Just finished installing a sculpture commission from HLN in the CNN building in Atlanta, GA called “#nicehashtag”. It’s an 8’ x 8’ x 5’ sculpture that does sentiment analysis of tweets in real-time and changes color based on that analysis via a program that can control Philips Hue smart bulbs. The script can determine whether a tweet is Positive (green), Neutral (blue), or Negative (red). The concept was to make social media physical, and provide a framework for experiences with social media that encourages the audience to be kind to one another on the internet. The title, #nicehashtag, relates to the unstable nature of non-verbal communication; “nice hashtag” could mean that someone is being kind, or it could be sarcastic, or even congratulatory. The ambiguity and lack of context, much like the 140-character limit of tweets, allows the viewer to project their own interpretations and expectations upon the work.
Here are some pics I took on install day while the programmers Miles and Kelsey were debugging and finalizing the script, so the colors are all sorts of crazy. Kelsey is like, really excited.
Here’s a promo video that HLN released, with all 4 commissioned projects, including sculptures by Mike Stasny and Mass Collective:
More to come, including a behind the scenes video and some new video of the sculpture responding to Twitter in real-time.
Order of Masculinity, my 2013 performance and multi-channel artwork. I still have hours of time-lapse documentation to edit, but here’s a drawing teaser and an alternate asymmetric video, with the essay posted below.
Order of Masculinity is a multi-channel, ongoing investigation of what it means to be a man in contemporary American culture.
It began with a performance where I individually plucked each hair from my beard and glued them to a sheet of paper, one at a time, to create a drawing. When I encountered any white hair, I attached them to the surface of a black canvas. During this 2-month process during the summer of 2013, I did not sequester myself, but went about my life as usual. I was interested in learning what happens when a deviant presentation of masculinity is inserted into the social contract.
As a white, heterosexual male, I was born with–what society asserts is–a loaded deck of privilege and opportunity. One of those privileges is social anonymity. Unlike far too many of my friends and family, I do not get harassed on the street for having a body, I have not been the subject of hate crimes due to my sexual orientation, and I haven’t been called a derogatory racial epithet in over a decade. I have no control over the genetic attributes born into me, and I have no desire to speak for or presume to represent any cultural assemblage of persons. What I can control is how I present myself to the world, so I decided to embrace one of my masculine insecurities, which is my inability to grow a full and even beard.
Males are given a fairly wide range of socially-acceptable grooming choices when it comes to facial hair. The common factor, however, is symmetry. Adopting an asymmetrical facial-hair configuration calls constant social attention to my deviancy, and reminds me how vulnerable I am or could be. It is not, however, a completely ostracizing deviancy. People might feel uncomfortable, but no one I encountered seemed outright repulsed. Most often, people either ignored my appearance, or approached me to ask, “What’s with the beard?”
I learned two notable things from this experience. One is that the people who ignored my half-beard, gave me very intense eye contact, as if they were trying very hard not to look at the thing that didn’t belong. The second was that strangers who probably wouldn’t normally approach me for conversation, came up and asked why I had only half a beard. In both cases, what began as a form of self-alienation became a means of social connection.
Also: I have a spread in it. Dashboard Co-op asked several artists to create images for the interior of the publication, the only stipulation was that it had to be a duotone of orange and blue PMS colors. I’ve been working for a while now on a body of work based on guillotines, so that’s what inspired this work as well. I was thinking about the baskets that collect the chopped-off heads (see the picture below), and the nursery rhyme A-Tisket A-Tasket popped into my not-chopped-off head.
My spread, A Tisket A Tasket
The PMS color changed after I submitted, so this blue is a little different from the actual print.
Modern Atlanta cover
Baskets are useful.
The image is overlapping text gradients with rectangular recessions in visual space. For me, they evoke body-support objects and/or containers: boxes, chairs, benches or coffins. Things we use to support or contain a body. The foreground also makes a letter “H.” You can decide for yourself what that might stand for.
There are several lyrical variations to the rhyme, the words that make up the halftones are:
A-tisket a-tasket, A green and yellow basket, I wrote a letter to my mommy, And on the way I dropped it, I dropped it. I dropped it, And on the way I dropped it. A little girly picked it up and put it in her pocket.
It started to take on a more sinister meaning when the function of many pre-Disneyfied children’s rhymes and stories is considered in context with the guillotine’s. Each could be seen as a form of alleviating social deviancy: rhymes and fairy tales to occupy the imagination or warn children of the harsh realities of the world so they grow up “right,” guillotines to enforce social healing by eliminating undesirables from society. One makes a person and helps form their social identity, the other unmakes them and removes it.