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Jaakko Pallasvuo: 'Deleting your twitter account' is the new 'having a buzzworthy Twitter account'


#1

In the latest of the excellent artist exit screeds published by Spike Art Daily, Finnish artist Jaakko Pallasvuo has written about his recent break from the internet. The artist had previously been a very active and outspoken presence on social media. He writes, “‘Deleting your twitter account’ is the new ‘having a buzzworthy twitter account’. I want to whisper, and to lurk. Sheepishly following this turn gives me pleasure. There’s a reason everyone does the same things. Last week I stumbled upon a freshly photocopied zine, lying on a friend’s sofa in Helsinki and thought: this is the future, reshaped from the past.”

While I enjoyed reading Pallasvuo’s thoughts, I want to highlight and take issue with the binary argument that the art world goes through cycles in which either being “on the internet” or “concertedly offline” is cool. I have noticed that these cycles exist, but are they so simple to pin down? I honestly don’t know. I found it interesting that amid the crest of corporate aesthetics and post-internet art (let’s say 2012), Carolyn Christov Bakargiev’s arcane, encyclopedic documenta felt to many refreshing, which carried through to Massimiliano Gioni’s 2013 Venice Biennale the “Encyclopedic Palace,” which comprised many haptic works and outsider artists. How long do these cycles last? I would guess around 30 months. Are these curatorial and artistic trends really that predictable? And do they cut so deep that artists are really dropping out of social media because of them?

Last month I decided to cease uploading. It was supposed to be a summer break but now I see no reason not to stretch this break out from here, possibly, to eternity. This disturbance to my 12 years of uploading could only begin with a self-defeating announcement. A stab at a contemporary classic: the blog post about how one has grown disillusioned with blogging.

I was 16 when I began ‘sharing content’ on various online platforms. It began on Finnish amateur art and graphic design forums and on an ingenious, also Finnish, proto-Facebook social media website called IRC-galleria. Livejournal, MySpace and Flickr followed.

I was not an artist when I began uploading, but my content was always ‘artistic’. My fantasy of art and artistry was pure then. Youth has a non-causal relationship to purity. It was not my job to share. I was in the process of making a self. It gave me life.

My online presence and my study of art did not flow into each other. I began my full time art studies by painting still lives in natural light. Later on, in other schools, came the Michel de Certeaus and the Katharina Grosses: strategies and tactics for how to speak, what posture to adopt, which colors to spray within which bright cubes. The internet did not come into it. This was not that long ago.

When I dropped out and moved to Berlin I gave up on having a studio, bought a laptop and registered a Tumblr blog or two. The Jogging had begun, and still contained anonymous vitality. A potato attached to the wall with a band-aid, rapidly photographed and abandoned. The photograph posted online, gathering notes, gently mocking the weight of history and gesture I was still holding onto. I felt like a peasant, but also that I could change. I could still become light.

2010-2011 were the peak of my upload years. In Berlin the internet began to merge with AFK life. The people I followed turned up at the bar one would go to. The things you took part in went up into the network. We did not know if we had an audience or not, but the potential of an audience kept one going. The audience was a fantastical construction instead of a punishing economic factor to take into account. I remember receiving a phone call from a friend who enthused about how a video of mine had been blogged by someone who seemed to matter. I watched the view count climb. It was wonderful. In 2011 I felt true online.

Post-Internet was around. It was a joke, I thought. I was into it. It felt good to joke around. I was still lolling about when it began to transform into a hashtag for financial investment, something to grind in the gallery-fair-biennial-retrospective mill. Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram. The platforms were sleeker, more rapid. ‘Dialogue’ became a relentless and repetitive mode of (self)-promotion. The same five group shows happened a hundred times with minor differences. The short story as an FB event description, the animist tech musing as an A4 press release. Hot artists who took taxis to the gym and posed for strategic selfies. Contemporary Art Daily. The exhaustion mounted.

I’ve been more “guilty” of attention-fishing and like-mining than most. I produced mindlessly and documented in an instant. I posted something on Tumblr. I had set my Twitter up to automatically tweet about my Tumblr posts. My Facebook account automatically reporter my Twitter activity.

The same half-thought image echoed through, I bullied my network with it. I waited to be accepted. I waited for someone to realize that they loved me, but wanted nothing from me. I waited to feel like I was being understood. I wanted to know that I could communicate to you, that my communication was culturally intense. It should cut through all the other things, all the other people trying to do the same thing.

The confusion had fully set in. To be an artist was to command attention. Attention could be quantified in likes, reblogs, faves and retweets. Somehow, murkily, these would translate into shows, which would perhaps, down the road, translate into financial resources. These resources could be used to produce more content, pay ever-increasing rents, produce more shows, upload more installation shots. What did a lack of attention represent in this pattern? Invisibility was death.

My posts demoted me. I became a sub-artist. Someone who people call to comment on stuff, a hipster, not a cultural issue myself. No one needs to reflect upon my practice, because it contains zero mystery. I’m more of a columnist than a prophet. Is ‘criticality’ my gimmick? Is bitterness? Forming opinions for a living is the fast lane to feeling insubstantial. I’ve began my retreat.
There’s nothing new here. The internet has been declared (un)dead, being cute and running a bar for your cute friends instead of posting these played out think pieces is now called “Network Fatigue”. Carles, the blogger to end all bloggers has suffered an existential crisis and has sort of faded.

