Monday, August 31, 2009

Project IV: The Dive - September 8-10

Reene's Swan Dive
Photo via mcescobar1 on Flickr

I've had this idea brewing for a good while now, immediately after I saw that Facebook would be moving into a real-time update model. I knew that I wanted to take a look at this move toward real-time and immediacy online, but had to focus on other @Platea projects for the moment.

It's been almost six months since Facebook went real time in March, and we've seen an even greater trend toward real-time. Facebook acquired popular social media aggregator FriendFeed, which offers push updates in real-time. And we've seen Twitter suffer a number of server hiccups, leading to much angst all around when updates were delayed.

In short, immediacy is quickly becoming the norm in social media.

Lighthouse Diving - Dovercourt Essex
photo via Jibba Jabba on Flickr

Project IV: The Dive
As the summer comes to an end in the northern hemisphere and the fall art season heats up, the steering committee and I thought it might be fun to have one last hurrah with a public dive through social media. The performance will be September 8 to 10, and we're asking our performers to use the real-time news feed as a visual performance space for diving.

Just think about it: you go online, you check your Facebook and FriendFeed feeds, and as the day goes on, each status update and picture post slowly makes its way down. If it's a busy day and you have a lot of friends, these updates slide down quickly. If it's a slow day, they get there eventually. Imagine a picture of yourself diving through this space, gradually making your way down your friends' news feeds.

Sounds kinda fun, huh?

Emerald Dog Dive.
Photo via Jeffrey Beall on Flickr

How to Participate
Participation is simple. For three days, from September 8 to 10, we're going to take a collective plunge. Here's how:

1. Write your name and links to your social media sites in the comments space below. The most effective sites for The Dive will be ones that show a picture as they update. Facebook's news feed is the most obvious, as is FriendFeed. Flickr is also a good option, and I'm sure there are a few more. Even your own personal blog could work--it would just be a very slow dive if you don't update very often!

2. Follow @Platea on Twitter and/or join the @Platea Facebook group. We'll be posting thoughts and ideas for inspiration in preparation for the week. Feel free to share your own, and we'll retweet or repost them.

3. Set up a self-timer or grab a friend and take pictures of yourself "diving". No, you don't have to be wearing a bathing suit. It doesn't even have to be you. All that matters is that you find some way to visually represent a dive. The fun part will be watching this image slowly make its way down your and your friends' news feeds, as if it's, well, diving.

4. It may be helpful to explain what the heck you're doing. If you're using Facebook, you can set up an album called "The Dive: @Platea Project IV" with a description of the images. Here's one suggestion:
From September 8 through 10, I'm participating in "The Dive", a public performance art project organized by the @Platea collective. It's kind of strange but also kind of fun. Learn more about it at
5. By Monday, September 7, we'll post a running list of who's participating, with links to their sites.

6. On September 8, start diving! Dive once a day, dive once an hour. Synchronize dives with friends and do some cool tricks. Dive as much or as little as you want. Dive at different times of day. Have fun and enjoy the end of the summer.

Simon Sky Diving
Photo via GoGap on Flickr

Questions? Ideas? Thoughts? Send an @reply to @Platea on Twitter or leave a comment here.

Monday, August 17, 2009

hopes/dreams/fears: A Global Public Art Potluck

hopes/dreams/fears Wordle
A Wordle of all the hopes/dreams/fears entries. Click to view larger.

Over two months ago, @Platea kicked off Project III: hopes/dreams/fears, a global online public art project formally launched in New York City during a presentation at the Brooklyn Museum and a public installation at the FIGMENT NYC arts festival on Governor's Island. I was looking for something low-key and community-driven for the summer, as so many people spend their time outdoors this time of year.

We meant to run till the end of July but extended it to almost the end of August (it's in fact still going), with crowdsourced hopes, dreams and fears from communities 'round the world adding up to so much more than I, well, had hoped and dreamed for. Here's where we netted out:
Total hopes/dreams/fears? 552.

Some 200 hopes, 150 dreams, and 175 fears (there were some combination ones, which is why the numbers are fuzzy)

Average age of participants: 31 years old
The youngest at age 5, the oldest at age 82
And two pets!

