Project Social Life

Project Social Life is an interactive performance piece by Social Club that explores the control of social media over a person’s real life decisions and our willingness to let it happen and shape our digital identity. This will play out over Instagram Story, using the poll function as our voting system. Social Club will spend a day together, with ADM as a meeting point. All is as per usual, except on this day all our actions will be curated by the social media public. The process as follows — we pose the questions, they give suggestions,  we run a poll, they have 10 minutes to vote, we execute.

We gave the audiences complete control over our lives on this day, including day to day doings such as eating and travelling. The audience can also call for us to execute unconventional deeds with no discretion to our levels of comfort. In this performance, the audience assumes the pseudo role of social media.

We performed Project Social Life on 14th April 2018. Social Club created a new instagram account by the handle @projectsociallife_, with a following of 51. They were mostly called in by publicity through our personal social media channels, and therefore consist mainly of our followers.

The following trailer will provide you with a better idea of what went down:

password: projectsociallife

This performance art doubles as a social experiment whereby we explore the metaphysical utopian quality of the social space. We curate our social media personas by selecting what to show and what not to show on our page. Therefore, through this curated snapshot of our day, we create a utopian narrative and social identity for ourselves. In this case, a very happy one.

The second half of our trailer showcases a heavier reality beyond those curated clips. It is testament to our ability to create a pseudo utopian reality through our instagram stories.

The biggest takeaway from this performance is the effect that even though we provide the social audience with decision making power, we as social media curators possess a certain level of choice and authority.

[name of project]

PROGRESS REPORT —
solid idea, definite plan, yet to find a name for our project

[name of project] is an interactive performance piece that explores the control of social media over a person’s real life decisions and our willingness to let it happen and shape our digital identity. This will play out over Instagram Story, using the poll function as our voting system. There will be two parties posting pre-determined questions at the same time. However, the choices will be decided by the other group and the audience will decide between the choices. The outcome will then apply to the other party. As such, the party will have no control over their day, which is solely determined by the choices the other party provides, and the choice chosen by the audience over Instagram Story. Our decisions and actions for the entire day is dictated by social media and ultimately the people behind.

The Profound Art of Networked Practice

Networked practice is indisputably one of the most revolutionary media in art to date. The engagement of social media has assimilated into the daily, who is to say how far it has burgeoned as a lifestyle, let alone an artistic media. What seems important to me is that we understand the blurred lines between the art, the philosophy, the science, the life in network practice. This contemporary world is highly homogenised, and our biggest development is probably the ability to work around distance and difference, creating a tolerance through our sense of proximity and similarity. That is my personal sentiment.

Dr Maria Chatzichristodoulou (Maria X) spoke about telematic practice at the Art of the Networked Practice Online Symposium on 29 March 2018. She is the Associate Professor in Performance and New Media at London South Bank University (LSBU), and has also worked as a curator, producer, performer, writer and community organiser.

She cites James Baldwin, an American Philosopher, for having put out a favourable definition of telematic practice. He refers to it as “the relation between two or more relatively independent things or systems that hinder, limit or otherwise affect one another”, which Maria X finds interesting for its light on the “interpersonal potential of telematic performances”.

Maria X believes that “telematic performances, like all performances, are about relationships between systems and people”, and “through those interactions they affect others and are affected by others”. I second that, the potential of network practice lies loosely in the interpersonal relationship, but sharply on how the being and the media effect on each other.

“and that is the difference between live performance and recorded performance.”

The prime takeaway form this symposium was, from my personal objective, the difference between live and recorded performance. Maria X mentioned that “unlike other screen practices, telematic performances transform the screen or a projection surface to the place of a live encounter.”

Perhaps, it could also be said that in this metaphysical bandwidth, networked media is a vehicle, transportation for not just distanced communication but also emotional proximity and even physical experience.

“In that sense, the projected image on screen, together with the live performance, become space-time continuum. They connect the audience and performers across geographical boundaries.”

I thought it was apt that Maria X referred to the act of networked practice as a “space-time continuum”. And as we explored the spacial aggregation of networked media, the definitive term of “time continuum” perplexed me. Had time also been aggregated through this practice? Something Maria X said had helped put my thoughts in perspective. She mentioned that live performances were a “perpetual disappearance of their own enactment. On the other hand, their equal dependance on recording technologies mean that those performances intentionally or unintentionally leak traces, which means they self-document.”

