ONLINE: JEDER MENCH EIN KÜNSTLER
Up in the air. Online. Making oneself accessible. This is what it means to be an artist.
Nowadays, since everyone is making themselves accessible via social media, the artistic value of this accessibility have become somewhat dubious. It is somehow a threat to our integrety as individuals that we are making ourselves accessible all of the time; as if the privacy we are giving up by the act of accessibility is a primordial aspect of an individual identity.
For an artist it is different – and has always been different. At the core of artistic identity lies the professionalisation of the self – the self is a matter to be formed. The artistic identity is to be molded, conceptualised and narrated, thru the work of the artist. This artistic identity, the identity created by the artist is per se a public affair. It is only by offering this created identity to an audience that the artist becomes an artist. BUT the identity of the artist is never a personal identity. It is always and only a virtual identity. This virtuality has nothing to do with digitalization, cyberspace or the internet. The artist identity was virtual – artificial – long before the arrival of virtual reality. It is virtual in the sense that is a constructed self. A proposal. It exists as part of art and it must be understood as an integral part of art. Ever since Marcel Duchamp introduced the ready-made, the artist identity has been an operational part of defining what is art and what is not art. It is only the constructed artistic subject that possess the licence to define something as art. Without an artist subject – a virtual constructed artistic identity – art is not possible. Even a painting – the most stubbornly traditional art-object – will not become art without an artist-subject to define it as art. Furthermore, this defining moment, the moment when the artist points towards an object – or any other kind of occurance – and defines it as art, this moment is intrinsically public. It only works if it a public act.
So the artist is always online. Has always been. Growing up in public, as Lou Reed once called it. What is different today is that with the arrival of social media, the status of always-online, is no longer a special feature of artistic identity; it has become mundane, something everyone is doing all the time. Of course everyone doesn’t point to various objects and defines them as art all of the time – that part still belongs to the artists. But what everyone does pretty often, is creating themselves as virtual identities. Molding the self and making it public in a permanent, performative act of becoming.
The question is thus: When everyone else are now occupying the conceptual position of the artist, what position does that leave for the artist? Are we now in a situation where everyone is an artist, or as Joseph Beuys once stated: Jeder Mench ein Künstler? Or must the artist back off and redefine her/his position?