What I am Learning on Social Media

My “social media palette”

I spend far too much time on social media, but as a blogger it has truly become essential research, helping me to see how cultural trends can relate to both my scholarly and personal interests. For example, I spend significant time browsing through TikToks, Tweets, Instagram and Tumblr posts to get inspiration for content to write about on this blog.

When I was in school, the internet was still largely in its Web 1.0 phase, but websites generating memes was definitely an emerging phenomenon. I even made a few myself. I also blogged and maintained several websites featuring a slew of information and graphics related to my formative interests. I learned a lot through participating in digital culture, which I clearly have carried on today. Memes and social media applications are not the first things you think of in an art educational context, but there are ample examples of how an astute educator can connect them to subjects in the curriculum. I have already written several posts about memes (see: “A Meme Against Misogyny: Artfully Using Memes For Activist Inspired Art Education,” “Art History Memes” and “Art-fly Learning”), as well as a musing on appropriate educational content that can be found on TikTok (see: “Is There Time for TikTok in Art Education?”).

If it were not for the immediacy and prevalence of social media apps, I might not have even heard about new conceptual practices within the growing genre of new media art. One example is “Corecore,” a play on words referencing both internet/social media subculture of stylized aesthetics (i.e. glitchcore, cottagecore, weirdcore and normcore. See: “What does the core suffix mean on social media”), as well as the early twentieth century avant-garde Dada art movement. Teaching artist Rhea Nayyar (2020) describes the TikTok originated aesthetic as a: “layer or flicker between clips from viral videos of people admitting loneliness or depression, nihilistic dialogue scenes from popular films or TV shows, deep-fried memes, and other staples of ‘chronically online’ web culture in a curated supercut that hits the nail on the head in terms of our collective feeling of hopelessness and anxiety as we hurtle through continuously unprecedented times.'”

Nayyar continues to explain this conceptual zeitgeist, noting that Corecore confronts “viewers with an onslaught of media tidbits stitched together and overlaid with melancholy orchestral (or piano) compositions and pseudo-deep talking points that waver between encouraging defeat and sparking a revolution” (Nayyar, 2020). The anarchic construct of Corecore is as wide reaching and genre-bending as the entirety of social media itself. But just as much as Corecore relies on the digital age, it is seemingly critical of the overarching anxiety, addiction and overstimulation resulting from our reliance on mass media technology. Therefore, Corecore has been discussed as expressing the immediacy of the present moment, while feeling nostalgic for past eras and ominously anticipating the future. In this sense, it has been likened to the early twentieth century avant-garde Dada movement, where artists utilized a variety of visual media to communicate their discontent and weariness with the status quo of art, politics and the culture at large. The best example comes from a Columbia MFA art student and influential TikTok user named Aamir Azhar’ (@aamirazh), who gives a TikTok sized rundown of the multifaceted and postmodern concepts behind Corecore, while comparing and contrasting it to Dada. You can watch his TikTok presentation below:

Azhar concludes his post by proclaiming: “what Corecore is doing, is taking the meaningless experience of endless scrolling on a video platform, and injecting it with meaning….Because what does art do if not if not attach meaning to the meaningless and arbitrary experiences we have as humans? We all may be swallowing content from a lifeless algorithm, but when we step back and perceive that, all of a sudden we are part of a collective human experience.”

This statement struck a chord with me, because it reflects the basis of how I try to balance the extensive time that I spend on the internet and social media. As a college student in my twenties, I was a constant victim to falling into internet “rabbit holes,” and losing track of both my time and focus. Today, thanks in part to my training as an educator and art historian, I find that while I spend a significant duration of my day online, I am using these platforms to broaden my knowledge and subsequently share insights and have conversations with others via my blog and audio series platforms. Like Azhar summed up, the act of connecting and sharing in our interests and creative references to the culture at large is the crux of both art and education. Artists and educators are using the digital tools at hand to raise consciousness about how these resources can be harnessed for transformative changes in our daily actions and interactions. I think that if John Dewey was around today, the forerunner of constructivist education (i.e. learning via life experiences and socializing with others) and artistic pedagogy might agree that there is educational value to be gleaned from using social media platforms.

The aforementioned statement Azhar made in his TikTok reminds me of a declaration Dewey made in his 1934 book Art as Experience: “communication is the process of creating participation, of making common what had been isolated and singular… the conveyance of meaning gives body and definiteness to the experience of the one who utters as well as to that of those who listen” (Dewey, 1934).

