-Essay-

GENEVA - Have you ever heard of Dan Rollman? If so, you are spending way too much time on your computer – just like me.

Dan is a Canadian native who now lives in New York and works in media. On May 28, he caught the attention of Internet addicts when he went viral with a nicely packaged little nugget: a tweet of a vine of an Instagram of a Tumblr post of a Facebook post of a tweet. “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” as Mary Poppins would say.

Rollman says he created an “Inception-esque tweet that integrates all major social media platforms.” On Vine, users can share 6-second video clips, while Instagram and Tumblr are fixed image platforms. He created a communications tumble and roll, an origami folding on itself, a tweet (-y bird) chasing its own (feathered) tail. A Droste effect pointing at the accumulation of social networks, and showing that while these platforms allow us to share information, they also result in its circularity.

“This is a tweet,” Dan writes brazenly. His crypto-artistic confidence is somewhat reminiscent of ready-made art, and French artist Marcel Duchamp. Who knows, surrealist Magritte might even have replied, “This is not a tweet”.

Have you ever heard of Allan McCollum? If so, you must be spending a lot of time in museums – at least more than me.

I found out about this American artist on my last visit to the Pompidou Museum in Paris. One of McCollum’s creations is exhibited in the 1980s section. It consists of a multitude of little black canvases in framing mats. Typically the kind of work that people allergic to conceptual art would hate, but which turns out really interesting and significant once you have read the explanatory notice (which was very helpful in this case).

Shapes by Allan McCollum - Photo: Lian Chang

Plaster Surrogates (1985) offers to replace paintings with castings of paintings, which are then reproduced on a large-scale basis, in order to question inspiration, artistic reference and remaking, art after art. It highlights the dialogue between plastic creation and everyday objects, institutional art and industrial products. In other words: “This is not a painting.”

Writing about a tweet of a Vine of an Instagram of a Tumblr post of a Facebook post of a tweet in a newspaper (or on the newspaper’s website), is like exhibiting a multitude of “fake” paintings with no “real” image in an art museum. At first, you’re not sure that you understand, but then, with explanations and context, the whole thing suddenly springs into focus.

In the 21st century, most journalists do not create content anymore, they are more like curators, like those guys at the Pompidou Museum who write the explanatory notices on artworks. Nowadays, the world of media is expanding in multiple directions, becoming faster and volatile as any user can share information through networks.

Consequently, the added value of journalism not only lies in the (verified) facts, but now also depends as much on how they are connected to each other, put into perspective. Being critical about the facts is now as important as reporting them – in content as in form alike. In a nutshell: journalism has become postmodern.