Social media as art is not a new idea, but a hot one that is beginning to make its way into an increasing number of exhibits. Art is late to this party, about one digital generation, to be precise. The metabolic rate of the digital world is much faster than that of art, and that disparity is going to have the latter playing catch-up for some time.
Back in 2009, the National Museim of Art in Athens, Greece, had the "Tag Ties and Affective Spies" show, curated by Daphne Dragona, among other things, addressing how our ideas of privacy and identity are evolving in the context of social networks. It was a pioneering show, with experiments along many different vectors, too many to go into here. Take some time exploring this [Link]
In 2010, An Xiao's "The Artist is Kind of Present" involved the artist in collaboration with artist Man Bartlett, communicating via Skype with users and tweeting as a performance. The response tweets were read over the web, and for every one read, a feather was glued to a mannequin, which was later sold (reportedly for $2,000 USD). The issue of the dearth of the familiar, old-school, privileged, aesthetic art object regarding sales of electronic media is a big one, and I couldn't help but notice that this performance bridged it.
Also in 2010, there was "Free", at NY's New Museum, which among other things, included riverofthe.net
[Link], consisting of video shorts submitted by participants. This is questioning what a work of art can be, ways of looking at art, and much more.
January of this year brought "Decode: Digital Design Sensations" in London's Victoria and Albert Museum. [Link]. The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) released this report on the use of electronic media and how people use it to participate in the arts, the demographics of those who do so and its significance to the art world. Some factoids: Those who access art through digi media attend more function, performances and arts events -- by a factor of three. For older, minority and lower economic class folks, digital media is their only access to benchmark arts events. Curiously, participation through media is about equal between urban and rural viewers. Between 1/5th and 1/4th of the US adult population use these media to view art, and/or inform themselves about arts events. [Link]. There was "The Social Graph" at Bushwick, UK. [Link].
Rachel Perry Welty has done work with social media, including Facebook with "Rachel is", where she updated her Facebook page with an update once a minute for sixteen hours. For a sellable object, she made aluminum foil forms of words from spam messages. [Link].
Artist Jennnifer Dalton's "What are we not Shutting Up About?", involved exploring the most-used words from Jerry Saltz's Facebook page, showing that the (5,000!) members yearn for dialogue and community. The work is for sale for $18,000 at Ed Winkleman's gallery. [Link].
The Art landscape's horizons have been widened by social networks, which artists are now exploring, addressing, redefining, mining and more. It's currently new-ish, and definitely faddish/trendy, and we'll be seeing a lot more artists, museums and gallerists getting into this. I have listed only a few shows that I thought significant, and a handful of artists. By no means is this meant to be a survey of any kind, only a heads-up.