Thinking things through…

In order to execute a public art project that involves interaction with an audience, you first need to reach that audience. While organizing The Untold Edition I realized how much I had to rely on social media to connect to people. I realized the power social media wielded over my target audience and how much it swayed their likes and dislikes. I also realized the power social media could afford to me, if I learned to wield it. That began my fascination with this digital post-truth era anew.

I hopped onto the social media bandwagon about four years ago, and even then I wasn’t interested in putting my personal life out there in the least. However, I did realize that for a young mom, boxed in at home with two toddlers for the greater part of the day, social media was a great tool to learn, connect and grow. I made a closed Facebook group ‘Mommies of the Round Table’, I made my own page ‘Artwork by Kehkashan’ and I used them to have a conversation. Whether someone was reading or not mattered, but the scope of my reach did not matter to me.

Until two things happened.

  1. I started working on humanitarian projects.
  2. I started getting paid as social media influencer

I’ll talk about these projects in greater detail in a different blogpost, but the point is, when these things happened I began to observe the goings-on of social media more closely. One of the things I gathered was an obvious partiality of this medium towards emotion over fact.

So when the time came to choose a research paper topic, I knew social media factored into it somehow.

At first I stumbled onto Guy Debord and his book ‘The Society of the Spectacle’ as well as his article “Comments on The Society of the Spectacle”. Cynical and marxist no doubt, but it was also eerily prophetic. It was a vast book, yet I felt like it should feature somewhere in the paper.

I also found out about Fluxus’ theories of art stemming from everyday life and accessible to everyone. I felt like social media embodied that theory. However, in the research paper brief we’d been given, this topic was given as an example. Yet, I felt it should feature somewhere.

Since public art projects had been my gateway into the world of a social media influencer, and social media was a form of public art in itself, I figured my overarching topic should be ‘Public art in a post-truth era’. I wanted to use Allan Kaprow’s ‘Happenings’ and ‘The Fourth Plinth’ project and equate them to the social media world. However, using this as a topic seemed rather vague and inconclusive. Yet, I felt it should feature somewhere.

From these findings, these were the first working titles that emerged:

An examination of the ‘Happenings’ and the ‘Fourth Plinth’ projects to analyze the impact of the digimodernist and post-truth era on art in the public sphere, in light of the theories of the Fluxus movement and Debord’s ‘Comments on The Society of the Spectacle’.

“An examination of the ‘Happenings’ and the ‘Fourth Plinth’ projects to analyze the impact of the digimodernist and post truth era on art in the public sphere, in light of the theories of the Fluxus movement and Debord’s ‘Comments on the society of the spectacle’.”

Public art in the post-truth era: comparing and contrasting the ‘happenings’ and ‘fourth plinth’ projects to social media art through the prism of the Fluxus Manifesto and Debord’s ‘comments on the society of the spectacle’.

And yet, somehow, these titles still seemed to engulf concepts too vast for a 3000-4000 word paper to do them justice. More importantly, I couldn’t see the direct links between what I had just written. It would be a stretch to connect one to the other. However, I let it be and I began my research.

The first term I needed to look into was ‘Post-Truth’ so I searched around and found a very pertinent book by Lee McIntyre with the same title. I bought it on my kindle and have been reading it ever since.

As I read I realized that each and every thing I had mentioned in my initial working title was deep enough to have its own dedicated research paper. And in the research paper brief they encourage us to distill our title down till it is very focused, even if that means letting go of other things we may want to research.

So here are the thoughts I went through to get to my (for now) final topic.

  1. I could examine ‘The Happenings’ or Fluxus theories and how the concept of art stemming from everyday situations is so closely linked to the way social media works
  2. OR I could examine the way politics/social media etc have intertwined to create the very spectacle Guy Debord predicted.
  3. OR I could comment on the Fourth Plinth project, analyzing different artworks that were displayed within that concept and discuss how a parallel could be drawn between offering artists the chance to put their work on the fourth plinth and exhibiting on social media.
  4. OR I could stick to the concept of post-truth. Examine the notion of ‘post-truth’ through Lee Mcintyre’s book and George Orwell’s 1984, and how public art on social media fits into the equation.

This last thought is the one I need to refine further into a topic. The core focus will be to understand Public art in the post truth era: analyzing social media through the prism of ‘Post-Truth’ by Lee McIntyre.

I do plan to include some snippets of the other projects I mentioned but they will not feature as a core part of the research paper.

Okay, getting back to the book now so I can start writing soon!

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