The self-documenting and self-augmenting nature of the telematic performances are what makes the performance candid and affecting in live time, a real experience. And to me it is perhaps what makes it a revolutionary media for performance art and philosophy and living.

An example of unconventional telematic performance, as cited by Maria X, was Blast Theory whose work is a fusion of interactive media, digital broadcasting and live performance. She referred to them as an artistic group that does not “develop telematic works in the old sense over a screen”. Lucky for me, Matt Adams of Blast Theory was scheduled to speak the next day.

Matt Adams is a believer of the utopian possibility to create social relationships over the internet. His works provoke and are provoked by the idea of private ownership and profit as the “dominant mean in the landscape” of networked practice. “The idea of connecting people remotely seems rather quaint to me as an idea that it is in and on itself full of possibilities of social forms.”

What really captivated me was Matt Adams ability to see through the selfish utility of networked media and realise the overwhelmingly under-explored potential of the form. His idea of open source is one that can truly be accessed by all, as he described, a “utopia” of some sort where information and research may burgeon through this shared space.

“There is a kind of utopian sense of possibility. The very act of connecting people is itself a radical question and it creates new social relationships. It’s a new form of possibility and I don’t have any answers to this, but my question is where exactly did we make the profound mistake that have brought us to the place that we are today, because those dreams as far as I’m concerned have rarely been delivered on, and when they have been delivered on the commons that have been created have entirely been privatised.”

My stand on this issue is that the idea of privatising a shared intelligence is another intrinsic result of selfish human nature, our want to possess and need to create some sort of hierarchy so that we grow individually and not as a collective species. Perhaps, networked media and its collective nature is what will liberate us from our selfish retardation from the development we would have reached if we would just ‘do it with others’. But the gist of Matt Adams philosophy is that “this is what has happened to our internet”, and his works explore that notion in more ways than one.

Kidnap (1998) by Blast Theory

Kidnap is an interactive performance art piece that is provoked by the insurgence of lottery culture and the obsession of how one’s life could be changed through a singular act. The blurb of this piece according to the Blast Theory is simply that “the winners of a lottery get kidnapped”. And the performance is exactly that — participants who pay £10 to get kidnapped, whereby ten participants were chosen, and two winners were “snatched in broad daylight to a secret location”.

According to Matt Adams, the Spanner Case was a major inspiration for this piece. In this case, a group of gay sadomasochists were apprehended by the police upon finding VHS tapes of them engaging in hardcore sexual activity.

The case escalated to an international concern as a precedent case, which is a major basis of judicial passing in Wales. What actually concerned them was the verdict that by consenting to sadomasochists acts is equivalent to no defence. And therefore, being sentenced to acts of self-mutilation, became a precedent to the legality of body modification, tattoos, piercings. How blood was drawn from your body was now something that you could not consent to, and that the state had the right to interfere.

Matt Adams also highlighted that “the interest in power and power relationships” was another thread at the heart of this piece. The work explored how “power flows between people, between an audience and a set of performers”.

My favourite part of Kidnap is probably its ability to transfer the creative courage and power from the artist to the performer to the audience. It is this salience that creates an unstageable act of artistic research, a candid experience not just for those who participate in it, but also for those who watch it.

“We were fascinated to try and foreground the ways in which we experience power and play with power. Sadomasochism being a prime example in and of itself, since it is fascinating in performative terms.

It is the pretending of something with sufficient fidelity and force to become real in some way. You are acting out some set of power relationship, one person takes a dominant role in general, and one person is taking up a submissive role. Those two people are both pretending, and yet the line between pretence and reality is very hard to untangle. that in itself poses very difficult questions about what power means.”

Video Selfie: Binge Porn

Video Selfie: Binge Porn is a candid one-minute artistic video selfie on my obscure desire to junk binge assuming my mukbang digital alter ego. It plays on the notions of Food Porn and mukbang personalities that have assimilated into the isolation of those who eat behind their computer screens. Live developed film filter takes you back to a time where interactive technology had not existed, meals were physically aggregated.

