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What's wrong with covering Facebook with visual art?

February 12, 2014
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If you are a reader of this blog and also a Facebooker, you've probably seen the recent meme asking you to help "occupy Facebook with art."

The process is the same as must such memes. If you like the post, the poster will give you the name of an artist. You post a work by that artist and so on and so on. A similar recent chain posting asked for poems.

Innocent enough in a world of lunch photos, not-so-funny accident videos, and news anchor moments gone bad?

Well, Caitlin Dewey of The Washington Post doesn't think so. In a recent post, she wrote that "Facebook 'occupiers' are...posting self-indulgent poems or images to show off how sophisticated they are."

But Dewey misses an important point.

Playing along with such memes doesn't have to be about showing off your art-loving credentials.

It can also be about discovery. It's not just about sharing artists you like (even if you only pretend to like them) but also about the pleasure of doing some research on the artists your friends assign to you. Facebook, at its best, is about interaction and linkage, not just asserting who you are and what you already believe.

Thanks to my friend Bill, I got to know a bit of the work of Clyfford Still. And I enjoyed assigning to other friends a range of artists from Gustav Klimt to Lincoln Center poster artist James McMullan, from fantasy artist and album-cover staple Frank Frazetta to pencil sculpture artist Jennifer Maestre, and from local favorite Emma Overman to singer/songwriter/painter Joni Mitchell. I hope that those who took on this minor challenge took some pleasure in the process. I know I appreciated seeing which of the works that they found spoke to them.

And, for a while, Facebook certainly was a lot more interesting.

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