The Ministry of Artistic Affairs
Wednesday, May 25, 2011

How much art fits into 140 characters? That's the question posed by "Creative Time Tweets," a project that starts today, organized by curator Shane Brennan.

The public art organization commissioned three artists — Man Bartlett, David Horvitz and Jill Magid — to create artworks using the social networking tool Twitter from now until July. According to a press release, each will use the site "as both an artistic tool and a site for public performance."

Bartlett, who holds a BA in theater, has tested the performance-tweeting waters before, with an absurdist project called #24hClerk, in which, for one full day in March, he assigned price tags to dreams that people submitted via tweet. User letincelle, for example, offered "lucid dream: I manage to leave my body, walk around, decide to fly through the closed window, fly through, wake up, beautiful." For each dream sent in, a red price tag was affixed to a white sheet of paper visible via webcam.

For his Creative Time project, #24hPort, Bartlett will spend 24 hours at New York's Port Authority bus station, asking passengers and passersby, "Where are you going?" and "Where have you been?" and tweeting their responses, contrasting the drudgery of humble, real-time travel with the instantaneousness of networked messaging.

Also no stranger to social media, Horvitz prominently features on his website a list of his latest 100 twitter posts (the latest at time of this writing: "Clouds in sky illuminated by city lights below").

Horvitz plans a project that similarly involves physical travel as well as antique forms of communication. For #5992: I Will, with Pleasure, Take Letters for You, he will transcribe audience-generated tweets, either by hand on cards, or, in case of a deluge, by typewriter. He will then physically carry them, traveling by train, along the route of the original transcontinental telegraph line. After arriving in Washington, D.C., from San Francisco, he will submit the project to the Library of Congress, so that the physical record will reside in the same place that all tweets are already digitally stored.

To date, Magid has not used Twitter before. The artist has previously infiltrated power structures — interviewing agents with the General Intelligence and Security Service of the Netherlands, having an affair with a New York transit cop — to create works in various mediums that often explore secrecy or surveillance. For example, in the video Trust (2007), she allows a Liverpool cop to guide her through the city center via ear bud while her eyes are closed and he watches her on a security camera. Her Twitter project is to be determined. We'll be watching.

By Brian Boucher for Art in America.