Art on social media

Bill Crandall

Of course plenty has been written about social media and art, I’m not sure I can add something new of value.

Like most artists, I’ve wrestled with the limitations of social media as a platform for art. I’ve seen too many artists post their work online, let’s say on Facebook or Instagram, only to receive a somewhat dispiriting number of responses even if the work itself is quite strong and interesting. Obviously people are deluged by the torrent of social media content, and increasingly task number one is not to let it take over one’s day completely. So the endless scroll requires extreme vetting - what is worth clicking on? The latest Trump outrage? Your friends’ smiling group shot at a hip event? Hedgehog Azuki’s daily cuteness? Since you know in advance you might click on a number of things that could really add up in terms of time, you can’t afford too many missteps.

For the record I enjoy Facebook quite a lot (probably too much), in part because I try to post quality stuff and my friends generally do as well. There’s some fluff to wade through, but not too much. I truly feel like I discover things I wouldn’t otherwise, in addition to keeping up with the (mostly) worthwhile musings of friends.

Personally I am somewhat averse to clicking on videos unless I know they are very short. For some reason even though I’ll read articles that take several minutes, those same minutes watching a video feel more like I’m falling down the rabbit hole.

So why would I post, as I did the other day, a 10-minute video? Which I myself wouldn’t be likely to click on? Who feels like they have ten minutes for anything? It’s some of my finest recent work: a song sequence from my music album that I’m quite proud of, thoughtfully paired with images in an interesting conceptual narrative. But not only is it long, it’s SLOW. Slow like a Bela Tarr film scene, I’d like to think. Actually not quite that slow. Maybe slow like 1970s movie pacing. It requires (and rewards) patient attention. Can our brains even handle that anymore? There’s been plenty of evidence that consuming short online reading has made it harder for the brain to settle into reading a novel. Our wiring is evolving. Is long-form anything already toast?

The video is part of a loose, experimental narrative of sorts, about the first people to leave Earth for another planet, knowing they won't return. It uses my original music and my photos combined with NASA public domain images. This is the segment toward the end as they approach their new home (Mars), descend in pure terror, and somehow land safely and begin to build a life. After a few years Earth has stopped responding to their communications. Has something happened back home, are they more alone than they realize? I tested it on a few of my high school students, they hung there and seemed to like it, but that was a projection in a darkened classroom, by request of the teacher. What realistic expectation should I have that people will pause their day for such an absurd proposition: “click here for ten minutes of something I created”?