Art as Social Network

We have become accustomed in the 21st century to the term ‘social network,’ and often think it is a fairly recent phenomenon. Interestingly, the term ‘social network’ arose in the late 19th century as a new method to study human interaction, usually defined as the relational communication of individuals or groups with shared values and interests. Our contemporary proclivity to understand social networking as a condition of modern technology is an accurate reflection of the enormous role social media plays in connecting us, but there are important distinctions compared to the networks of the last century. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and myriad apps on our smart phones, weave us in ways that are deeply personal, but also startlingly anonymous. Much of our networking is with millions of unknown people, some real, some fabricated; today, technologies have become the relational mechanism, encouraging ephemeral, passive postings and simple ‘likes’, with only a modicum of shared values and interests, other than a seemingly universal desire for visibility in a world of immense complexity and a tsunami of background noise.

Nonetheless, technology can be used to develop genuine communities of interest, and this inaugural blog, the first of several on behalf of the Bryan Memorial Gallery in Jeffersonville, Vermont, will focus on a social network that conforms to the more personal, shared ideas and values of the original term. The social network in question is ancient: the relationship between individuals and societies with art: the objects of artistic expression that include paintings, sculpture, photography, and other visual representations that comprise our culture. This network has existed for tens of thousands of years, and while the representations of artistic creation can significantly change, many of the elements of our relationship with and through art remain constant.
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