I’m feeling a little stuck in my practice. I want to move forward and better understand why I’m an artist and what I have to say. I’m making this post to map out my skills, and interests so I can come back and experiment within.
writing and improvising comedy
digital photography and shooting video
editing video (pretty good knowledge of narrative cinema history and how to achieve/break continuity)
I’ve spent the last two weeks writing short scripts for a sitcom on Tik Tok about the life of an artist struggling to find his voice. Sound familiar?
Through my experiments with different accounts and comedy stylings on Tik Tok, I’ve found a sort of middle ground between jokes that are intellectual (Meat Boy) and hit the lowest common denominator (Sock Talks). Yet, I can’t help but hit a wall with the story.
A sitcom was my initial idea for this series because I’ve never seen a Tik Tok use a laugh track. Using sitcom conventions could challenge the Tik Tok norms, illuminating the inherent politics of the medium: a glitch in the system.
The platform, however, situates my videos within an endless stream of loosely related, hypnotically entertaining content. In a way, my videos are already situated within a grander show — a collaborative one with content creators with similar sensibilities to mine. Creating my own show with a serial narrative is perhaps forcing too much control over the viewer’s experience. It would be imposing media formalities of the past onto the present without innovation. How could I lean into the strengths For You Page format better?
The central questions become: how is my work an interruption of the endless stream of media my viewer is watching? Does making the viewer aware of the conventions of Tik Tok change their life in a meaningful way? Can I find a way to both entertain and question the viewer?
I’ve been working on TikTok for the whole month of November, and just recently have I landed on something that I feel could expand into an interesting form of cultural production. After two weeks of creating random videos across genre divides (see: my last post) I decided to create a new account under the persona of Meatboy67.
I struggled a bit with using own voice as a chariot of social critique on the app. It felt I had too much personal interest at stake to be poking fun at the fame-starved culture I love to highlight. Enter Meat Boy. Cast beneath a neon hypnosis, he’s a caricature of both my privilege and desires for fame, fortune, and art world success. He’s a monster.
Meat Boy is only a half step removed from me. Yet, the persona has allowed me to create much more of a unified, “branded” viewing experience. I’ve established a unique atmosphere surrounding the character through aesthetic filmmaking choices and a monotone performance. My overall aesthetic direction is a kind of mockery of a personally reified film school student’s heavy hand. I do the filming and editing processes in character, making the choices I think Meat Boy would make. Meat Boy is what an artist looks like under the outside gaze.
My filmmaking process centres viewer retention — the main statistic used by the TikTok algorithm. The longer users watch a video, the more it gets shown to new users. I intend to seduce my viewers into the cinematic world of Meat Boy; the form is mesmerizing and the content is comedic yet kind of uncanny. This is a useful method of production to boost my viewership, but I also think it’s a mirroring of the seductive nature of social media that draws into an endless void of content.
There’s much to be explored about the audience of this performance work. TikTok makes viewing videos a constant chance or surprise encounter through the For You Page algorithm. That means that every video I make exists for most viewers as part of an endless stream of other video fragments. I wager that most viewers will only ever see one of my videos. I wonder how I could push the found form of my videos to their fullest extent. Do I want to jar viewers by creating content that opposes its surroundings, or use guerrilla tactics to make a more cutting commentary?
Meat Boy has been a modest success in my eyes, but after about a week of making videos under this persona I’m seeing it as more of a framework than a completely realized project. I’m thinking about creating a few alternate accounts each with their own persona, subject matter, and cinematic style. My different personas could mimic the content houses that are a growing centre of cultural and economic production in the entertainment world. I would be my own content house, filled with dramatic interactions between my multiple personas.
This would give me a lot more leeway to expand into cultural critique and comedy beyond this specific art world character I’ve been doing. The project would also become vastly more generative without me having to put in all the heavy lifting I’ve been doing for Meat Boy — I could capitalize more on the popular culture of repetition on TikTok. Perhaps that mimics the TikTok universe even more closely.
After making the music video for STR8 MAN I felt really inspired to continue creating work as a new age performance artist. I’ve been seeing myself turn more and more towards comedy performance during my time here — it feels like the same work I’ve been doing but cutting out the middle art object and making myself the art object. “Art object” feels like a great word to describe what I’m doing, because I’m turning myself and my personality into an object for the looking pleasure of the Internet in the same way that any social media content creator does.
I’ve started a TikTok account and I’ve been considering it my main form of artistry over the past few days. It’s radical but I wager that the white cube has been almost entirely replaced by social media as the artist’s platform. 99% of my viewership as an artist was already happening over Instagram when I wanted it to be in a gallery setting. So why not create work that’s designed for the online realm? The idea of it being low craft is obviously not a deterrent for me. I want to make work that’s for the people — something the world can see without the pretentious overtones of traditional art spaces.
I wish it weren’t, but TikTok is the culture of today. My work has always been concerned with identifying what’s young and cool and commenting on that. I want to work within the system to awaken people to their own lives. It’s the kind of observational humour I’ve been channeling in my gallery work tailored for a different medium.
This is a super fresh project for me, and I’m still wrestling with the idea of performing for an online audience and how my desire for celebrity might be hindering the work.
