Certainly enough content creators exist in the world to lead us to new ideas about art and literature but how do we find them?
When we begin to look at the way the internet has changed art, we need to situate ourselves within realistic expectations. Will sharing a meme on an Instagram page have the same affect as Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Can? Probably not, or at least, not in the way that we’ve come to think of Warhol and his tasty, advertisement laden experiments in contemporary art. Going viral doesn’t have nearly as much importance as it did back in the day of The Factory because it happens once a week. Someone creates a meme or a tweet or an image and then it gets picked up and inherited by the zeitgeist. Often, unless the creator recorded a Tik Tok or Instagram Reel, the original maker of the content will stay anonymous.
Well, you’ll say, what do you know about contemporary art? Why should I trust you? As an online, millennial with a degree in Creative Writing, I am the perfect candidate for uplifting the voice of an up and coming artist or art collective. I say this ironically, but a sliver of truth exists there. When ideas can be disseminated and explored with such ease, art should be within thumb’s reach. But most pieces never make it to me. What’s more, if they do make it to me they’ve already been appropriated by a company’s social media team or by one of the thousands of meme accounts. Then, within the week, they’re gone. Where is the staying power of art?
Certainly, one artist pool that has benefited from this new form of sharing is the bedroom producer. Music has come a long way in how its accessed, but because music has both an accessibility and an ability to be recycled, even samples of music encourage more than one listen. This of course leads to more longevity and for the musicians, it allows a steady supply of income (hopefully). The medium of art, drawn or otherwise, does not come as readily.
The exception to this rule is Twitter. Unlike Facebook or Instagram, Twitter develops communication with short and generally accessible statements, jokes, or philosophical assertions. The shortness of a Tweet allows it to be shared and understood, and makes it easier to go viral — if a big account sees your tweet and retweets you, a silly thought might become your claim to fame. This ease does not come gently, as viral content will probably throw you into an array of expectations and commentary. Celebrity has become so close to the middle class that commentaries on viral tweets can make someone even more viral than the original.
Enter, the prosumer. Originally coined by Alvin Toffler, prosumers are :
“individuals who consume and produce value, either for self-consumption or consumption by others, and can receive implicit or explicit incentives from organizations involved in the exchange” — Journal of Service Management.
In short, reposters, meme accounts, and influencers. These new performers stand in a strange spotlight of the digital art world. One may consider them curators but more so, they are performance artists, whose lives may draw intrigue or envy but certainly views. They are more interested in curating an aesthetic for themselves from the digital content that they find on their discover pages, stories, or hashtag searches than they are about creating their own art.
Which brings us back to Warhol, an original in his own right but certainly not alone, Warhol both created his art and curated art. Fittingly, even though we may associate him with high art, he became a pop icon dissolving some inaccessibility present in the art world.
Now, as inaccessibility in art has all but disappeared on the internet, some may fear we will never have a need for another Warhol and if one exists, we might not hear about them. It takes work to find gems now and, if you want to be a gem that’s found, that takes even more work. But, at least its work that affords you a presence from the comfort of your couch. Curate your feeds, reach out to people who seem to like the same art as you. It was never enough to only be an artist. That was a myth. But now, in the vastness of online, you can break into niche networks never given to the public before.
Then again, why break into someone else’s network if you could make your own?
Perhaps the best tactic for finding the next Warhol is to be the next Warhol.