New Media Art and its Effects in
ART 4070: Currents in New Media
December 5th, 2017
Art has always been a form of
expressing ideas and opinions. New Media Art pushes the boundaries and uses the
platform to respond to cultural and political movements and conditions. Especially
in today’s society and political climate, artists have been called upon to turn
anger and opinion into artistic pieces to help spark movements and change. New
media artists, in today’s society have tackled the contemporary cultural and
political conditions through the integration
of social media networks and the intermediality of how these platforms
effect the way we communicate in our society today.
One artist who is a true
representation of this is Shepard Fairey who is best known for his Hope (2008) campaign, which portrays in
red, white and blue, a portrait of the then-presidential candidate Barack
Obama. This poster became a viral success and the icon of the presidential
campaign through the use of social media platforms. According to an interview
of the artist, “I think what then happened was that there were a
lot of people who were digging Obama but they didn’t have any way to
symbolically show their support. Once there was an image that represented their
support for Obama then that became their Facebook image or their email
signature or something they use on their MySpace page. Or they printed out the
image and made their own little sign that they taped up in their office. Once
that exists it starts to perpetuate and it replicates itself.”1 The
poster became an icon of hope that the democratic voters could relate to, a
visual representation of the hope they felt for the future and the Presidential
After his rise to
fame, Fairey used the iconic red, white and blue of the original Hope
poster in 2016 to create a new line of politically charged posters in response
to the hateful and xenophobic rhetoric of the, then President-elect Donald
Trump. Fairey created a series of three posters featuring portraits of
culturally diverse women in the iconic red, white and blue. The concept for
this three-part series was created at a different angle than that of the
original Hope poster, the three-part series was named We the People to
show that the people of America did not stand with the then President-elect and
stood for diversity and inclusion of all Americans. The pieces were created in
accordance with the We the People campaign, a nonpartisan campaign
dedicated to igniting a national dialogue about American identity and values
through public art and story sharing. “On Inauguration Day, 2016 and ever
since, the images of the We the People Campaign have flooded America and
the globe with new symbols of Hope to combat the rising power of white
nationalism, bigotry, and intolerance.”2
The We the People series was a vivid representation of the intermediality of social media networks and how they connect with the
communication of our society. Intermediality refers to the interconnectedness
of modern media of communication, meaning an expression and exchange of
different media and how they refer to and depend on one another and how they
are constituents of a wider social and cultural environment. 3
This piece was created for a sense of unity within marginalized people, but
there is also a sense of defiance. This is often seen when there is a drastic
cultural shift in society. For example, in the Kris Paulsen essay discussing
the creation and presentation of net art. In the mid-1990’s, when the World
Wide Web was first making its appearance to the everyday consumer, the Internet
was envisioned to be a time saving simplistic tool for people to use. Online artists exploited the public’s lack of
experience with the web to make intentionally confusing sites that were not
readily distinguished from typical, informational web pages, and that played
upon general fears about false identities, the circulation of ill-founded information,
and AIDS-era concerns about illness and viral contamination.4 This defiant
form of digital art is the root of many of the art of today’s new media social
When the We
the People series first launched, it spread almost instantaneously through
the views, retweets, reposts and other forms of digital communication that
allowed the works to spread worldwide. Social media has become such a vital
part of our modern communication. We as a society spend more time scrolling
through newsfeeds and profiles than interacting with people face to face. We
now communicate through likes and retweets, we no longer rely on print
marketing to create buzz, without the integration of social media, where it is
incorporated into the overall piece or idea, it is very difficult to create a
following around anything.
Another artist who is always pushing the boundaries of new media art
and creating pieces with a vivid voice is Annie Leibovitz.
Annie Leibovitz was born on October 2, 1949, in Waterbury, Connecticut. She
became Rolling Stone’s chief photographer in 1973. By the time she
left the magazine, 10 years later, she had shot 142 covers. Leibovitz has been
designated a Living Legend by the Library of Congress and is the recipient of
many other honors, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the
International Center of Photography, the Centenary Medal of the Royal
Photographic Society in London, and the Wexner Prize. In 1999, Annie Leibovitz and
her late partner, Susan Sontag, worked on a photo book and exhibition titled
“Women,” which featured more than 70 portraits of female public figures, such
as Hillary Clinton and Meryl Streep, at the
Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. “The project was never done,”
Leibovitz said. “It’s not one of those projects that will ever have an ending.”
Now, 17 years later, in 2016, Leibovitz had decided to revisit the photo series
in a new exhibition called “Women: New Portraits”.
The recreation of this piece is a collection of portraits
taken of powerful modern women to showcase them, according to Leibovitz, “as
people”. Women are very rarely just photographed as people, they are often the
center for some grand idea or movement which can often muddle the power of the
movement if the same approach keeps being taken.
Through her simplistic approach, Leibowitz was able to
create a powerful piece of female empowerment. By photographing women in such a
simplistic sense, they were shown to be just as powerful and equal to men who
had been photographed in the same way. This collective piece was a travelling installation that was set in multiple
locations around the world. The collection was originally unveiled in London,
then travelled to New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, along with other
locations. By setting these installations in such high-profile locations, it
allowed for them to have a much wider viewing audience, and with the audience
that attends the show, they will then post to their social media platforms,
which will then increase the number of viewers and widen the overall following
of the project.
Art is always finding new ways to start a conversation.
Especially in today’s society, art is often used to bolster movements of
positivity or of defiance. When art is created to spark change, it is the job
of the viewer to help spread the art to then in turn help to spark the change. Through
the integration of social media networks, new media artists can now create a
worldwide following around their works, to then in turn create a worldwide
movement for change.
“We the People: About the Campaign”.
Amplifier. ©2017. Accessed December 4, 2017. https://amplifier.org/wethepeople/.
Arnon, Ben. “How the Obama ‘Hope’ Poster Reached a
Tipping Point…An Interview with the Artist Shepard Fairey”. Huffington Post. November 13, 2008.
Accessed December 4, 2017. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/ben-arnon/how-the-obama-hope-poster_b_133874.html.
Jensen, Klaus Bruhn. “Intermediality”. The
International Encyclopedia of CommunicationTheory and Philosophy. Mach 3
2016. Accessed December 4, 2017. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/9781118766804.wbiect170/full.
Kris. “Anxiety and Identity in 1990’s Net Art.” Ill Communication, : 1.
Arnon, “How the Obama ‘Hope’ Poster Reached a Tipping Point…An Interview with
the Artist Shepard Fairey”, Huffington
Post, November 13, 2008, Accessed December 4, 2017, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/ben-arnon/how-the-obama-hope-poster_b_133874.html.
“We the People: About the Campaign”,
Amplifier, ©2017, Accessed December 4, 2017, https://amplifier.org/wethepeople/.
Klaus Bruhn Jensen, “Intermediality”, The
International Encyclopedia of Communication Theory and Philosophy, Mach 3
2016, Accessed December 4, 2017, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/9781118766804.wbiect170/full.
Paulsen, “Anxiety and Identity in 1990’s Net Art.” Ill Communication, : 1.