Museums and artists take a stand against the dominance of social media

Artists play a crucial role in visualizing power relationships and disrupting subliminal daily routines of social media usage. They are often first to deconstruct the familiar and to facilitate an alternative lens to understand and critique these media. As a matter of fact, Thierry Geoffroy / Colonel, is one of the artists who pressingly calls for resistance to social media. More specifically, he emphasizes the task of the museum as ‘human patrimony collector’ and role of ‘social stimulator’, signifying that social media has stolen territory which must be regained.

In the exhibition Photography Calling, Geoffroy / Colonel offers  a penetration wall space at the Sprengel Museum Hannover museum to exhibit censured material from 9 October–10 November 2011. There’s an open call for contributing censured material to the exhibition:

Exhibit what has been rejected by the social media!
Exhibit what caused your account to be deleted!
Exhibit what you don’t dare to exhibit!

This intervention not only draws attention to the issue of censorship, but also to copyright, responsibilities and the ability of museums to provide a more ‘human’ experience and methods in collecting and exhibiting expressions. Museums and artists can choose not to comply with the dominance of social media, and start acknowledging and utilizing their unique qualities.

Moreover, the urgent question according to Geoffroy / Colonel: “Is the museum the last place to show and express what we cannot anymore present on social media?”. The text which announces the open call and exhibition, ’Social Media do not create revolutions they accelerate repression’, could be read as a critical manifesto that exemplifies the discursive resistance to social media in the field of arts. Furthermore, it is a call to take a stand against social media which threaten to overshadow the museum’s  significance to human and artistic expression.

Although Geofffroy /Colonel makes an important critical statement which is relevant to everyone involved in the field of arts, it should be noted that there are several artists that actually use social media as a their ‘canvas’.

FBresistance, for example, is a creative intervention and research initiative, by digital artist Tobias Leingruber and myself, that focuses on the ways to change Facebook’s rules and functionality from inside the system in a series of workshops. The participants experiment with browsers hacks to locally modify FB, and explore the conceptual space of counterprotocological control in unrestrained discussions and brainstorms. Facebook only offers limited possibilities for individual expression, whereas FBresistance helps users realize that through augmented browsing many of these limits can easily be removed.

FB Resistance Workshop at Transmediale 2011

Another example is visual artist Sayuri Michima, who demonstrates that one can actually get creative with censorship on Facebook. On his public profile you will find lengthy videos, and text updates and titles that are both as censored and blue as possible.

Sayuri Michima — Untitled I (blue Tārā) 2011

Finally, there is net.artist Michaël Borras a.k.a SYSTAIME who remixes popular web images, audio and video in a Dada-esque fashion. SYSTAIME is quite active on and with Facebook, offering an alternative perspective with ‘The French Trash Touch‘. Together with T. Cheneseau he recently started turning Facebook upside down.

Smoke on Facebook by Systaime

There are critical as well as more abstract artistic responses to social media. The examples above show that artistic practice provides an important analytical site in the context of the research agenda that is concerned with power relationships and the disruption of daily social media usage routines. What is readily becoming more apparent is the notion of ‘resistance’ and the importance of physical and ‘human’ space. Nonetheless, it should be taken into account that critical artistic endeavours are also undertaken on ‘the social media’ itself.