COP 3 Project / Artist Research

Research for the COP3 Project. Really unsure of what I want to do it on as of yet (I chose my dissertation subject only a week ago, I always change my mind, and panic before I start!)

As my dissertation is on Social Media & The Arab Spring, these are the subjects I will be researching (for ideas for the COP3 project but also to use as other artist research within my dissertation.

  • Social Media & Activism
  • Government control
  • Freedom of Information
  • Political
  • Freedom of Speech
  • Human rights

1. Ai Weiwei

The internet is uncontrollable” he said, “And if the internet is uncontrollable, freedom will win. It’s as simple as that”

“Social media platforms are “like water and air, but in China we can’t even talk about it”

Despite China’s best attempts at censorship, Ai Weiwei’s online activism has organised thousands of volunteers, exposed the names of the more than 5000 school children in a Sichuan earthquake, and blessed the Chinese government with ample photos of Ai Weiwei’s middle finger.

Ai Weiwei’s Influential works 


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In Straight, Ai uses rebar recovered from the rubble of collapsed schoolhouses following the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake. The artist had every piece of mangled rebar straightened through a laborious process. The large divide in the piece is meant to suggest both a tissue in the ground and a gulf in values.

  • The massive work serves as a reminder of the repercussions of the earthquake and expresses the artist’s concern over society’s ability to start afresh “almost as if nothing had happened”
  • The installation is also a commentary upon government neglect – neglect that so many schools and buildings were not to code, that there was no official investigation into why this was the case, and that none of the builders have ever been accountable.
  • Further, the work is in commemoration of those who lost their lives, over 5,000 of whom were children, and whose names are printed on the wall in the same exhibition hall.

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The names of the student earthquake victims found by the citizen investigation.

I really like the way he has designed and used this space. I like the idea of having some sort of database in which I can collect information in a mass amount and to use it within an installation. I also like the idea of having a lot of information in which I can continuously print from a printer, showing the amount of information which passes through the digital world.

“Sunflower seeds”

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Sunflower Seeds is made up of millions of small works, each apparently identical, but actually unique. However realistic they may seem, these life-sized sunflower seeds husks are in fact intricately hand-crafted in porcelain.

Each seed has been individually sculpted and painted by specialists working in small-scale workshops in the Chinese city of Jingdezhen. Far from being industrially produced, they are the effort of hundreds of skilled hands. Poured into the interior of the Turbine Hall’s vast industrial space, the 100 million seeds form a seemingly infinite landscape.

Porcelain is almost synonymous with China and, to make this work, Ai Weiwei has manipulated traditional methods of crafting what has historically been one of China’s most prized exports. Sunflower Seeds invites us to look more closely at the ‘Made in China’ phenomenon and the geo-politics of cultural and economic exchange today.

In Spite…

In spite of the dangers, Weiwei has inspired others in China and abroad to take the charge through tweets, viral videos and one of the largest social networks in China, Weibo. Here are some examples of their heroic digital activism:

Exposing Corruption

  • A Chinese migrant worker is missing $560,000 in unpaid wages. Instead of keeping her head down, she makes a viral video. The video shoes Miao Cuihua impersonating a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official who oozes bureaucratic jargon – and demand her back pay. The video has received more than 14,000 views. In the video, Miao quotes a government official saying, according to Tea Leaf Nation,

I represent the government. If I tell you we’re not paying, then we’re not paying, what are you going to do?”

  • Other bots of online activism have got government officials fired. Cai Bin, who formerly ran a Guangzhou urban management bureau, was fired last fall after social media users publicised the fact that he owns 22 homes.
  • Similiary, Yang Dacai, former director of Shaanxi Work Safety Administration, was fired after Weibo users shared photos of him flaunting luxury watches.

Filippo Minelli


The aim of the project is to point out the gap between the reality we live in and the ephemeral world of technologies.
 Writing the names of anything connected with 2.0 experiences in the slums of the third world to show the idealization connected with these experiences, underlining the difference between what we decide to show about us and our life and how reality actually is. The marketing behind 2.0 experiences is characterized by a religious veneration, as also said by Leander Kaheny in his “Cult of Mac” book. Users are pushed to live with increasing abstraction from reality, living technologies only as an ideal reality. Locations: Cambodia, Vietnam, Mali, China.

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Mark Hansen & Ben Ruben

“Listening Post”

Is an art installation that culls text fragments in real time from thousands of unrestricted Internet chat rooms, bulletin boards and other public forums. The texts are read (or sung) by a voice synthesizer, and simultaneously displayed across a suspended grid of more than two hundred small electronic screens.

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Christopher Baker 

“Murmur study” 

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I absolutely LOVE Christopher Baker’s “Murmur study.” I particularly love how it represents the instant, fastness of the social media digital world, and how excessive we can be without realising.

The installation examines the rise of micro-messaging technologies such as Twitter and Facebook’s status update. One might describe these messages as a kind of digital small talk. But unlike water-cooler conversations, these fleeting thoughts are accumulated, archived and digitally-indexed by corporations. While the future of these archives remains to be seen, the sheer volume of publicly accessible personal — often emotional — expression should give us pause.

This installation consists of 30 thermal printers that continuously monitor Twitter for new messages containing variations on common emotional utterances. Messages containing hundreds of variations on words such as argh, meh, grrrr, oooo, ewww, and hmph, are printed as an endless waterfall of text accumulating in tangled piles below.
The printed thermal receipt paper is then reused in future projects and exhibitions or recycled.

Julian Koschwitz

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Koschwitz, an interactive art director who teaches at the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano in Italy, hopes that his work will remind the viewer of the risks journalists take to provide news to consumers in an increasingly fast-paced and competitive environment dominated by social media.

“When we look at digital news what we see is technology, not the journalists who provide the news.

We are like goldfish in a bowl having a memory of four or five seconds. But I think it is necessary for journalists to give readers a bit more contextual informationJulian Koschwitz

“Right now we get these jumpy ‘Facebook status’ updates of news in a second. We are like goldfish in a bowl having a memory of four or five seconds. But I think it is necessary for journalists to give readers a bit more contextual information.

“This project is to remember the journalists who are the interfaces. It makes us aware of who is providing the news, who is risking their lives to give us a tweet.”

Koschwitz says the switch from print journalism to online is making consumers focus too much on the instant content of news stories, and forget about the means of acquiring the information.

The 30-year-old typewriter, chosen because it is an iconic and disused symbol of journalism, is hooked up to generative software which produces words and images based on data from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and other web searches. The installation is held in an art gallery in Bozen-Bolzano.

What appears on the paper are the names and other information about the journalists killed, including images such as flags of the countries they are from, which are distorted depending on the levels of press freedom in that country.


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