By: Eliana Blechman
In our interview with Kristin McIver, she discussed the importance of viewer participation in her work, and the way that social media and internet culture influence her artistic process. McIver explained, "I often include the viewer as a medium within the work, as their participation with the work becomes central to the work's function; in a similar manner to a consumer within consumer culture, or a participant of social media. The viewer/participant relationship is becoming increasingly intertwined, with social media blurring the lines between content producer and consumer."
We see this blurring of lines as the consumer is increasingly invited to actively contribute to the production process online. Consumers have extended conversations with corporate Twitter accounts (see Tesco Mobile's Twitter interactions with Riccardo Esposito)and ordinary people become famous through their personal Youtube and Instagram accounts (remember that Justin Bieber, for example, was discovered accidentally on Youtube).
The blurred line between producer and consumer in the internet age has been artist fodder since the internet became a standard part of daily life in the early 90s. One of the first works grappling with the world wide web, Douglas Davis' The World's First Collaborative Sentence (1994), invited viewers to remotely contribute to an ongoing sentence with only one limitation: their contribution could not end with a period.
Douglas Davis, The World's First Collaborative Sentence, 1994–, conserved 2012. Historic version: HTML and CGI script; live version: HTML and PHP script. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of Barbara Schwartz in honor of Eugene M. Schwartz 95
Douglas Davis, The World's First Collaborative Sentence, 1994–, conserved 2012. Historic version: HTMLand CGI script; live version: HTML and PHP script. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of Barbara Schwartz in honor of Eugene M. Schwartz
Over the past twenty years, the Sentence has evolved. As users have become savvier, the Sentence has expanded to include images, graphics, sounds, and links to other websites. In 2000, only six years after the first words of the Sentence were written, and after over 200,000 online contributions, Davis wrote, "The Sentence has no end. Sometimes I think it had no beginning. Now I salute its authors, which means all of us. You have made a wild, precious, awful, delicious, lovable, tragic, vulgar, fearsome, divine thing."1 By removing the boundary between author and audience, Davis continues to incorporate the viewer into the process of creation. The Sentence is still in progress, accessible through the Whitney's website to any viewer that would like to participate.
Oliver Laric, Versions of Under the Bridge, 2007.
The interaction between artist and viewer is further explored in conceptual artist Oliver Laric's Versions of Under the Bridge (2007). The work is pieced together from 65 amateur covers of the Red Hot Chili Peppers song "Under the Bridge". Using found material from video sharing sites and constructed note by note, the reconstructed song is both a product of artistic creation and consumer participation. Discussing his thought process, Laric said, "...I don't think it's necessary to produce anything myself anymore...The thing with this song is that it's becoming quite significant because of all the people who are playing it and who are interpreting it in their own way..."2 Bringing together these found videos allowed Laric to play the roles of both viewer and artist.
The internet has made content production more accessible, allowing anyone with a webcam to contribute creative content to the public, and anyone with an internet connection to receive an author's credit. With this accessibility comes an increased participatory drive among viewers. As new forms of social engagement emerge and the internet continues to develop, artistic responses, appropriation, and contributions surely will continue to develop alongside them.
1. "The World's First Collaborative Sentence, Douglas Davis, 1994," last modified 2002, http://artport.whitney.org/collection/
2. "Oliver - rhcp Under the Bridge (covers) Trafalgar Square," Youtube video, 2:42, posted by marcocstl48, May 31, 2008, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfg6Kovp7GY