Nearly 20 countries across 4 continents, though concentrated mainly in North America, western Europe and Australia and New Zealand, as mapped out here:
hopes/dreams/fears geomap

A Collective Unconscious
In many ways, this project has been done before. The ever-popular Post Secret no doubt rested in the back of my mind as we developed the concept, and just today we saw the launch of the Dirty Laundry project. Tapping the Internet for anonymous thoughts is a popular project, but in the wake of a global economic crisis and the rise of social media, I wanted to try this project within the context of the news feed, which has become the central gateway to the Internet for many, if not most, people online these days.

It used to be said that on the Internet, no one knows you're a dog. But these days, with intertwined Facebook networks and shared RSS feeds and verified email addresses, everyone not only knows you're dog, but who your parents are and where you went to school. The idea of anonymity on the Internet is quickly fading away.

This is certainly a good thing. The early 90's fears of the Internet have soon morphed into openness about the idea of a mobile, connected world. And yet, there's a cost, isn't there, and that's the idea of a truly honest dialogue. Status updates these days are so ironic and detached because we don't know who will see what, and it can be difficult to truly expose ourselves to the world.

I think back to my school days, to etchings on the backs of chairs and in bathroom stalls, or to today's brand of street art, as much political as it is an expression of self or group identity. Anonymity can breed a certain level of honesty and deep connection. What I wanted to see is how the Facebook news feed, the Fifth Avenue of the Internet, could serve as a channel for anonymous expression, embedded within the otherwise known entities on most people's friends lists. Does the occasional interruption of one's feed lead to a different experience than, say, manually visiting a blog?

Here were some that caught my eye:
Anonymous hopes that my son will be happy in this world and be able to love other and himself. (NYC 20)

Kazue hopes for ice cream in my hand right now. (Kobe, Japan 36)

Lindsay dreams of being a mother (Winchester 42)

C. Avevedo dreams of crime disappearing (Puerto Rico 16)

k.sparkle fears she will always censor herself in both writing and life. (Carbondale, IL 22)

PG Stonefly fears going backwards (Westbury, Australia 36)
And so many more, day after day, started coming in, and as we posted them to the feed, I started to see honest responses, ironic responses, humorous ones and heartbreaking ones, both current and regional and timeless and universal. Jonny Gray put it best:
As with all of these "crowdsourced," on-line art projects, there is an openness to what constitutes a hope, a fear, or a dream. People will offer these statements as they will. My particular interest is in hearing folks address the prompt as if there are no backslashes between the terms -- as if they run together. What is your hope that is also a fear? What is your dream that embodies both elements of desire and anxiety? As the Tarot suggests, before we can predict the future (however loosely) we must address and assess our hopes AND/or fears.

A page from Jonny's hopes/dreams/fears journal, which he's been passing around the Carbondale, IL, area. See more at the hopes/dreams/fears Facebook page.

A Global Public Art Potluck

Ostensibly, what I wanted to explore was ambient awareness, i.e., how the aggregate of little details can lead to something of a picture of an individual. Could ambient awareness apply to a global community? That's a question I pose to you who experienced the project, but as it picked up, I also realized we were exploring something else: networked public art across continents.

The project began in New York, first during a presentation at the Brooklyn Museum and then at Figment 2009, as @Platea members on the east coast gathered attendees hopes, dreams and fears. We collected more than 200 from people of all walks of life attending the fair. Concurrently, however, we had physical gatherings in Carbondale, IL, with Jonny Gray, who passed out his hopes/dreams/fears journal, and during Worldwide Knit in Public Days with Ingrid Murnane. Christi Nielsen passed out hopes/dreams/fears slips to folks attending Los Angeles's downtown art walk.

More learners
h/d/f collection at a cornershop in Winchester, via @innym

Here's what Ingrid had to say:
World Wide Knit in Public Days fell on the 13th and 14th June this year. As part of a library outreach exhibition in Winchester, UK, I taught people to knit. Set up like a living room,’ there were plenty of places to sit and look at patterns from the library or read knitting books. An exhibition of knitted objects from the Knitting Reference Library handling collection were suspended from fishing line in the large bay window and duplicate vintage patterns displayed in the windows. I was invigilating for a good part of the week, and knitted in public like never before (and knitted over half a cardigan). I think that some people thought that we were an art installation, and certainly it felt like that at times!

