The artist should not concern themselves with the effervescent present of social media.
Full Show Notes: https://www.thejaymo.net/2023/02/04/301-2305-not-only-in-the-now/
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Not Only in the Now
As artists we express ourselves through art, poetry, fiction, film, music, sculpture, dance or whatever. But the moment you put any of it online it becomes content.
Not because the modern world has consciously chosen to devalue a work of expression down to one generic term. But because of the nature of the web itself.
HTML or Hypertext Markup Language requires all web pages to consist of the building blocks known as elements.
HTML elements begin with an angle bracket, or start tag. This tells the browser what kind of element it is. Open bracket, P, Close bracket, indicates a paragraph element. Then some text goes in, and then a different tag, Open bracket, slash, P, Close bracket, indicates an element has come to an end.
Everything that goes between an opening and closing tag is called Content.
For example, a line of text in HTML is written like this
<p> This is the element's content.</p>
When transmuted through a digital interface and placed on the world wide web, all art becomes content.
The artist must focus not on the content they are going to create, but the kind of art. The moment of upload is the creative victory. Everything else is up to the audience.
The artist must be mindful of the carrier waves – on the other side of the platforms interface – that will carry the work out into the digital ocean.
There are obvious differences between Twitter and Youtube, Tumblr or Instagram. But they all share the same core concept – the chronological feed.
The navigation of content by time.
You log in to see the latest tweets; watch the newest videos, hear the latest music. The most recent thing is the most relevant. The feed’s logic so implies, that older things are less relevant. As you scroll down, you move further away from the present. Pull down to refresh the relevant.
The home screen is a shoreline the artist must cast their work out from. A message in a bottle to be carried off, into the swell of a platform’s social seas.
To remain at the surface, the work must acquire the quality of virality. Bobbing back to the top with each reblog. The work may contain some artistic truth. But alas, without social buoyancy; no matter how true, the work will fade and sink into the deep dark depths. No longer of the now but of the past.
Further issues arise when work is cast into algorithmic feeds. The platform’s one-thing-after-another-logic is lost. Relevance and recency so elegantly signalled by the top of the feed now obscured. Narrative dissolved, context collapsed.
TikTok’s feed has never treated recency as relevant. The home screen is not a shoreline, but a glass bottomed boat. Like from deep ocean currents, content is brought up to the surface on your behalf. Relevance inferred from opaque statistical models of historical consumption.
All consumption on feed based platforms takes place at the network’s turbulent and frothy surface. Meaning-Full content in the short term, becomes Meaning-Less within hours. It is always ‘now’ on social media. Social platforms privilege the present. Concerned only with what happens next, not what came before.
Time and topic should be the dominant concerns of the artist making content.
When was the work created? and what when was the work created for?
I spoke earlier about HTML, let us now speak of the URL – Uniform Resource Locator.
Twitter, Facebook, and Wikipedia are all the same. All resources located at web addresses.
The most important thing is, that the artist can own one too.
Start a blog, build a website, write a newsletter, start a podcast, do whatever.
Just do it on your own domain.
The artist must make sanctuary upon their own little island. Till its soil, and build a lighthouse atop it its highest peak. Draw treasure maps and cast them adrift from the islands shoreline, not someone else’s.
The work is from home soil, always relevant and stable at the end of a weblink. Searchable. Made for the long term. Persistent. The work becomes part of an evolving and expanding archive. Links are the currents that the work follows along, travels across and through. It’s called web-surfing in cyber-space after all.
The world wide web is an ocean. Endless in breadth and in depth.
The island artist does not concern themselves with the effervescent present of social media. Instead create work for the long term. Slower work made for more persistent mediums. The artist lives within deeper time and even deeper links.
The work may link to related work, or to people who inspire and influence. Who in turn may link back to you. Work may be placed in context, or juxtaposed. Unlike social platforms, the wider web does not hide its complexity, but embraces it.
The web is a dense network, held in tension and compression with everything else. Structural. Tensegrity is a watchword for the artist. Integrity is work made for the longer them.
This work, an audio work, is made for persistence, made with persistence, week after week.
I hope (from one artist to another) that it will remain relevant. Not only in the now, but to others at the end of a link, somewhere else and somewhere when.
The script above is the original script written for the episode. It may differ from what ended up in the edit.
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