The Annual 2012

School of Visual Arts


Adam Bell, Seth Lambert and Michelle Leftheris

“Social Media,” a group exhibition that featured an array of works exploring the implications of what used to be called Web 2.0, opened at the Pace Gallery in New York in September 2011. The show’s curators were Adam Bell, Seth Lambert and Michelle Leftheris, all faculty members of theMFA Photography, Video and Related Media Department at SVA. Among those included in the show were former Talking Head David Byrne and the collaborative duo Miranda July and Harrell Fletcher. The exhibition mined the aesthetics of apps and video games, texting and microblogging to cross and recross the boundary between real and virtual words.

Writer Brian Gresko reported on the show’s opening for the Huffington Post:

Word had gotten out about the opening of ‘Social Media’ at the Pace Gallery in Chelsea—not surprising, given the show’s title. The large, factory-like space thronged with people interested in the art, and those attracted by the hubbub and bevy of food trucks parked out front. A man dressed in either a sailor or ice cream man’s white suit stood out from the crowd, as did a pair of scruffy teenagers wearing shorts and T-shirts and carrying acoustic guitars.

David Byrne also drew attention. The former Talking Heads frontman looked svelte in a blue suit jacket, his white hair contrasting nicely with his dark tan—he’s just back from judging the Venice Film Festival, and a trip to South America to discuss bicycle-friendly city planning. Byrne made a quick circuit of the gallery, stopping to let fans take a few pictures, then moved on, I heard him say, to the Agnes Martin opening down the street.

Byrne’s name had surely attracted many. ‘Social Media’ contains two of his pieces: a series of faux iPhone apps that provoked more smiles than thought, and shots of parliamentary scuffles displayed in digital photo-frames called Democracy in Action.

Jarrett Moran, editor of Artlog, reviewed the exhibition for her magazine:

Social Media’ takes a long view that starts in the 1960s with Robert Heinecken (the show’s one pre-Internet artist), who altered magazines like Time and Mademoiselle with his own collages and put them back on supermarket racks for others to stumble on. Since Heinecken, the idea of pulling from, responding to, and feeding back into the media has become more commonplace—Twitter, Tumblr, conceptual art video games, supercuts and super supercuts attest to the prevalence of Heinecken’s media interventionism.

Before the opening, the gallery convened exhibiting artists Aram Bartholl, David Byrne, Emilio Chapela, Penelope Umbrico and Miranda July for a panel moderated by Artlog. The panelists articulated a desire to explore new technology without making art merely about the technology’s novelty, or as Byrne put it, ‘making art about telephone wires.’ July emphasized that her project preceded (and anticipated) the websites we think of as social media. Her collaboration with Harrell Fletcher, Learning to Love You More created a community around an ongoing series of art assignments posted online from 2002 to 2009. Bartholl likewise emphasized how quickly the Internet is evolving and how recently the term ‘social media’ supplanted the previously trendy ‘Web 2.0.’

Social Media Opens at the Pace Gallery, with Works by David Byrne, Miranda July

Using the Web to Rebel Against the Web