While there, I collected the hopes, dreams and fears of the exhibition visitors and new knitters. Though at first trepidatious, both young and old took part. Writing their thoughts on slips of paper, they added them to a large brown envelope. Whether living up to the stereotyped English reserve or not, there were plenty who felt that they shouldn’t let anyone else know their inner emotions. Although they didn’t take part at the Knitting Room, some said that they would add their hopes/dreams/fears online. A few people were so embarrassed by the idea of writing their hopes, dreams and fears on paper that they blushed and left the exhibition saying ‘No, I just don’t do that kind of thing.’ I felt as if I was asking too much sometimes; intruding on their inner sanctums. I did wonder afterwards if it was because they knew that I would read them; that I would make a judgement on them.

The hopes, dreams and fears that I collected in Winchester ranged from outright funny to deeply sad and poignant. I’d like to thank all of the exhibition visitors for taking part: I know it wasn’t easy for a lot of you.
Shortly afterward, gatherings popped up at a mall in Hatillo, Puerto Rico, during a dinner party in Australia, even online on Second Life, and folks across the Internet directly entered in their own hopes, dreams and fears. John Casey is working on a Facebook application that will allow the project to continue into perpetuity (stay tuned for more details!). And that's when I started to realize that the hopes/dreams/fears project was becoming a study in global public art, in art that leverages the power of social media to build a global community both online and off.

Cry in SL
Nettrice Gaskins's @Platea installation on Second Life

The phrase "global potluck" came to mind recently. In a traditional potluck dinner, people sign up to bring different types of food. Some will go all out and slave over the oven all day, producing a fabulous casserole that would rival any five star chef. Others will make bring their family's secret pasta recipe and a salad. And some will bring chips and soda and good company. Each person contributes to the collective dinner according to their means and talents. In so many ways, hopes/dreams/fears evolved into a global potluck dinner, a public art project where each person shared only as much as they felt comfortable, whether it be a quick anonymous hope or a fully-organized gathering in their part of the world.

As I wrote recently in Art21 Blog, the runaway success of Antony Gormley's One & Other points to how the everyone-can-play ethic of social media is spilling into the art world, as tens of thousands enter a lottery to try their hand at contemporary public performance art. With hopes/dreams/fears, a project that allowed for numerous levels of involvement, this public art project took shape in both the physical and digital worlds, around the world and within local communities, and I was thrilled with how it's come out.
We may rely heavily on the Internet, but we cannot touch it, taste it or experience the indescribable feeling of togetherness that one gleans from face-to-face interac­tion, from the reassuring sensation of being among a crowd of one's neighbors. Seeing one another in these situations reinforces the importance of sharing resources, of working together, of bal­ancing our own needs with those of others. Online, these values become notions that are much more easily suspended to further our own self-interest. Not surprisingly, political movements that begin online must have a real-world component; otherwise they evaporate and dissolve into the blur of other activities.

John Freeman in the Wall Street Journal

The next @Platea project will be announced next week, and it will take us back into the realm of public performance online. But I'd love hear what you've thought so far about hopes/dreams/fears, especially as someone who's been following the feed. Please feel free to leave your comments here. And of course, we are still posting h/d/f's onto the Facebook page and the @Platea Twitter feed, so if you aren't doing so yet, please add yourself!

Monday, August 3, 2009

A Foam Board, a Parking Lot and Some Hopes/Dreams/Fears, by Jorge Álvarez

“Surely this will work!”

After participating in @Platea’s very fun and interesting Project II: Co-Modify I was understandably quite excited to be part of their next project. So as my part for Project III: hopes/dreams/fears I decided to go out to the mall and gather as many h/d/f’s as I could. The idea was to set up a small table in a corner with a little sign to attract people. I would have little pieces of paper with the project info to hand out and a foam board or two for people to write their h/d/f’s.

I figured that the mall was an excellent place to find people from a variety of backgrounds and would give a good sense of what the public was thinking, which would prove quite useful for the project. I was most curious about how current events would affect people’s h/d/f’s. Would the swine flu, the economic crisis or other current events dominate in the h/d/f’s? Or would the test on Friday (hey, some people take summer classes) be more fresh on someone’s mind?

The Reality…

So maybe this wasn’t going to be as easy as I first thought.

I went out with my good friend, her camera, a small foldable table, and a handful of markers to Mayagüez Mall, near where I study to start the gathering. I figured if I simply set up the table without asking for permission I would get kicked out quite fast and no good would come from it. I probably should’ve done this anyways. Once at the mall offices, I got about three whole words out before the lady at the desk started shaking her head. Not even in the parking lot. So I did what anyone in this situation would’ve done: went to Borders and spent a few hours looking at books.

