For modern digital artists, an important part of the conversation is often missing from Social Media Day. Social platforms aren’t just a place to connect, promote and discuss creative work; instead, Instagram, Tumblr and other networks are providing a new canvas for original artwork.
Social-first artists like the team behind Art404 are developing Instagram murals, creating apps, and experimenting with wearables-generated video as digital art – and debuting it on social media or sharing it there exclusively. Their focus varies, from responding to creative cultural moments to shedding a light on the social issues behind today’s pop culture and digital trends. We chatted with Micah Milner (@micahnotfound), Moises Sanabria (@moisesnotfound), and Manny Palou (@mannynotfound) to learn more about their work and the way social media is impacting the creative process and possibilities for today’s tech-savvy artists.
Reacting to creative moments and starting bigger conversations
Creating social-first art changes the way that artists develop new projects. “It’s reactionary. When I make social art, it’s a direct response to society so it’s always evolving and always resonant,” says Manny.
An important lesson for Art404 was keeping up with the speed of online conversations. “Artists used to do one solo show every year. Now, you have to respond the same day or next day or it’s stale conversation,” says Micah.
Not all social-first art is reacting to current events; some pieces focus on sparking a discussion on relevant social issues. Art404’s 5 Million 1 Terabyte exhibit was a physical one-terabyte hard drive filled with $5 million dollars’ worth of illegally downloaded software exploring the value of digital products, piracy and our interactions with technology. “The idea was about trying to visualize data in a different way. We fit one terabyte worth of data on the drive and then counted what the total value of that data was worth if we were to actually buy it,” says Moises.
Connecting with audiences: An evolving dynamic
Going social-first changes the dynamics between the artist and audience. Unlike a packed gallery, artist – viewer relationships are harder to define. “Not having your audience there physically, not being able to talk to people, feels surreal,” says Micah.
One benefit for creatives working primarily online is a deeper and continuously evolving relationship with their audience. “We were interested in reacting to social media or the artist or designer as part of your everyday- like you don’t go to see their portfolio once and then praise it. It’s like you evolve with them and see their work continue,” says Moises.
Yet not having a physical product makes it harder to monetize your artwork and generate revenue streams. “If you’re not business savvy with it, I’ve heard being Internet famous is the same as being the prettiest panda in the zoo. People are looking at you and a lot of people think you’re awesome. But you still eat the same food that all the other pandas eat. That’s the second challenge: How do you create a revenue stream with social-first and digital art?” says Micah.
What’s next in social first art
In many ways, as today’s social-first trend is developing, artists benefit from better tools and a deeper creative history in the space. To stay competitive and post in a timely way, artists need to think through their creative process and find levers to help make them more productive.
“What I’m most interested right now is the platform of production. What is the easiest way that I can create something that gets my idea across and does it an everyday style? I think that’s why the idea of social media and just outputting to it directly is really appealing. I’ve been looking through many apps that are also trying to address this,” says Moises.
Social-first creators have to stay in tune with how people’s content preferences are changing.. “They don’t necessarily want to see behind the scenes of their Instagram, because they feel they already know you. It’s moving toward specialized platforms where people are just livestreaming exactly what they’re doing. The trend is more original curated content that is platform-specific,” says Micah.
The focus is constantly evolving and pushing new boundaries. Art404 has several projects in development, including a social-first comic book project tentatively called Net Mythology
Manny adds, “The tools are getting more advanced, people are getting more comfortable with them, and there is a growing database of reference material piling up. We’ve truly only gotten a glimpse of what the internet’s creativity is capable of.”
Rojenx is a leading concept artist who work appears in games and publications
Check out his personal gallery here