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I’ve read several essays and manifestos recently on the artistic implications of Facebook.  These writings can be evocative, and are often extremely successful at garnering the cultural capital they wish to theorize.  My own thoughts on these essays are best expressed by friend and scholar Adam E. Leeds.  I’d like to quote an email I received from him:

“…I am done reading articles about how Facebook changes the world.

1. I don’t actually believe that what goes on on social networking sites is that different from what went on before them, or changes our sense of self much.

2. There are changes in society on account of them; the most important ones are the delocalization of networks and the instantaneity of mass communication — new articulations of time and space.

3. These technologies are totally in their infancy.  Facebook might not be around in ten years. We don’t even know what is the paradigm that will replace it, yet.

4. We won’t really know the cultural implications until we see the culture that the generation that grows up with whatever replaces Facebook creates.”

Total agreement.  This is not to suggest, of course, that pop culture requires being canonized before it can be effectively parsed.  There is a significant difference between technology as phenomenon and technology as medium — when writers treat cultural phenomena as media, the theory must take a different approach.  To speak of Facebook as medium, as paradigm, disallows its potential for instantaneity which, I think, is what it is actually good at.

Surely, the contemporary theoretical essay does not need to be one for the ages –that’s the mode of contemporary. But I can’t help but think how I recently read Boris Groys’s problematic essay on institutionalized video art, and how very dated it felt (it was written only 6 years ago).  To speak of these phenomena as prototypes for the future (or even prototypes for now) misses the point of technological ephemerality and presentness.  Presentness, in this instance, is not necessarily grace.  In technology, presentness is chopped, distorted, and wholly untrustworthy.  It is interesting, certainly.  But it is not implication.

I want to listen to Michael Fried’s “mmmhmm” on repeat every night to fall asleep. Thanks, Damon.

In honor of the holiday, I’m publishing Frazer Ward’s 1995 essay in October on Haunting, Habermas, Haacke, and cHallenge.  Download link is below.

The Haunted Museum: Institutional Critique and Publicity* [PDF]

Brief self-promotion (I promise to blog again very soon*): I invite you to join the Google Group of Talking Pictures, my art theory book club.   We meet every two weeks in person, but I envision the Google Group to be an extension of those gatherings with events, related readings, and further discussion.  You do not have to live in Philadelphia to join, though presumably you would have some interest in reading about modernity and contemporary art forms.  Do not be dissuaded by the application – that only serves to filter out spambots.  More on Talking Pictures soon, hopefully including a website, guest appearances, and an archive. Please join and pass along!

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*Including, but not limited to, thoughts on taste & consumer culture, ideas about popularity and power in brand marketing, opinions on artistic self-deprecation, views of intemporality and cinema, impressions of the perceived legislative character of the avant-garde, feelings about the supposed return to craft specificity and domesticity during the recession, theories of the most recent revival of an appreciation for low-rent philosophy, judgments of the current show at the Hessel Museum at Bard, assessments of the current state of DIY collectives in Philadelphia and beyond, conceptions of the idea of non-performance, notions of the insularity of certain forms (email chains, for instance) and whether that’s really such a terrible thing, hypotheses about subjectivity and the subjugated in photography, and conclusions about the future of New Asshole.

This past weekend I moderated a chat for Distributed Collectives closing reception at little berlin.  As it was a show of net art, Kelani and I decided to host the chat online as a group gchat.  The text of this chat was updated every few minutes to a tumblr stream, which was projected in the gallery alongside the works.  The chat quietly framed the show in criticism, and viewers could designate their own level of engagement.  Participants included Kieran Daly, Will Pappenheimer, Krist Wood, Robert Lorayn, Kelani Nichole, Beth Heinly, and Joshua Caleb Weibley.

There were some really great moments that occurred, partially due to the diversity of those involved and partially due to quirks with the technology.  I encourage a meander.

Finally, a thought, courtesy Ionesco:

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I wrote an essay for the current show at little berlin on net art collectives.  You can view the digital catalog here: digital catalog.  You can also view the works in the exhibition online here: distributedcollectives.net.

I will be hosting some sort of talk/discussion/panel for the closing reception  on Saturday, August 27th from 6-10pm.  Don’t worry, I’m not going to talk that whole time.  There will also be beer, bbq, and performances in the courtyard.

I am very curious to hear feedback about this essay and some of the ideas I present in it.  I welcome commentary and a continued discussion, either through the comments on this blog or by emailing me: anewasshole [at] excite [dot] com