Back in my hometown of Hatillo, the next day I went to the local mall to try out my luck. The lady there was in a much better mood and told me I had to talk to the marketing manager for permission, who unfortunately was still on vacation for the next two days. After checking at another mall with no luck, I decided to wait. Two days later I am finally ready to grab some h/d/f’s and was determined to get them that day no matter how. By then I decided to scrap the table and simply hold the foam board Free Hugs-style (I had done this before, asking for huggers to sign the board, with much success).

After walking around the mall for an hour waiting for the manager, I was finally told today was “not a good day” for it because there was too much traffic in the aisles (“But that is why today is perfect!”), that she would contact me in a few weeks and I could probably do it then. No good. Next destination: Walgreens!

Jorge hopes he doesn’t contract the swine flu doing h/d/f’s… (23, Hatillo, PR)

Did I mention this was the day they officially reported the first swine flu death in Puerto Rico? Yeah, only once I got there did I realize I was going to where most people with flu symptoms go to buy a bottle of NyQuil (heavenly NyQuil...). I, however, was set on doing this. After talking to the manager I was given the green light to do it… only I had to do it in the parking lot (~ 90° of delicious tropical sun). I didn’t care at this point.

So armed with a foam board, a handful of markers, a disposable camera (my friend wasn’t available) and my trusty bottle of hand sanitizer I picked a corner, and sort of looking like I was asking for money began my quest for some h/d/f’s.


It’s to be expected that many will have “world peace” at the top of their list, and sure enough the first person to not give me a weirded out look and participate (ok, maybe she did give me the look) hoped for exactly this. After this first participant I realized that h/d/f’s is a lot more writing than just signing your name after a hug, but the foam board setup helped keep them at “status update” length, which worked very well.

A lot of people looked sort of scared and some annoyed when they saw me holding the board or when I asked them if they wanted to participate. This combined with the guy that was selling raffle tickets (I got him to write his own h/d/f’s) and the guy that was actually just asking for money made it all rather difficult. I was getting about 1 participant in every 20 that walked by me, and I had to resort to saying that I wasn’t asking for money at all.

The people most willing to participate tended to be young parents with their kids. Their h/d/f’s tended to revolve around providing for their kids and worry of their kids coming to harm. Another group that shared their h/d/f’s were the younger crowd, between 11 and 20 years old. It was interesting to see they focused mostly on their dreams or hopes, which consisted mainly of their career aspirations and studies (e.g. “I dream of becoming a pro skater,” “I hope to become a doctor,” etc.).

A very consistent subject was religion, or God, to be more specific. This actually surprised me a little since I wasn’t really expecting it, but makes sense, since Puerto Rican culture tends to be very religion oriented. I did get various participants talk to me about God and one even included me on his dream of eternal life for his family. One confusing lady told me she liked the project a lot and thought it was sweet, but wouldn’t participate because “It’s only God’s place to look into people’s hearts and minds” and then proceeded to preach to me for about 5 minutes.

However, what I found most surprising was the fact that not a lot of participants mentioned the swine flu or the economy (not counting the ones about winning the lotto). I figured since these were the most current or impactful happenings, they would sort of “override” most people’s hopes or fears.

So, what did I learn?

Well, it’s hard to tell. Personally I learned that a hand sanitizer bottle really helps me calm down, people tend to be in a rush when going to the drugstore, and older people tend to distrust younger ones with a foam board reading “hopes fears dreams”. Keep in mind, however, this is an ongoing project and it helps to look at it as a whole, instead of our individual attempts, to really get a sense of the hopes, dreams and fears of people. The steady trickling of individual h/d/f’s on @Platea’s hopes/dreams/fears page on Facebook or their Twitter feed, little by little reveals a bigger picture of the thoughts and feelings from around the world.

Be sure to come back for future posts from other participants on the project. There is already a great post by our friend D. (@sortingtrolley) and I suggest you check it out as well. Feel free to ask anything and comment below or e-mail And make sure to follow @platea on Twitter!


By the way, if any of you were curious, my name is Jorge E. Álvarez and I’m a geology student from Puerto Rico. Also, I like to believe I’m a pirate.

Currently I have no idea of what I want to do with my life, which incidentally turns out to be a great thing for one’s creativity (lots and lots of ideas!). Joining @Platea has been one of the most fun things I’ve done (this sort of thing tends to happen), and has really motivated me to explore my artistic side. If you’re interested you can follow me on Twitter as @whore_hay. Cheers!