So far I’ve found myself watching viral TikToks and categorizing them into particular genres. I then use this insight to parody these viral genres. In a world of user-produced content one might assume there’s an absolute freedom in what users can deliver to the masses; in a sense there is, but there’s this narrow pattern of repetition that get democratically selected as “funny”, “useful”, or “worthwhile” in some way or another.
Maybe the work is about awakening people to the silliness of their TikTok consumption, suggesting that they’re watching the same things over and over. Maybe it’s about uncovering the secret recipe that makes a viral video. Maybe it’s just about having fun and shouting weird jokes into the void. I’m still figuring it out.
If you want to figure it out with me follow me on the Tok 🙂
I made a music video for my hit single “STR8 MAN”! Check it out.
I chose to invent the persona of Soy Boy to make evident that this is an over-the-top satire. I also think it’s kind of a fun reclamation of a misogynist pejorative popular with the far right. Soy Boy is both a hyper masculine rapper type and a downright slutty video whore, both of whom are proud to be gay! He wears two different hats, but they’re both him and they’re both examples of gay-positive masculinity performances.
Oh hey, didn’t see you there. I’ve been interested in taking my work off the walls, creating an exhibition that really takes up the exhibition space. I want these three dimensional works to have my same witty, metacritical sensibility; I’ve been exploring the readymade as a hyper low craft art object that questions the divide between good and bad art.
Hey, fellow hip-hop heads and dirty trappers! I wrote and produced a rap song last night/this morning. This was my first time producing a song and rapping but I think it’s pretty iconic. I wanted to reclaim the masculinity that’s associated with the rap scene that’s overwhelming pop music today. Why does it have to be straight? Mama this is gay masculinity.
I take on a hypermasculine character in this song to satirize the toxic masculinity that prevails in this genre of music. There’s also this crazy huge population of gay men that are overly wrapped up in their masculinity performance; you see a lot of things on Grindr/dating apps like “masc for masc” or guys who are “straight acting.” Bruh. If you were straight acting you wouldn’t be looking to suck dick right now, Jerry. I think a lot of closeted men put up a hypermasculine front to compensate for their internalized homophobia. Shit, a lot of out men do this. So homophobia is rampant even in the gay community. Sis, it’s not right.
It all stems from this notion that straight men are masculine and gay men are feminine (and WOMAN = BAD). This song is my protest.
I’m definitely considering making a music video for this and having it play in one of those dark little gallery cubicles.
dick pics, armpits, gay shit
monochrome aesthetic for my instagram
hair done nails done spray tan
i’m so gay i’m a straight man
suck so much dick that it’s straight man
pop a lot of pills and they all red
fuck a twink and finish on his forehead
i’m so gay i’m a straight man
i’m a big boy i only fuck real men
I’m so gay that i play sports
only so that i can wear short shorts
in the locker room i go hardcore
looking for a man who got them abs like a washboard
i’m so gay i like chikcen wings
watching football games with an ipa
got the real bros on either side of me
touchdown chicken aint the only meat im gonna eat
got a backwards cap
and a grindr pic
in my new jockstrap
im a wide reciever
but if homie cute
ima throw it to him
like a quarterback
i’m so gay that it’s ironic
got a new tote bag and i rock it
only like capitalism that says gucci on it
and i got that white boy sound
never trust a straight cause i’m straight outta gaytown
wake up early just to hit the gym
arms much bigger than my cousin Jim’s
pump iron take a lot of supplements
dumbbells are my doctor and my medicine
dick so big i’m a folktale
homie sippin on it like a fucking cocktail
you know i fucked a lotta bitches and they all male
i’m so gay that i broke the fucking kinsey scale
why you so mysterious
i dont wanna fuck up in a hole that gets a period
i just wanna hang out with the boys and eat tortilla chips
all my homies changed their name to george cause they so curious
weekends when we get it poppin homie
take it all off cause this is a private party
all my boys taking turns pinball
so many studs in this house need some drywall
i dont care
we can call it whatever that pretty mouth prefer
you know real straight men only suck dick
haven’t touched a pussy since the day that i came out it
Here’s what I showed at my crit last Friday. I’ve been producing a lot of work so I chose to curate a solo exhibition from the work I’ve made in September and October.
It’s no secret that I’ve been focusing on exploring new media in grad school. But how could I show my scattered work while maintaining a recognizable identity and strong point of view? That was the central question I asked while curating work for this show. Could a collection of work like this, however divided across media boundaries, represent my singular expression of self?
Of course, humour is a thread that runs through most of my work. I’ve been telling this ongoing joke through the deliberately low craft of my work: we expect to see “high art” in a white cube gallery space, and I subvert that by showing low brow work in these spaces. The way I see it, high art and low craft exist on a kind of continuum that all art can be placed on.
Great. That’s some Art 101 Intro to White Men shit. I’m interested in investigating the phenomenon of work that is so far left on the spectrum that it’s considered good art. There’s some kind of agreed upon (not between everyone, but between enough people) level of low craft that for some reason gets called things like “free” and “uninhibited” instead of “heaping piles of garbage.” It’s how high end galleries get filled with pop art of Daffy Duck shitting out money. So what is that? How can I reproduce it? More importantly: does this mean that the spectrum is not a spectrum at all? Perhaps it’s more of a circle, where good art and bad art meet ends and are in essence the same thing.