Angry Women and their Entanglement

Annie Abraham’s Angry Women is a piece hosted on webcam. The webcam acts as a facilitator for the women’s anger. The purpose of this artwork is to make a stand on female anger through angry discussions on the internet. Five performances were carried out with a full womans panel. Another had only men and the other two mixed with female. They also carried out private webcam meetings to reflect on and analyse the performance.

“We all have one subject, in fact. Mine is communication and the difficulty to communicate at all. Everything I do is around that.”

– Annie Abrahams

By using anger as a premise for this performance, remote communication that is through webcam becomes a method of disentanglement for the grievances of the participants.

 “In the beginning I had difficulties accepting these videoarchives because I saw how much they depended on our hazardous trying to interact, to be present in this universe of alone togetherness. Besides I didn’t like my own presence. As in other web performances I felt trapped and revealed myself not as I would have liked to be revealed.”

– Annie Abrahams

Annie believes that communicating in a grid works on the concept of “No Exit”. Having to be present in that small digital space, being isolated in togetherness gives her the sense of entrapment. I find this quite interesting because the act of talking through grievance in this artwork seems like a liberating concept.

“She clearly understands the inherent issues of bandwidth, distance, separation, and even alienation that occurs online. In fact, in many ways she embraces these issues and incorporates them into the vocabulary of her work.”

– Randall Packer on Annie Abrahams

The idea of alienation occurring as a result of bandwidth, disruption when communicating through the third space, is one that is prevalent yet easily overlooked by many – myself included. Through this concept of disruption and bandwidth, we may be able to explore the disentanglement of our real world problems within our curated utopia.

Creative Chaos: I am my Desktop

Long story short, I am quite the creative chaos. I find comfort in dropping files onto my desktop, no folder nor systematic naming. I find comfort in the candidness of this screen. The low maintenance of my desktop is congruent with that of my physical spaces and personality. There is a beauty in the natural chronological curation, this haphazard sequence. The little thumbnails of inspiration like a moodboard, Screen Shot 2018-0…pm. The way the files stack over each other is digital art. My wallpaper is my personal work, splatters of paint and a drawing of my friend whose skin is brown and purple and yellow. They add a different texture to the chaos, and I like that. Almost all my Adobe Creative Suites are open, housed on my dock. Some icons I’ve not seen before, but I am not compelled to close them. Probably some kind of Acrobat installer or something, I’m candid like that. They say that a cluttered space cultivates a cluttered mind, then what about an empty room?

Facebook and Reality

Many of our Facebook actions are like this. They might seem to mean nothing, and yet be taken to mean something. They might seem to mean something, and in fact mean something else

A Reply to facebook Critics
D.E. Wittkower

Facebook has almost become the holy grail in which we document our lives. We are documenting our reality through posts comprising of textual commentary, photographs – sometimes augmented – and all things framed to our liking. By this theory, by the logic of such an act, our Facebook personas can show our reality. But how realistic is this framed reality? Do our posts really mean anything?

My personal belief is slanted towards the idea that our Facebook personas are curations of our lives. Though there have been many talks of the falseness in such propagated realities, I believe there is a reality in curation. Much like an exhibition, these posts are framed and created with personal intention, our ideal representation. These posts are there for a reason.

As the Existentialists argued, my life-choices mean something to me, in large part, because I have chosen them as my own. And so too, my Facebook means something to me, in large part, because I have shared certain kinds of links, taken certain quizzes, and played certain games—and because my friends (who I have chosen) themselves have chosen to do and share what they have chosen to do and share. And I don’t mean this just in the trivial sense that, of course, each of our Feeds are made up of a unique set of different user-generated content.

A Reply to facebook Critics
D.E. Wittkower

How far can we push this representation of our reality? What if we do not frame our posts, but come transparent with the fine details of our lives?

This can be explored in Hasan Elahi’s Tracking Transience 2.0 (2003). In this work of self-surveillance, Elahi publishes his every move online. This act came about he was detained by authorities during one of his travels by bias of his ethnicity, and told that he was going to be ‘watched very closely’. Thus, he began watching himself very closely.

On his website, we see detailed timestamps and unquestionably raw photographs of everyday acts such as toilet trips, uninteresting meals and grocery shopping. There is even a live feed of his exact location.

