Michelle Vaughan Interview “100 Tweets”

Friday, January 13, 2012

On the occasion of her show “100 Tweets” at Dumbo Arts Center, I had the opportunity to interview Michelle Vaughan about her project, twitter, language and copyright.

Karl Erickson: Twitter is of course, tied into celebrity culture. In ways, it is a way for the hoi polloi to get closer to the stars, the culturati. In “100 Tweets” there are a few celebrities that you re-present, both mainstream (Sarah SilvermanAnthony Bourdain) and art world (Jerry SaltzPaddy Johnson). Is there anything about “100 Tweets” that was intended to get you closer, or more in touch with these figures?

Michelle Vaughan: I was hyper-aware, and no, getting “closer” would be weird. I am very sensitive about celebrity culture; it scares the bejesus out of me that people can be such insane narcissists. Yet wanting attention is a human emotion, and I think that is a big undercurrent throughout the entire Twittersphere. I’ve had exchanges with a lot of people I don’t know; some are famous, most aren’t. Batting snark around or exchanging information can be thrilling; it’s a bunch of conversations happening at light speed. But at the end of the day, this project is not about the authors; it’s my own narcissistic, moody and unapologetic project, which says a lot more who I am than who they are.


KE: For you, and/or your twitter community, is the platform more about broadcasting or conversation?

MV: Well it’s both, but people use it for different reasons. I follow a lot of people who share links, this is where I get my news!

KE: With the project, did you come up with any “ownership” issues of the tweets? The project has some appropriation strategies inherent in it, and given the recent Richard Prince caseand the phonedog lawsuit about who owns a former contractor’s twitter account made me wonder about your project’s placement in these debates.

MV: Sure I thought about it while putting this project together. My instinct is to make the work first and deal with the aftermath later.

Both cases you referred to fascinate me; these are strange times. I was glued to the Richard Prince case (discussed at length on Twitter) and went as far as purchasing Greg Allen’s bookthat documents the case. Appropriation was something widely presented in art school long ago. We were shown this photograph of Sherry Levine’s repeatedly, as if it almost single-handedly represented post-modernism. I drank the Kool-Aid; appropriation is a conversation and my main intent is to communicate with my audience and strike a chord with my colleagues. It’s simple energy.

There’s a ton of discussion on image rights and fair use on the internet right now. I think the older generation/corporations will try and legally dig their feet into the ground and claim rights to media lists, images, etc. Hopefully the old dinosaurs won’t get a chance to shape these laws. But it will be unacceptable to the new generation. As much as my Schadenfreude switch gets flipped on watching Prince eat dirt, his case is bad for art. I hope his appeal is successful.

KE: In our recent show with Aeron Bergman and Alejandra Salinas, they had a series of laser-etched prints of defaced (by the artists) Wikipedia entries It was their way of preserving something digital and ephemeral in the most archival way they could devise. Is there an archiving impulse to “100 Tweets?” If so, to what end?

MV: Yes, the spirit is the same. “100 Tweets” is like the Slow Food movement but for art. Anyone can throw up a tweet in a matter of seconds, but I grabbed these and shot them through a long, laborious process that now gives them permanence. Process was half of this project.

KE: Do these particular tweets have something intrinsic to them that is more deserving of reflection and remembrance than others?

MV: No. This project reflects random observations of 9 months on my Twitter feed. It completely depended on my mood and something which struck me as funny, or personal or political. No one can keep up with Twitter and I’m sure I missed zingers.


KE: As these are letterpress prints, I know you have spent a lot of time with each tweet. Did this time with them provide you with any particular insight into the individual tweets, twitter in general, poetry or language?

MV: Although I’ve never thought of myself as interested in poetry, I probably did get closer to it. I do love language and adore cleverly written stories, which probably influenced my gleaned tweets. I have especially been interested in word play, but only after I moved to New York. I was raised in California and wasn’t regularly exposed to everyday wit until I spent more time with New Yorkers, Canadians and Brits who represented everything I never knew I loved in conversation.

KE: So, given that the project has made you more aware of language, have you learned something about how to compose in twitter?

MV: There’s no one way. People have to be themselves, or in the case of doppelgängers, people have to be really entertaining at being other people. But your style is all your own.

KE: I noticed while you were installing the show, and in some of our communication leading up to the show, we would mention something, or I would be at my desk and you would be up on the ladder, and suddenly I would find a tweet from you, sometimes about the show, sometimes not. I began to believe you cybernetically linked to your twitter account. Are you addicted to twitter?

MV: For better or for worse. Mostly for news and opinions.

KE: What does twitter provide for an artist? Obviously, not all of your work is about twitter or even social media, so it does something for you.

MV: I only began working in art full-time a couple years ago. Before that I spent several years working around other people. Being an artist is mostly an isolating experience, and I was reintroduced to it with mostly positive but sometimes mixed results. Twitter abated cabin fever, I could plug in. This wasn’t for simple chatter; I gained incredible insight, knowledge and exchange from journos, writers and the art community I would have never had otherwise. I’ve met some very smart people.

KE: With the process of choosing the colors for the individual prints, you have an oblique nod to Gerhard Richter. Is it a stretch to think of his paintings of banal subject matter and interest in repetition as a touchstone for “100 Tweets?”

MV: The banality in some of the project has nothing to do with Gerhard Richter, only the randomness of colors and placement from his color chart series. It’s true that I admire his work.

More about Michelle Vaughan and her projects can be found here:

web: www.michellevaughan.net
twitter: black_von
tumblr: The Black Von Scrolls


“100 Tweets” Interview with Michelle Vaughan | 2012 | Writing