Maker Culture – The Collective Artwork


Week 4: February 8 – 14

We will look at concepts and formal investigations of maker culture and how it has brought about collective forms of narrative.  How might we think of recent trends in maker culture, peer-to-peer systems, and online cultural production as constituting a new model for collective narrative? Our study will involve an investigation of glitch processes: the mistakes, errors, artifacts and aberrations of digital processes have in recent years found a central place in contemporary media art, where emergent low-resolution glitch forms and other so-called “accidents” of artifacts are often native to the medium. Current hactivist and DIY movements and their techniques will be explored to better understand how glitch is a unifying concept that brings together alternative communities of collaborating artists.


Due in two weeks: February 22


Marc Garrett – Guest Speaker

Marc Garrett, co-director of Furtherfield Gallery in London, will be speaking in class next week via Adobe Connect. He will discuss Furtherfield’s focus on the art of the social practice and the concept of DIWO (Do it With Others).

Research Critique Summary – Furtherfield – Maker Culture – DIWO

Write a 400 word essay discussing the concept of DIWO (Do it With Others), as explored in the essay, the Furtherfield Website, and Marc Garrett’s lecture next week. Describe how DIWO relates to the concepts we have done this semester in class, such as Open Source Thinking, the Third Space, and the Collective Narrative. You can also refer to the micro-projects we have done as as Social Broadcasting, Tele-Stroll, the Collective Body, the Telematic Embrace, . How does DIWO describe the course so far., by summarizing what we have been doing this semester, and feel free to choose examples, screenshots, and other media from our topics, lectures, readings and projects. Feel free to use material you have already written from your research critiques.

The goal of the research critique summary is to synthesize your thoughts and observations on the art of the social practice as expressed in the essay by Ruth Catlow and Marc Garrett, as well as the lecture by Marc Garrett. Be sure to also visit the Furtherfield Website and read about Furtherfield and its history. The main concept for your essays is: Maker Culture – DIWO.

Here are instructions for the research critique:

  • Create a new post on your blog incorporating relevant hyperlinks, images, video, etc
  • Be sure to reference and quote from the reading to provide context for your critique
  • Apply the “Research” category
  • Apply appropriate tags
  • Add a featured image
  • Post a comment on at least one other research post prior to the following class
  • Be sure your post is formatted correctly, is readable, and that all media and quotes are DISCUSSED in the essay, not just used as introductory material



The Collective Artwork

This is a narrative form we find in the artwork that is created by the many, rather than the one, the art of the social practice, in which there is an interaction and collaborative effort to produce the work. In the artworks we are looking at today, each work is designed by the artist as a SYSTEM of interactions for the viewer to participate in.

In connection with open source thinking, the collective narrative is a sharing and open exchange of conversation, ideas, information, and media that leads to a synthesis of voices: forming a common thread among peers.

Surrealist games, such as the Exquisite Corpse, is an example of a collective artwork and we will exercise this game as an activity that teaches an unique appropriate to narrative that is highly participatory.

Exquisite corpse drawing by Man Ray, Yves Tanguy, Joan Miro, Max Morise; 1928

The Happenings and performance art of the 1960s, such as Cut Piece were seminal forms of collective narrative, in which audience members were invited to participate. We have already studied Cut Piece to see how the viewer participated by cutting off the clothing of Yoko Ono.

Yoko Ono, Cut Piece (1964)

And so too Hole-in-Space by Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz is an example of collective narrative in that the audience interaction and communication was the content of the work, while the artists were the designers of the interaction.

Hole in Space, Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz (1980)

And of course two of the artworks we are studying today, The World’s Longest Sentence by Douglas Davis, along with Please Change Beliefs by Jenny Holzer, were two early works created for the Web that utilized its distributed nature to create a form of collective narrative that was global.

And then finally today’s social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, enable collective narrative through the postings, hashtags, and status updates that involve many-to-many forms of interaction.

And finally, many of the tools we use regularly today, such as Google Docs, enable new forms of collective narrative, not just in art, but in the way we work together, design together, create together, and do business together. With the advent of the Internet, and today’s Maker culture, the subject of next week’s class, we will see how of the art of the social practice has become pervasive in all aspects of our lives, work, and creative forms.

Review of the Collective Body

We will now look at the Collective Body project in our Flickr Group Page. Let’s discuss the results of the project and how it constitutes a form of the Collective Artwork:

  • How does the collective body project constitute a collective narrative?
  • How does the project reflect on the way we interact collectively in social media?
  • How does the project depart from the traditional portrait, or even the selfie, as a portrait of multiple selves and bodies, or perhaps what we might call a group selfie?

Artworks for Review

Screenshot 2014-08-25 13.51.38

The World’s Longest Collaborative Sentence, created by Douglas Davis for a survey exhibition of his work in 1994 and donated to the Whitney in 1995, is a “classic” of Internet art. The work allowed users to contribute to a never-ending sentence, anticipating today’s blog environments and collective narratives created collaboratively via the Internet. Although the work is no longer active, it originally allowed anyone from any computer in the world, to add to the ongoing sentence, creating a long collective sentence, not by any one person (including the artist), but by many viewer-participants.