That said, I figured that this would be an appropriate post for sharing some of the social media accounts that I generally turn to for inspiration related to art and educational material.

The Canvas (YouTube)

The Canvas is a YouTube channel providing weekly art history video essays. These videos combine the tenets of a good art historical practice, which is the use of clear and comprehensive formal and conceptual analysis when discussing a work of art.

The video essays are well differentiated so there is a lot of value offered to educators and students alike. There are videos focusing on one particular work of art that cohesively describe its form, content and function. These videos explain what the art is, how it was made and why it is significant (ex. “Why Did Hopper Paint This Clown?”). Other episodes discuss philosophical, political or sociocultural queries posed and explored by artists and works of art (ex. “Basquiat’s Defacement: Racist Police Brutality and Property Damage”). Artists’ biographies are sometimes discussed, but it is more in regards to specific issues their work addresses, or how their identities and ideologies are permeated within their artwork (ex. “Was Dali a Fascist?”).

As a contemporary art historian, the author (I cannot find his actual name), reflects back on certain works of art and artists in a way that incorporates today’s issues and concerns. This is not to say that these videos seek to eschew or alter the meaning of prior artistic movements or the content within a historical work of art. What I appreciate most, is how The Canvas presents factual evidence, makes judgements and poses questions to viewers in a manner that elicits our critical thinking.

Amor Sciendi (YouTube)

Like The Canvas, Amor Sciendi’s YouTube channel is full of compelling video essays on art history. What I find really engaging about a lot of their content is the way that art is utilized to connect with and further our understanding about other subject matter and disciplines.

Amor Sciendi’s overall platform includes a variety of content that explores epistemology (the theory of knowledge and how we learn) and connects abstract concepts within STEAM fields (science, technology, engineering, art and math) by using comprehensible visual and literary language.

Art History Fashion (Instagram)

I have noticed that students particularly enjoy seeing how art history has relevance in their own era. One of the most engaging ways that this is presented, is via an Instagram account called Art History Fashion.

The account was started by Betty Quinn, who affirms my prior notion by noting that she began Art History Fashion based on an educational revelation that art history can be made relevant to one’s personal interests and the collective culture. Quinn juxtaposes works of art from the annals of art history with contemporary fashion photography in order to show how visual motifs and content from prior eras are cycled throughout the subsequent eras.

Art History Fashion is both a fun visual experience and exercise in observational learning that illustrates the purposeful usage of visual art for intercultural communication.

The Art Assignment (YouTube)

The Art Assignment is the perfect online resource for educators and artists because it covers the gamut of contemporary art via a blended presentation of formal art instruction and conceptual art topics. The premise of the series is that contemporary artists introduce a particular work or series of theirs, and present viewers along with a prompt for interactive art making that requires minimal amounts of materials and limited prior artistic knowledge.

The Art Assignment is an accessible way to broaden knowledge about contemporary artists, themes and techniques, and get inspired by taking bold risks through non-traditional creative processes.

Yoko Ono’s Twitter

I follow a lot of artists on Twitter, but I find that Yoko Ono’s presence on Twitter is a great example of how an artist can use the platform as an extension of their creative practice. Ono is known for her “event scores,” which are concise instructions that either supplement or supersede traditional objects of art. Event scores contain written or visual instructions that are open for anyone to interact with. Ono’s visual prompts particularly encourage us to find meaningful connections between art and their everyday experiences.

Twitter’s 280 character limit is an apt platform for Ono to post event scores. She also uses the platform as an extension of the musings she meditates on in her artwork. Motivational messages permeate throughout her presence online and IRL (in real-life). As someone who finds Twitter one of the most depressing social media apps due to its algorithm of largely doom and gloom and contentious material, Ono’s tweets represent a more positive and collaborative way to apply social media to our lives.

I hope that you will enjoy and find these resources enlightening. I enjoyed cultivating this list, which represents a few of the accounts I follow on social media to get my daily dose of art education. Last but not least, I hope you have already checked out my own YouTube channel, where I have been uploading discussions with artists and educators for the Artfully Learning Audio Series.

References, Notes, Suggested Reading: 

Dewey, John. 1934. Art as Experience. New York : Minton, Balch & Company.

Nayyar, Rhea. “What Does TikToks ‘Corecore’ Have to do With Dada?” Hyperallergic, 26 January 2023. https://hyperallergic.com/795957/what-does-tiktoks-corecore-have-to-do-with-dada/

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