the University of Alberta and Richard Petty of the University of Missouri) and William Condon’s cultural microrhythms study.
  • Un-related graphic:

    Social, or Network art forces people to function in certain roles according to the logic of the network. Social art engages. It interacts with the environment. Street art is an example because it changes the observers relation to their environment:

    You are pulled into the moment with the art piece. It changes where you are and what your doing. It makes your eyes interact with it. It forces itself upon you, it requires your mind to become preoccupied.

    I’ve spent a while finding what I would consider Social or Network art, art that acts upon, with, or through people. A lot of street art requires a very low level of engagement, like the one above and the one below.

    There are some art-pieces that require slightly more engagement, more of an interaction with a process. The following takes slightly more engagement for the observer or participant :

    Similar is the ‘Touch a Stranger’ project, where someone asks two strangers to touch and then they take a picture:

    And hugs

    I also really like the work of Michael Crowe, who has some interesting projects.

    In Project Orange he asked people to show up at a place and time and hold two oranges and he would take a picture of them and leave:

    Michael Crowe is also working on sending a letter to everyone in the world:

    Where Dadaists in the mechanic era fought to strip the aura from art, people in the network era are stripping art of its structure entirely, making it about a process and an engagement. Artists are  moving from focusing on the creation of an object of desire, and instead are creating a process of desire. A process people want to be engaged in. As Nichols says “Engagement with this process becomes the object of fetishzation” … “Cybernetic interaction emphasizes the fetishist rather than the fetish object.” (p632).

    One of the most famous Social Artist’s is probably Marina Abramović, who recently did an art-piece entitled The Artist is Present where she sat and stared into other peoples eyes as they stared into hers.

    A lot of people cried:

    (Another work by Marina Abroamovic tested the relation of the audience to the artist, but I won’t go into that so here is a link: )

    An example of the process being completely thrown into the hands of the ‘audience’, or the audience becoming the artist, is seen here:

    Disposable Movement people give out disposable cameras with a stamp and address on them. They get the cameras back and post the images to the website.

    Strangers taking pictures

    I’m keeping an eye out for Social Art, and trying to figure out what lies within the realm of art induced by this Network/Cybernetic period of time.


    1. Kknight wrote:

      I love this post, Alex. I admit I’m a sucker for art that asks me to physically engage in some way. I like the way you’ve situated this type of art encounter within networked society. Can you do more to draw connections between the two? What is the relationship between our mediated and technological networks and the work shown here? Are you arguing that these artists fall within Gladwell’s categories?

      Thursday, September 30, 2010 at 4:10 pm | Permalink
    2. Very interesting. I had only see Marina’s work, so these others were new to me. I must admit, Hugs, is extremely creepy to me. But I like the intrusion into the audience’s space.

      Friday, October 1, 2010 at 12:23 am | Permalink
    3. Janis wrote:

      Thanks a lot for that extremely cool post.

      Friday, December 24, 2010 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

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