Is it art or is it spam?

So we had a lovely hangout for CT101 this week.

(I am at the limit of what media I can add here and I am not used to that. I pay for the media pack on my blog and never run out of space to gif there. So just links here from now on)

We had many technical issues but Prof. Michael drew on his tech support past and we managed to overcome them all. I have not watched it again yet, but wanted to write this post now to note some key insights I had as we talked. It was such a rich conversation, I want to go back and review it again soon.

For now, what stuck?

  • Bebo saying we must connect to something we love deeply to find inspiration. All the more meaningful coming from a young person who is starting out as an artist and seems determined to hang on the joy of creating.
  • Prof Ryan talking about how we have preconceptions about what art is that are unexamined. Such as who counts as an artist. Leonardo and Michelangelo may be, but modern artists? Meh.  Ryan explored this to show us how limited our conception of what is an artist can be. I suddenly realised that what stops me from saying I am an artist is precisely this same preconception. An artist belongs in the Uffizi not on Tumblr. Change that belief now!
  • Michael saying that when he started out the people whose judgement he feared the most were those who were close to him. I had not consciously thought about this before. Yet, I reflect that only recently I started to say ‘I make digital art as a hobby, so I made you this’. I only ever thought about sharing what I make with my close friends and family weeks ago. It suddenly occurred to me I can save a heap of money on presents making art for friends :)
  • Stefanie tried so hard to join us and it was so lovely when she did. I have known her for most of my DS106 life. She has been a great guide to me, challenging me in the most kind and caring way to call myself an artist. She said that now I had spent an hour talking about what art is, I had not escape but to call myself an artist!
  • Stefanie also said that artists do not just create for fun but that they have a drive to create. They have to make art. I was reminded about what I always say about writing books: “I pray I will not get another idea. Writing books is hard, but once i get the idea I must write the book.”
  • So far I have only talked about the meaningful asides. The core of the conversation was to explore how we get over our fears to show our work. I requested this topic because I realised that one of the things that stops me from calling myself an artist is my fear that people with say ‘I hate it’.
  • Ryan ( Zen master like) said that all this talk about evaluation and emotional attachment to outcome was just the ego talking. Yeap. True that.
  • I went down this route because of a task Ryan had set for me to learn. Publish a post of art I love and art I hate. I realised that in doing this I would have to go public on my emotional responses to art. This was at the edge of my comfort. What if I lost all my friends when I told them I hate Constable for example?
  • I reflected that engaging with the idea of being an artist is a powerful was of developing one’s emotional intelligence.
  • Defining myself at the identity level as an artist, the way I say ‘I am a psychologist’ or ‘I am a writer’ means profound personal change. To me ‘I am an artist’ feels as risky as ‘I am a poet’. I confessed on the hangout that I have a lot writing that I label ‘ramblings’ but that others might call poetry and that I never publish that.
  • Since starting DS106 I have published some creative writing as a means to tell a story. This now feels pretty okay. Mostly, people value the way I put words together.
  • We talked about the process of liking on Tumblr and other platforms. I said that I do not attach a lot of value to this. On reflection this is not, strictly speaking, true. As a flip-side of fearing those I care about hating my work, I put a lot of value on a ‘like’ from people I respect. I am less concerned about accumulating quantities of likes from people I do not know.  I think it is true, as Michael says, that the process of curating art can teach us a lot about where our passion (our vocabulary) for making art lies. I had not considered this before I started playing with CT101.
  • Ryan suggested an another task: your favourites on Twitter contain a mine of information about constructs that matter to you emotionally and that can form a purposeful part of your inner ‘artistic mindscape’. Off looking there next.
  • We talked about John Johnston. A fellow DS106 traveller who also wonders if his work is that of an artist. Stefanie mentioned how he tends to focus on the technical aspects and minimise the artistic elements. We all went ‘his gifs are something else, man’. Definitely art and (Shhh…. he might hear :)) he is definitely an artist.
  • Ryan disagreed with me when I said that may be he could not understand our fears as he had always been supported as an artist. He told the story of going to art school and feeling a passion for Graffiti Art and how the powers that be in art school kept suggesting he might try a different type of art. He kept coming back to his love for graffiti art.
  • Is it art or is it spam? Could it be that, like so many things in our personal growth, it is what I believe it is?

I started calling what I learnt to make in DS106, artefacts. I too would have said it was the technical elements that appealed. I have never focussed too much on the story telling element of it. I got hooked on making animated gifs. Why? Who knows? I love animated gifs. Full Stop. I love them. Art or spam? They can be both. I have made some I am now proud to call art and have currently settled for ‘makes’ to describe what i do.

Animated gif by @gifadog. “Slaying our inner MOOC monsters” for the HEA conference 2014.











On another note, I keep telling myself I ‘should’ learn photography. I never get around to it. Don’t get me wrong I love photography. Yet, I never get around to taking photos. What do I find myself ‘having’ to do? Looking for photos others have taken and doing creative edits of them. I normally say that is just for fun. It is fun. But you know what? I feel passionate about salvage. Recycling digital content is another theme I notice runs through that space where I notice what I ‘deeply love’. As far back as the start of this year I was preoccupied with this thing I called ‘digital landfills‘. I risked disagreement from those whose views I respect stating my view that may be, just may be, we needed environmental awareness for the digital as well as the physical:

Sell-by dates for data? Digital Literacies that include a sense of guardianship for what we produce? Questioning our god-given right to keep hoarding content just because it is virtual? Let’s keep the ideas coming without changing the conversation to ‘But, we have the right to create!’ We do. Yet,  if we stop to reflect, we may also see unintended and unwanted consequences in our creating?

How aligned is that with my passion to look for existing stuff and remix it? Mind has ordering principles if only we listened more often.

Thank you guys for such an enlightening conversation, I will be pondering on all these nuggets for a long time and am definitely on my way to being an artist!

CT101 Digital Storytelling