I want to make things that are unseen by design. I want to insist on being a boring and generally insignificant operator. I want to read and understand what I’ve read. ‘Deleting your twitter account’ is the new ‘having a buzzworthy twitter account’. I want to whisper, and to lurk. Sheepishly following this turn gives me pleasure. There’s a reason everyone does the same things. Last week I stumbled upon a freshly photocopied zine, lying on a friend’s sofa in Helsinki and thought: this is the future, reshaped from the past.

I’m doing a 30 day yoga challenge with Adriene, a YouTube wellbeing star exhuming cheery comfort and acceptance. I awkwardly position myself into a Sphinx Pose. My 20€ yoga mat smells of PVC. It mixes with the scent of incense, something I never thought I would have at my house. Maybe I’m becoming that priggish neo-hippie friend you can’t stand. Trying this pose on, it occurs to me that this is what I want: to be a sphinx. The sphinx does not have a social media presence. The sphinx poses a riddle instead.

Jaakko Pallasvuo lives in Helsinki. He makes videos, ceramics, texts and pictures. His work deals with social hierarchies, feels, fantasies & online culture. A collection of Pallasvuo’s writings, titled Scorched Earth, will be published by Arcadia Missa in July.

*All drawings by Jaakko Pallasvuo courtesy Spike Art Daily


#2

Are these curatorial and artistic trends really that predictable? And do
they cut so deep that artists are really dropping out of social media
because of them?

I always had the impression, that people generally are either in favor of or have an aversion against social media (and I wonder why specifically a flimsy service like facebook, is so popular even with artists and people who generally are more critical). But maybe, due to my avoidance of social media, I just never witnessed the phenomenon of artists being on and of off them. It makes me wonder if not being on social media as an artist kind of makes you “not being an artist”.

The times when I give social media a try mostly end up with the same (self-explanatory) conclusion: If you don’t make it part of your “professional life”, you’re not gaining any attention or connections, no likes or credibility. I’m sure keeping myself out of that realm prevents me from one or the other benefit, but I never bought into that selfpromotional treadmill.

On the other hand, (in forums like this,) I mostly get the impression that there’s not as much discourse as I’d imagine. Rather many people (including me) seem to remain observers and the discussions are often led by folks who have the ability to articulate themselves. It’s like there’s a basic assumption that an online discourse is very inclusive, yet it requires the same intellectual capabilities or for lack of a better word academic background as an offline-discourse. To an extend that’s only natural, however when I get the feeling that a dialogue doesn’t really develop it’s either because I Iack the language of forums, social-network-talk, chats, networking - or it doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to.


#3

I think this is definitely an unfortunate truth of all discourse-led platforms: the voices that rise the top are often the ones belonging to people who don’t mind shouting into the void. Hence, new platforms (such as this one) take real care and time to foster an environment that is inclusive of quieter voices. While we actively try to be inclusive, a social networking platform like Facebook whose newsfeed algorithm actively manipulates your feed so that the people who command a large crowd with constant updates get more of everyone’s attention.

But regarding the question of whether artists lose out for not actively using social media–I don’t know. As a critic, curator, editor, and general person-in-the-world, I have definitely met people and discovered artists online, and have become familiarized with artist’s names from seeing them on Facebook and the like. On the flip side, I have also seen many young, vocal, fresh-out-of-art-school artists discovered comparatively “early,” which is also not great for a career. Perhaps someone here can convince me otherwise, but I don’t think there’s a particularly long path laid out before any 22-year-old artist, especially since these artists are so often caught up with problematic “lifestyle” characterizations of the “it-girl,” “artist-as-DJ,” “sk8bro collective member” etc.


#4

I appreciate this dedication to inclusion and haven’t thought about the aspect of time that is involved to build up let’s say a healthy community/ atmosphere to foster discussions. There’s another respectable forum/ blog that I know of, that I think lacks participation, maybe because of the same reason we talk about (quite voices, “experts”/ observers). This may be something to keep in mind to try to figure out on the way.

Regarding the question if artists lose out something, if opting out of social media I can only offer assumptions drawn from what I read or thought about. Most probably you miss out quite a bit of the opportunities that the web offers you (promoting and networking etc). But I feel like there’s a very thin line between those advantages and some delusions that I see connected with it. I think it’s not only about the hard-to-achieve status of actually being seen amongst the many competitors, but also about turning quickly from independently promoting and publishing your content, to self-exploiting yourself - becoming a screenworker trying to capitalize on your own productivity. (I think this thought I got from essay like this essay by Hito Steyerl.)

In the context of social media and its meaning for being seen as artists I also think about how I came across the new professional network unavailable.org: Laid out for emerging artists on the one, and art professionals on the other hand it’s aimed at establishing a platform to offer young artists chances to sell their work. Their concept directly reminded me of what I read in Martha Rosler’s opening essay to “Culture Class”, about successful/ visible artists serving the rich.

Granted not every piece of art has to be of critical nature and artists also need to make a living, the way I perceive these things clearly tends to capitalist/ neoliberal traits undermining a field and practice that is originally or ideally something inquiring, poetic, social and political, critical…

Note:
I wrestled a bit with how to finish this post and am not at all satisfied with this last paragraph. But I think rather than breaking a leg over it I just recommend having a look at the essays by Steyerl and Rosler. Also the thoughts I lay out are certainly only one way to look on it, so I’d be curious about other opinions.