LITANY : spamming in the name of art
I talk to strangers every day at my job. But they’re expecting it – I work in customer service, and they walked into my place of employment. Unsolicited communication on the street is usually tossed off as “catcalling”. Unsolicited email? Spam.
One of the rules I set for myself on this project is that I get permission from every person whose name I publish in the work of art. When a large group poses for a portrait, they know it. They opt in by standing still in the group. Same is true here.
How do I get all those ‘yes’s?
One afternoon in April was spent emptying the contacts of my address book, for Pittsburgh artists. I invited them to invite their creator-friends. A first wave responded, a smattering of seconds and thirds showed up as well. Then it tapered off.
There are a few online resources where Pittsburgh-based artists have collected themselves and published forward-facing personal information for anyone to mine. Its labor-intensive, but bears fruit. I’m picking through the Pittsburgh Artist Registry, pulling email addresses, creating lists.
For a culture that is up in arms about how private or public personal information is on Facebook, I’m surprised at the amount of personal information artists make available on the registry. Still, I have created a “page” on Facebook, to encourage creatives there to share the project with each other. I like to keep a modicum of privacy over there; I do actually use the FB to socialize with my friends near and far, and am really not that interested in ‘audiencing’ my friends. That is a totally separate issue altogether …
… However I am directly contacting well over a thousand people in order to make this work. It reaches the strange threshold where a decent segment of the audience becomes direct participants in the creation of the work. Since the LITANY is about community, about a particular community within a greater community (the nesting box of ‘makers’ inside the community Pittsburgh) this is bound to happen. The work is a self-selected almost-ethnography; since people are volunteering, omissions are bound to happen.
What a human activity this is … almost as slippery and impossible as defining what art is, this collection, this community …