How Social Media is Changing the Art World

 Many things have changed with the arrival of social media. We often talk about new marketing strategies, or new ways of communication that have emerged as a result. Not a lot has been said, however, on other subjects – for instance, the effect that social media is having on modern artistic practices. In a conference on March 22, the Paris chapter of Social Media Club addressed this very question. Below are some of the points mentioned that day.

Social media offers artists many opportunities to change and better their craft. To do so successfully, however, they need to clearly understand what possibilities are available and what pitfalls exist.

The Pros of Social Media for Artists

There are several reasons.

  1. Distribution: As do other businesses, artists can now promote themselves via social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, or deviantArt. Besides the blunt promotion of the artist, such sites facilitate the creation of professional relationships, allow the artist to receive feedback from the public, and make it easy to scope out competition. However, artists do need to be careful about the image they are putting out there. It doesn’t take very much to show an unflattering side of you on the internet.
  2. Financing: It provides new ways of financing art projects, and we are not just talking about finding sponsors via social networks. Distribution platforms such as YouTube make it possible to create and release art at very little cost.  Social networking also opens doors for new business models – cue Carnet de Mode, a neat little French website that   allows users to invest in their favorite fashions. The site features collections by several designers (new or already   established); shoppers can browse through the clothes and preorder their favorite pieces at a discounted price.  Once an item receives a certain number of preorder requests, it is put into production and sold via the site’s e-boutique for full price. Meanwhile, the original investors not only get that perfect little black dress at a discounted price, but also receive returns on investment on all sales of the product made through the e-boutique. Neat, right.
  3. Creativity: Social media serves as means of creation. This is perhaps the most important reason of the three. Social media is constantly providing artists with fresh material they can use to create a slew of new age art projects. Here are some examples: EAR Studio Listening Post.

This installation uses over 200 electronic screens to display, in real time, text fragments from chats and forums around the globe. As the messages appear on the screen, they are also read by a voice synthesizer.  

Merton – the Chatroulette Piano Improv guy! In a series of videos that went viral, he improvised songs about people he saw on Chatroulette. Ben Folds, who was briefly rumored to be the artist behind Chatroulette Piano Improv, later paid tribute to Merton at one of his own concerts.

The Johnny Cash Project. This is a website that allows each user to design one frame of a Johnny Cash video, then putting the images together to create a “unique communal work” of art.

Numerous other projects: Attack of the Moon Robots, Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir, Bicycle Built for 2000, Star Wars Uncut. All very awesome!

The Cons of Social Media for Artists

As does everything else, social media too has its cons. Art created via social media becomes a mutating entity; it is constantly being reused and reworked and as a result, we sometimes lose the art itself.

The other problem with this type of art is that much too often, more attention is paid to the installation rather than content. Viewers are stricken by how cool the presentation is (as with the Listening Post, for example) that they forget about what the artist is actually trying to say.

So what does it all mean?

Like it or not, the art world has changed. Social media is providing artists with new tools to create, distribute, promote, and finance their art. The only thing left to do is to use them correctly.

You can also find a more or less chronological summary of the conference here.

And if you are interested, here is a bit of information on our presenters:

Emmanuel Mahé – a researcher in the field of information sciences and communication, specializing in the relationship between innovative technology and digital art.

Elliot Lepers – the host of the French series L’Œil de Links, a show about new inventions that are constantly appearing on the internet. Arbia Smiti – the founder of Carnet de Mode, an innovative fashion website.

François Berthier – a professional photographer who used social networking to establish his career; he was not able to make it to the public conference, but he did speak at a private event on the same subject that was held a few days earlier.

The conference was moderated by Bertrand Horel.

[Image credit: Sylvana D’Angelo]