An Incomplete Historical Overview

Matthew Gamber on Tumblr Tuesday, with screencaptures.

From Tumblr Tuesday Live, recorded on Spreecast


This performance-essay is an incomplete historical overview of art, provocateurs, and media. My goal in this short time is to establish a historical precedent for Tumblr Tuesday. A trace can be established as far back as pre-World War I Europe. In the spirit of Tumblr Tuesday, this performance-essay will mesh web-based sources with my own words, presenting a kaleidoscope of threads. “Threads” are sourced from Wikipedia, and re-pasted in a new order for continuity. This is a draft, a virtual sketchpad of ideas for discussion, and does not represent authoritative research. They are notes.



Thread 1.1: Dadaism

The Dadaists utilized pre-existing words and images sourced from the printed media. The dadaists imitated the techniques developed during the cubist movement through the pasting of cut pieces of paper items, but extended their art to encompass items such as transportation tickets, maps, plastic wrappers, etc. to portray aspects of life, rather than representing objects viewed as still life.  The Dadaists used scissors and glue rather than paintbrushes and paints to express their views of modern life through images presented by the media. A variation on the collage technique, photomontage utilized actual or reproductions of real photographs printed in the press. In Cologne, Max Ernst used images from World War I to illustrate messages of the destruction of war.

The assemblages were three-dimensional variations of the collage – the assembly of everyday objects to produce meaningful or meaningless (relative to the war) pieces of work including war objects and trash. Objects were nailed, screwed or fastened together in different fashions. Assemblages could be seen in the round or could be hung on a wall, not unlike Facebook.



Thread 1.2: Futurism

Marinetti expressed a passionate loathing of everything old, especially political and artistic tradition. “We want no part of it, the past”, he wrote, “we the young and strong Futurists!” The Futurists admired speed, technology, youth and violence, the car, the airplane and the industrial city, all that represented the technological triumph of humanity over nature, and they were passionate nationalists. They repudiated the cult of the past and all imitation, praised originality, “however daring, however violent”, bore proudly “the smear of madness”, dismissed art critics as useless, rebelled against harmony and good taste, swept away all the themes and subjects of all previous art, and gloried in science.



Thread 2.1: Happenings

A happening is a performance, event or situation meant to be considered art, usually as performance art. Happenings take place anywhere, and are often multi-disciplinary, with a nonlinear narrative and the active participation of the audience. Key elements of happenings are planned, but artists sometimes retain room for improvisation. This new media art aspect to happenings eliminates the boundary between the artwork and its viewer. Henceforth, the interactions between the audience and the artwork makes the audience, in a sense, part of the art. In the later sixties, perhaps due to the depiction in films of hippie culture, the term was used much less specifically to mean any gathering of interest, from a pool hall meetup or a jamming of a few young people to a beer blast or fancy formal party.



Thread 2.2: Hacking

The academic hacker subculture is defined by shared work and play focused around central artifacts. Some of these artifacts are very large; the Internet, the World Wide Web, GNU, and the Linux kernel are all hacker creations, works of which the subculture considers itself primary custodian.

Before communications between computers and computer users were as networked as they are now, there were multiple independent and parallel hacker subcultures, often unaware or only partially aware of each others’ existence. All of these had certain important traits in common:

-Creating software and sharing it with each other

-Placing a high value on freedom of inquiry; hostility to secrecy

-Information-sharing as both an ideal and a practical strategy

-Upholding the right to fork

-Distaste for authority

-Playful cleverness, taking the serious humorously and their humor seriously

(As Facebook is the primary vehicle for Tumblr Tuesday, and as Tumblr is a aesthetic motivator, since these vehicles are generally understood and deserve more space than this assemblage can allow, I will avoid discuss of them here. Instead I want to focus on two other internet based cultures.)



Thread 3.1: 4chan

4chan is an imageboard website. Users generally post anonymously, with the most recent posts appearing above the rest. 4chan is split into various boards with their own specific content and guidelines, while registration is not required. Its boards were originally used for the posting of pictures and discussion of manga and anime, as the site was modeled on Japanese imageboards. It’s most visible cultural export is the internet memes. Memes are catchphrases or images that spread quickly, peer to peer, across the Internet. Many Internet memes have originated on 4chan, usually /b/, as its fast moving, crowd psychology nature enables content to quickly be passed on to large numbers of viewers.



Thread 3.2: Pinterest

Pinterest is a pinboard-style social photo sharing website that allows users to create and manage theme-based image collections such as events, interests, hobbies, and more. Users can browse other pinboards for inspiration, ‘re-pin’ images to their own collections or ‘like’ photos. Pinterest’s mission is to “connect everyone in the world through the ‘things’ they find interesting” via a global platform of inspiration and idea sharing.

Pinterest users can upload, save, sort and manage images, known as pins, and other media content (i.e. videos) through collections known as pinboards. Pinboards are generally themed so that pins can easily be organized, categorized and discovered by other users. Pinterest acts as a personalized media platform, whereby your own content as well as anyone else’s uploaded pins can be browsed on the main page. Users can then save their favorite pins to one of their own boards using the “Pin It” button.




All of these threads tie into the overall aesthetic of Tumblr Tuesday: an assemblage of media based images, posted onto a social space or “wall” for re-consumption. The contextual transformation modifies the overall tone of the original message by fracturing the space of the imperative message. Exploiting the unlimited wall post allows for cracks in the the previously transparent Facebook programming to become more observable.