I chose only diptychs for this show, attributing an underlying binary system to the collection’s internal logic. In my mind this mirrors the intrinsic logic of good/bad art that we so desperately want to place onto any kind of artwork. It’s so much easier to categorize a work than to have to actually engage with it.
Yet, the pairs tend to trouble the idea of good binaries. A piece of white bread and a bagel are probably more similar than they are different. At the end of the day, they are really the same thing — in the same way that me posing for a headshot and my photoshopped alien-acid-trip head represent IRL/abstract digital realities but are both just images of myself. I’ve created a series of fake binaries with these works, questioning the good/bad art divide.
So is our world really so rigid that we can continue to rely on the binaries we socially construct? Moving forward, can we use the same systems of categorization to tackle ongoing global issues? I don’t know man, I just nail bagels into walls.
Some things that I’m eager to explore looking forward are: what else is so bad it’s good (reality tv, children’s paintings or childlike art, and junk food come to mind); how does the binary code that our current technology is based on bleed into our non-tech lives; and, more logistically driven, how can I make work like this appear as a legitimate commodity to art consumers?
Thanks for looking at these words with your eyeballs. Matty out.
What’s up Youtube. Lately I’ve been working on some digital collage. I’ve been really interested in making super irrational images that lean on the combination of things that come from impromptu google searches. As well, I’ve been using some of the automated processes in Photoshop like content-aware fill and the distort filters. In both of these processes the question remains: what happens when man (if we can call him that) and the Algorithm come together to make art? AI is creeping more and more into our human lives, so perhaps using it as a tool illuminates the human-machine relationship that guide our online (and, increasingly offline) interactions. The Algorithms for Google search, Instagram explore, and Pornhub suggestions control what we can and cannot see. Yet, as users we’re made to be delusional in thinking that all of the information in the world is at our fingertips. Of course, we do have control over what we see to an extent, at the discretion of our Algorithm overlords. Maybe I’m a crazy conspiracy theorist. Either way I hope these images cure your psoriasis.
When we throw craft hierarchies out the gallery door, who are contemporary artists but philosophers? I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the first line of Plato’s Republic: “I went down to the Piraeus…” Socrates descends from his high and mighty dwellings to speak with the people — the working people of the Piraeus, the port of Athens. In order to really think of what the perfect city could be like Socrates cannot stay pent up in the realm of his intellectual existence. It’s simply not enough for him to jerk off his peers and write books for the peasants. He must turn to the people and do the hard work of beginning his thinking in complicated (and looooong) discourse. It’s no coincidence that Plato starts his big bad book of philosophy this way. Plato’s philosophy is about society, it is for society, and so it comes from society.
So what is art if it doesn’t come from society? Bad, probably. Who is art for if it’s not for the people of the Piraeus? Keith Haring’s first semester at the SVA was probably a lot more successful than mine here, because in his journal he wrote: “The public has a right to art/ The public is being ignored by most contemporary artists/ Art is for everybody” Prolific words that launched his successful career and stardom; I couldn’t agree more with Keith.
It seems to me the “art world” (read: rich white collectors) are primarily interested in art that is too hard to access for the people of the Piraeus. It’s a power thing. If they understand a work of art that no peasant could, it reinforces the intellectual gap between them. It justifies the exploitation of the working class that is necessary to amass huge amounts of wealth. This is not possible without the dehumanization of the worker.
Don’t get me wrong — I want to make it in the art world. I have skin in the game. But if 2020 isn’t a time for the art world to make changes, when is? I want to make art that escapes the pretension of artmaking. David Byrne’s film True Stories really changed me when I first saw it because it so delicately walked the line between celebration and satirization. I want to make work that takes after that — it’s observational, it’s intuitive, it’s quick-witted, and more than anything it’s funny. So what does artwork for the people look like? Can I sell that to the art world, or do I have to weasel my way towards an uncharted career trajectory?
Here’s a digital collage that I made this morning. It’s chicken nuggets overlaid on a page of gay Pornhub. I’m not sure what it is or what it means, but it really clicks intuitively for me. There’s comedy, there’s an investigation of bodies and food, there’s a spectacle for voyeurism, there’s queer culture, and there’s a question about the globalization of chicken nuggets as fast, available, and familiar food. I think there are a lot of elements that someone could grab onto here and feel like they “got it” while keeping the mystery of work alive. I’m thinking about blowing this image up to a large scale. It might take viewers to an Andy Warhol reference in its grid. There’s something interesting there about the fetishization of queer culture and the queer artist. I often feel like I’m overperforming my queerness to prove myself as a valid queer artist — as if sucking dick isn’t enough to get you into the elite group. I think that kind of gaying it up exists in a Byrneian state of celebration and satirization. I question if the gay porn element here is really even significant. I defaulted to gay porn because it’s what I consume. Consume. That’s a good word for it. Maybe the title of the work.