TikTok duos bring the exquisite corpse to life


A century later, TikTok is also, for some, seen as a childish distraction, or worse. But for others, it’s an incredible tool. “I think if André Breton were alive today he would turn on TikTok and be blown away by the mechanics – the idea that there is a system to generate these images to be done automatically, which could have a sort of resonating with automatic writing and therefore harness pure thought rather than conventional preconceived ideas, ”says Susan Laxton, professor of art history at UC Riverside and author of Surrealism at stake.

The platform, through its duo and stitching functions, automates much of what the Surrealists did. It’s not exactly an exquisite corpse, since TikTok records the entire genealogy of any given work, and there is a need for continuity with what others have contributed before. But there is a similar spirit of spontaneous collaboration and a similar quest for the absurd. Grocery store: a new musicalThe voices of are automatic doors and produce foggers. They may be singing in harmony, but they are far from the storyline that Mertzlufft began.

The most bizarre collaborative TikToks, Laxton notes, echo other creative movements. In the 1950s, American artist Allan Kaprow brought together poetry, dance, theater, music, painting and other disciplines in unique performances which he called “happening”, which often encouraged the public participation. TikTok does the same thing, just digitally. Real-time performance, but not live. Public art, but on a platform. And, about Mertzlufft, there is also a bit of improvisation theater. If TikTok was looking for a new tagline, Mertzlufft jokes, ‘it would be:’Yes and … for Generation Z. “

To be clear: TikTok is not the Meet. It’s a global social media business powered by algorithms and ads. And yet, as Lizzy Hale, Senior Director of Content at TikTok, notes, users of the app “are creating this new form of entertainment and art that you don’t see on any other platform.” When working in a new medium, with new tools, convincing the cultural establishment of your worth takes time. Just ask André Breton.

“My general take on TikTok and art – and social media and art in general – is that it really looks a lot like street art and street performances,” says A Xiao Mina, author of Memes to Movements: How the world’s most viral media are changing social protest and power. “Especially during the pandemic, social media is where we do Public Right now. “There is, Mina notes, something guerrilla-style about what is created on TikTok; it’s often done on the fly and designed to be endlessly remixable.” When I think of the history of street art and street performance, there is also this kind of discord: is it art? How is it art and what is valid?

For the record, Mina rejects these questions. Not because she doesn’t find validity in work on TikTok, but rather, she says, because “the word ‘art’ can get so loaded.” Calling something “art” leads to arguments about access control and whether art is something academic and institutional, or something local and organic, created for the community. Or both. These arguments, however, don’t really deal with the artistic merit of TikToks, or their content. “I often refer to this as a ‘creative expression’ or a ‘media creation’,” says Mina. In doing so, it is easier to compare it to other works and see how their merits align.

Art, creation, whatever its name, they have always been shaped by the tools available at the time. Everything can become a platform for expression. In the 1960s, for example, Fluxus made and mailed his works, transforming the postal service into a creative platform like TikTok is today. In the 1970s, many artists with limited means produced video art, largely working alone. A response to the avant-garde films of the 1960s, which had full sets and actors, these pieces were edgy and cheaply made, usually with a (newly affordable) video camera and the artist’s body as the subject. . Video art was designed for galleries and art spaces, not theaters, so the length was more suited to the 30 seconds or so that people will spend looking at something on a wall, says Jon Ippolito, professor of new media. at the University of Maine.

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