Elahi uses this extremity of a public transparency rather ironically. He believes that he could do a better job than anyone to execute surveillance on himself through means of such publication. However, by framing his life in such an extreme manner, putting out data of his every move as curated online, he creates a camouflage. It is an unquestionable data that forms a camouflage of reality. The amount of dedication, sacrifice and effort he has put into this work, even giving up a large chunk of his life, is captivating and powerful as a statement and an anti-art.

Media Burn and the Art of Destruction

Ant Farm, an avant garde video arts group founded in 1968 by Chip Lord and Doug Hall, is now a highly acknowledged collective of creatives that embrace the art of destruction (according to Patricia Mellencamp in her Journal of Film and Video).

EAI, Media Burn (https://www.eai.org/titles/media-burn)

One of the collective’s destructive artworks titled Media Burn (1975) is a performance that touches on the representative nature of the media. The artwork consists of crashing a “Phantom Dream Car” (a modified convertible) through a pyramid of televisions.

Doug Hall plays John F. Kennedy in this piece, whereby he touched on the flaws of media in society: ‘What has gone wrong with America is not a random visitation of fate. It is the result of forces that have assumed control of the American system…These forces are: militarism, monopoly, and the mass media…Mass media monopolies control people by their control of information… And who can deny that we are nation addicted to television and the constant flow of media? And not a few of us are frustrated by this addiction. Now I ask you, my fellow Americans: Haven’t you ever wanted to put your foot through your television screen?’

This is relevant to the notions of the hypodermic needle theory in the mass media, a controversial topic left helpless for decades. The ability of the media to inject ideas in to the viewer’s head, its ability to make ideas portrayed seem like the truth is one concept that is played out in this piece.

Chip Lord mentioned in an interview with Randall Packer that the televised image of John F. Kennedy as the first televised tragedy was one of impact and epiphany, since it was one of the first televised image of the bad side of reality. This inspired his work and heavy sentiments towards this side of the media. The destruction of the televisions is acts as a kind of anti-art, a protest. The destruction of a concept can be seen as a rebellious statement, and could perhaps be one of the defining characteristics in such a piece. It is a powerful way to show the anti motion against the lack of media literacy.

 

Do It With Others and Experimental Interaction

Do It With Others (DIWO) is a variation on Do It Yourself (DIY) where activity is now shared through participatory media.

In this approach, peers connect and collaborate, creating their own structures, using either digital networks or shared physical environments, making an art that is both made and distributed across a network.

Do It With Others (DIWO): Participatory Media in the Furtherfield Neighbourhood, Ruth Cathlow and Marc Garrett, Furtherfield

DIWO is practiced in Furtherfield, where the focus is now drawn on collaborative effort through emerging social technologies. In art, the role of the artist and the spectator is blurred. Those who come as audience usually play a part in influencing the outcome of the artwork, while the artist lift his own directive authority on the piece. A commonly known example of this is Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece, whereby Yoko stays completely still and allows the audience member to curate how her clothes are cut.

In this Experimental Interaction module, we explore the concept of DIWO through micro-projects.

Our fourth micro-project titled “The Collective Body” is a feed of our body parts combined on a Flickr group to create what is a metaphysically diversified body. The technology of a Flickr group feed enables us to each contribute to the composition of this piece through our personalised frames and augmentations on our photos.

Another micro-project that works on DIWO is our first micro-project, whereby we stream on Facebook Live concurrently as we walk through our school. The streams are the aggregated onto a wall in a grid. The collaborative stream of events creates a metaphysical collage of space and time, moments we experienced together.

DIWO means exploring the potential to share visions, resources and agency, through collaboration and negotiation, across physical and virtual networks – maintaining a critical consciousness and hopefully, somehow having a decent life at the same time…

Do It With Others (DIWO): Participatory Media in the Furtherfield Neighbourhood, Ruth Cathlow and Marc Garrett, Furtherfield

DIWO plays an integral part in interactive art since the media is largely dependant on audience activity and collaborative effort. An artwork is deemed interactive when the audience can expect to participate and even play a part in the outcome of the artwork. It could even be said that art is not interactive without DIWO.

DIWO embodies ability to aggregate work in collaborative curation, allowing any person to create art, and this has revolutionised our contemporary art scene.