Douglas Davis (1933 – 2011) Following his studies, from 1960 onward Davis was active as an art critic and editor for publications such as Art in America and Newsweek. From 1969, he worked as a painter, and beginning in 1967, created artistic events and performances. From 1970 onward, his works included video tapes and video action pieces. Davis’ works are rooted in Fluxus and Concept Art. He pioneered the artistic use of television and radio broadcasts. With live performances in galleries and museums, and video tapes of action pieces, he instigated dialogues with the viewer before the monitor. The goal of his action pieces was to overcome traditional, one-sided communication practices through personified interactions. Since 1994, Davis used the Internet for his artistic action pieces.


The Telegarden by Ken Goldberg is a robotic art installation that allows web users to view and interact with a remote garden filled with living plants. Members could plant, water, and monitor the progress of seedlings via the tender movements of an industrial robot arm. Although this work is no longer active, it was a ground-breaking artwork that allowed viewers to tend a community garden from their Web interface. It encouraged the idea of the collective artwork by enabling a conversation among viewers via a discussion forum, thus like a traditional community garden, encouraging participants to reflect on the idea of gardening at a distance. We might ask what the implications are by remote gardening: are we disconnected from nature? Or are we finding new ways of engaging with it via the Internet.

Ken Goldberg is craigslist Distinguished Professor of New Media at UC Berkeley, where he and his students investigate robotics, art, and social media. Goldberg directs the Automation Sciences Research lab and is Faculty Director of the CITRIS Data and Democracy Initiative. Goldberg earned dual degrees in Electrical Engineering and Economics from the University of Pennsylvania (1984) and MS and PhD degrees from Carnegie Mellon University (1990). He joined the UC Berkeley faculty in 1995 where he is Professor of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research (IEOR), with secondary appointments in Electrical Engineering/Computer Science (EECS), Art Practice, the School of Information, and in the Department of Radiation Oncology at the UCSF Medical School.

Screenshot 2015-08-12 14.19.19

IMPORTANT: Be sure and visit the project Website of Please Change Beliefs, in order to see the work. Then select a truism and follow the instructions where it says “click here.” Then edit the truism and click on “Add.” Then scroll down the page so you can see all of the truisms and the various versions, including your own.

Please Change Beliefs invites viewers to remix the artist’s well-known “truisms,” aphoristic commentary on society and politics. By asking a worldwide audience to edit truisms stored in an online database, the work suggests that there is no longer any such thing as a singular interpretation of truth in the age of the global network.

With Please Change Beliefs, the artist turns to the Web as a public space for her truisms (iconic truths), but in the postmodern age, do we hold any one definition of the “truth?” In this work, she asks the viewer to collaborate in this dilemma by editing the truth, according to personal taste, whim, perception. Often ironic, sometimes absurd, the truth here becomes a collective narrative in a globally distributed database.

Jenny Holzer is mostly known for her large-scale public displays that include billboard advertisements, projections on buildings and other architectural structures, as well as illuminated electronic displays. The main focus of her work is the use of words and ideas in public space. Originally utilizing street posters, LED signs became her most visible medium, though her diverse practice incorporates a wide array of media including bronze plaques, painted signs, stone benches and footstools, stickers, T-shirts, paintings, photographs, sound, video, light projection, the Internet, and a Le Mans race car.


Christopher Baker, Hello World (2011)

Hello World! is a large-scale audio visual installation comprised of thousands of unique video diaries gathered from the internet. The project is a meditation on the contemporary plight of democratic, participative media and the fundamental human desire to be heard.

On one hand, new media technologies like YouTube have enabled voices to express themselves at an alarming rate. On the other hand, no new technologies have emerged that allow us to listen to all of these new public speakers. Each video consists of a single lone individual speaking candidly to a (potentially massive) imagined audience from a private space such as a bedroom, kitchen, or dorm room. The multi-channel sound composition glides between individuals and the group, allowing viewers to listen in on unique speakers or become immersed in the cacophony. Viewers are encouraged to dwell in the space.

This work suggests that perhaps we are “alone together” in the vast space of the Internet. While YouTube and other social media allow individual expression, are we actually heard, except those few viral videos that reach millions. This work immerses the viewer in the space of this chatter, much like Listening Post, to ponder the question of whether or not social media is truly a social medium.

Christopher Baker is an artist whose work engages the rich collection of social, technological and ideological networks present in the urban landscape. He creates artifacts and situations that reveal and generate relationships within and between these networks. He is currently an Assistant Professor in the Art and Technology Studies department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Collective Artwork – Glitch Practices

First, we will have a collective class reading of the following essay by Rosa Menkman, “Glitch Studies Manifesto,” while viewing her glitch work, Radio Dada (2008):

Micro-Project #5: The Exquisite Glitch

Will will then work on Micro-Project #5: The Exquisite Glitch project in class, beginning with an exquisite corpse project. The Exquisite corpse, also known as exquisite cadaver (from the original French term cadavre exquis) or rotating corpse, is a method by which a collection of words or images is collectively assembled. Each collaborator adds to a composition in sequence, either by following a rule (e.g.) “The adjective noun adverbverb the adjective noun“, as in “The green duck sweetly sang the dreadful dirge”) or by being allowed to see only the end of what the previous person contributed. As preparation for this micro-project, we undergo a game-playing exercise, in which we will take a sheet paper, each of us will write one word of the sentence, fold the sheet, and pass it around until the sentence is complete. The surrealists used this technique to produce dream images and ideas: how does the collective form of creation contribute to a work of art that is situated outside the individual’s rational mind?

See Micro-Project #5: The Exquisite Glitch for additional details.

Glitch projects for optional review: