Get 7 artists, pair them with 7 technologists, then wait and listen. This is the couplet-styled social formula driving Rhizome.org’s 7 on 7 conference, now in its 3rd year. Headlined by Harper Reed, Dalton Caldwell, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, and Dennis Crowley, this year’s works were pre-occupied with the anxieties of social media.
If we always wait for updates and alerts through technology, asked Fatima Al Qadiri, are we perpetually in a state of low alert?
In a world increasingly interested in “loop functions,” suggested Paul Pfieffer and Alex Chung, perhaps we are simply trying to desensitize ourselves through repetition. To make the odd, violent or unexpected more familiar.
What if we had you delete between 1 and 10 Facebook friends, asked Harper Reed and Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, would you even notice who was gone?
The conversations and products circled on an implied sociological critique: that the technologies we’re most attached produce anxiety alongside utility. And these technologies are increasingly producing the direct anxieties we look for them to solve. Problems like connection, comfort, answers, or inspiration. As we wonder about the Boston Marathon, shocked by its senseless violence, we activate in ourselves an obsession with the event’s imagery, chronology, and meaning. We quickly marshal social media to provide us with more information than we can make sense of, even as we push our own misgivings and concerns back into the network.
It would be wrong to suggest that the conference’s assessment of social media as anxiety platform was negative. Because most of the pairings felt as grateful as they were concerned, as relieved by notifications as they are alarmed, as amused by “fracking friends” as they were horrified to lose connections.
That duality feels a natural place for brief creative pairings to net out. Not because collaborating is about compromising between two ideas, but because with two visions at work, ideation remains in conflicting motion.
Notes on the projects:
Harper Reed + Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s Friend Fracker was a big fan favorite. Just authenticate with Facebook and you can lose 1 to 10 friends with a click. No, they won’t tell you who. “The art is not knowing who it deletes.” If a friend dies in a forest of connections, can the broken link even be found?
I adored Dalton Caldwell + Fatima Al Qadiri’s “Constant Update” video. Simple, elegant, high conceptual art for the plights of a connected masses. Are we just Pavlovian dogs trained to our beeps and buzzes? Wish they cataloged more update/alert sounds to form a comprehensive encyclopedia.
Live for just 30 minutes, Dabit.org earned $953 in donations from conference attendees. The project from Billy Chasen + Matthew Richard collects donations for charitable causes then splits the total pot 50/50 with someone who donated that day. Pretty hefty incentive. They duo felt being an angel was too hard, and that we need more than social messaging to take part.
Dennis Crowley, founder of Foursquare, was unable to complete a project with Jill Magid. He caught a 24 hour flu going into the event. It was a pretty big letdown. Hope he feels better.