My Friends Electric, at Sonar
Michael Connor (Head of Exhibitions at the British Film Institute/National Film Theatre) has included me in an exhibition he's curating at this year's Sonar Festival (Barcelona), called My Friends Electric. The other artists are Cory Arcangel, Emma Davidson and Paul B Davis, Jason Freeman, Olia Lialina, and Paper Rad--some of my faves! I'm showing Marisa's American Idol Audition Training Blog, a blog art piece in which I documented months of rigorous training for my American Idol audition. (See the fictional reenactment of that audition here.) The project had many aims, including thinking about the voice of the artist/individual in contemporary media culture, critiquing the show's gender/beauty-normative attitudes, thinking about the relationship between parody and participation, exploring the relationship between fame & talent, and perhaps mostly, thinking about voting and the discrepancy between the number of young voters in presidential elections versus the election of an Idol. Of course, it was also about the genre of the diary/personal narrative and tropes of self-(re)formation.
Anyway, Michael's curatorial statement is below and more details are here. I am quite excited about the context of this show and the way that he interpreted my project...
My Friends Electric
Curated by Michael Connor
Sonar2006: Digital a la Carte
Between 1964 and 1966, Andy Warhol produced 500 three-minute filmed portraits of people he thought had ‘star potential’. Warhol’s subjects would be seated in front of the camera and asked to keep still and to blink as little as possible. With such a simple set of stage directions, the resulting Screen Tests allowed Warhol’s starlets to make their own decisions about how to perform for the camera: Do I want to smile? Frown? Smoke? Laugh?
Since Warhol’s time, preening for the screen has gotten slightly more complicated. In this day and age, onscreen identity requires much more than a hairdo and a smile. Just ask anyone who signed up for MySpace recently. The website allows users to create their own web presence in minutes, no technical knowledge required. Users create lists of their ‘buddies’, upload music and video, post blog entries, customise their home page, and generate site traffic in no time flat. The appeal is far-reaching: over the past eight months, the number of people using MySpace has nearly doubled, now standing at about 79 million registered users. It’s certainly no utopia – MySpace is owned by hawkish media magnate Rupert Murdoch – but social networking sites have emerged as the pop culture phenomenon du jour.
If you’re new to this whole scene, don’t let the amateur appearance of MySpace pages fool you. The online community has given birth to a steadily evolving set of social conventions, making MySpace as difficult to navigate as any high school lunch room. My Friends Electric is an exhibition inspired by these emerging rules of etiquette and aesthetics. From the animated gif to the embedded mp3, the artists in this selection reflect on and critique the transformations taking place in the way identity and social life are negotiated on screen. The self-portrait will never be the same.
LIST OF WORKS:
Da MySpace Hustlerz
Emma Davidson and Paul B Davis (2006)
Online tutorial and screenshot gallery
Paul B Davis and Emma Davidson make work that explores the creative potential of overlooked software and hardware tools. For this project, they have created a tutorial that explains how to ‘pimp out’ the design of a MySpace page, presented alongside an exhaustively researched gallery of the most pimped-out MySpace page designs on the web.
Cory Arcangel (2005)
Live Internet performance (documentation)
On 8 December 2005, Cory Arcangel committed the ultimate act of social self-harm: in a public performance, he deleted his account on Friendster, a social networking site similar to MySpace. Personal messages, comments from friends, and a ‘buddy list’ of personal contacts disappeared into the ether at the click of a mouse. The performance is exhibited here in the form of the ‘suicide note’ Cory posted on his blog prior to the deletion of his account.
iTunes Signature Maker Jason Freeman (2005)
Audio clips produced with bespoke software
One of the most difficult things about MySpace is how to express your musical tastes. Striking the right balance between savviness and pretentiousness can spell the difference between popularity and loserdom. This software artwork opens up a new possibility for sharing your musical taste. It allows you to combine your entire music collection into a single file, by analysing your iTunes and creating an audio ‘signature’ that purports to represent who you are and what you listen to.
Animated Gif Model
Web-based animated gif gallery
Olia Lialina is a net artist, wife of Rockstar, and Animated Gif Model with star potential to rival any of Warhol’s screen test subjects. In this project, she redefines the meaing of the word ‘icon’, appearing in a collection of self-made animated gifs. These low-resolution, looped animations are a must-have for the net savvy MySpacer. Please feel free to download Olia’s gifs and re-use them all over the web!
A Vernacular Web: The Indigenous and the Barbarians
Olia Lialina (2005)
Web-based visual essay
One of the most interesting developments of social networking sites has been the rebirth of a ‘vernacular’ style on the web. Instead of slick design and professional copy-editing, the new style is messy, amateur, and fun. In this visual essay, Olia Lialina explains how this style typified the early web, connecting this emerging trend with its historical precedent.
Marisa’s American Idol Audition Training Blog
Marisa Olson (2004)
Online documentation of media intervention
The online diary is one of the defining features of the MySpace phenomenon. Marisa Olson’s project is an online diary, or blog, that she kept while training to audition for American Idol. The work relates directly back to Warhol’s Screen Test project: it is a record of a screen test, but it tells the story from the perspective of the subject, rather than the camera.
Welcome to my Home Page
Paper Rad (2003)
Paper Rad’s compilation of low-tech computer animations celebrates the utopian electronic messiness of the personal home page.