twitter as a performance art platform

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Published on May 25th, 2011 | by Crystal Wallis


Twitter as a Performance Art Platform

Man Bartlett at Port Authority Bus Terminal. Photo by Christopher Kissock, courtesy Creative Time.

We’ve already seen how augmented reality is expanding the definition of art thanks to Tom’s roundup. Now Creative Time has commissioned a series of Twitter performances that expands the definition of performance art.  These pieces, the first commissioned works of their kind, will explore the intersection of real places and in-person interactions with virtual spaces and digital conversations.

Says Tweet curator Shane Brennan, “One only has to look at the role of social media in organizing and documenting the popular revolutions that have swept across Northern Africa and the Middle East in recent months to see how [the physical and virtual] worlds are inextricably connected.” Brennan explains that this project is a first step in claiming this new virtual public space as a space for art.

On May 25, social media artist Man Bartlett will begin his project #24hPort. He’ll spend 24 hours in the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan asking Twitter followers, “Where have you been?” and people in the Port Authority, “Where are you going?” These simple questions are meant to open up conversations, both virtual and in-person, about memory and geography.

Brennan explains in this video interview that Bartlett was intrigued by the parallels between the Port and the virtual world: both serve as a traffic hub and place for exchange, both are sometimes a complicated maze with dead ends.  (To view and participate in the project, use the Twitter hashtag #24hPort and follow @manbartlett).

Later this summer, artists David Horovitz and Jill Magrid will embark on their own works probing the intersection of physical and virtual worlds. Horovitz will travel the distance of the first transcontinental telegraph sent in 1861 from San Francisco to Washington, DC to delve into the question, “What has been lost in the elimination of a message’s physical journey?” He’ll be transcribing tweets with the hashtag #5992 onto hard copies, eventually delivering them to the Library of Congress. Along the way, he’ll be tweeting his own observations by sampling from a book published in 1853 that aided telegraph users in shortening their sentences.

Jill Magrid’s work will involve sharing her own personal security measures (more details TBA). Brennan says that Creative Time wanted a broad spectrum of approaches to Twitter performances: Bartlett has done several before this, Horovitz hasn’t (but tweets), and Magrid has never used Twitter.

Brennan concedes that yes, Twitter might be a short-lived technology, here today and gone tomorrow. Nevertheless, he asserts that “right now it’s such a widespread and interesting platform that it’s worth taking notice of, and it’s worth supporting cultural activity with it.” It’s a good point. Props to Creative Time for seizing the moment and pushing the boundaries of public art.

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  • claudiaalick

    Cool.  A year or so ago I did a piece where I tweeted a very personal story every 20 minutes over the course of 2 weeks. I am now taking that material and incorporating it into a live multi-media piece.  Of course I consider all twittering a type of performance art.