You Have To Start Reading This Bizarro Art-Tech Tumblr
A typical recent post on a Tumblr called the Jogging depicts a fried egg in the open disc drawer of a DVD player. Like all the images on the site, it is titled in the dry tradition of a museum or gallery display: “Egg Player, 2013. ”
This post, perhaps incredibly, attracted more than 9,400 likes and reblogs in its first 48 hours online. In fact, the Jogging racks up something like 80,000 such reactions a week — an amazing level of reader engagement with what looks an awful lot like nonsense.
So far, so weird. But not only is the Jogging evidently popular, it’s also taken quite seriously as art: Its creators recently received a Rhizome | Tumblr Internet art grant. (Rhizome is associated with the New Museum in New York; Tumblr, for the record, is owned by Yahoo.)
What explains the success of this weirdo art blog? Honestly, even after having been addicted to the site for the better part of a year, I still couldn’t say. So I got in touch with co-founder Brad Troemel, and he sort of explained. In short, I’d now describe the Jogging as a cross between conceptual art and the lulzy meme-spewing chaos of 4chan, seasoned by a healthy dose of BuzzFeed’s businesslike viral obsession.
Troemel and Lauren Christensen started the first version of the Tumblr in 2009. Troemel had become frustrated with the long-term, laborious conceptual projects he felt were necessary to make an art-world splash. He’d expend massive time and effort to create, say, a grid of 100 photographs expressing some idea, and then he would try to publicize the work through social media sites like Tumblr and Twitter. But his posts on those social networks were promptly “flattened,” as he puts it, “by the horizontal blur of all these other images — people’s lunch decisions, baby photos, everything else.”
Around the same time, he and Christensen were making objects out of the leftover scraps from traditional sculpture shows at a Chicago gallery. They’d photograph and distribute this reworked material and then, eventually, simply discard the physical creation. Realizing the image might be more useful than the object, “we cut the middleman out,” he continues, making virtual combines digitally: “We could release images of five sculptures a day, by adding Photoshopped elements to real photographs of real things.”