I am discussing the idea of fan art in social media. Social media is both challenging the arts while providing new avenues for artistic venture. Fan art is art that is based around a canon text which is published by mainstream media, which is then latched onto by an audience member who expands on the concepts through various artistic avenues. Fan art is a form of expression which is gaining popularity through a variety of websites which can host large enough files of high quality fan art. Fan art has become its own genre, and social media websites, its gallery.
The Two Intersections of Art on Social Media
The core concept being explored when discussing fan art is the idea of social media and creativity. The idea of internet and art and the intersection which they both occupy is a conflicting one. There are examples of artists who use the internet as a tool with which they create performance art, or a part of their art, such as artist Richard Prince, who has recently come under fire for printing giant screenshots of other peoples Instagram photos and displaying them in an art gallery for sale.
The other side of the intersection is fan art, those who use social media as a medium to portray their art and to expand their audience. Hinton and Hjorth have gone as far as to suggest that social media is the new gallery. Fan art extends beyond the traditional limitations of art by going online and reaching previously unreachable audiences, and defining new boundaries. Social media allows art to reach beyond demographics, and fan art in particular finds virtual communities to thrive and flourish. For a brand, fan art could be the best or the worst thing audiences can do. Fan artists could be the fiercest of brand advocates, or could result in lengthy trademark legal battles.
DeviantART vs. The Louvre
Authors of fan art are two-fold they are both consumers and creators, so they fall neatly into the category of user created content (UCC). Users who create fan art however, are much more skilled in getting their content to the masses, particularly if the fan art is of popular mainstream content. By locating which social media the virtual communities of the mainstream content use to congregate and post, creators of fan art simply have to use the right tag and then subject their art to the scrutiny of the public. Unlike regular art, in the not online sense, which must bypass a curator and art critics, it is much easier to gain success through social media accounts. As Hinton and Hjorth point out, social networking sites which focus on art have a more significant web presence than the galleries, which means a larger audience to spread their art to, past international borders and linguistic confines. DeviantART, an art focused SNS, registered up to 50 million hits in 2014, by comparison, the Louvre in Paris had 9 million visitors. One could argue that the Louvre and DeviantART target completely different demographics; however they both target specific interests. One targets renaissance fans, the other fans of cultural production. In this instance one is clearly more successful in reaching a wider audience than the other.
Fan Art and Social Media
Hinton and Hjorth quote Horkheimer and Adorno, as they say that ‘cultural production as a mass industry, with factories producing easy-to-swallow culture to be consumed by the masses in order to keep them controlled’. Cultural production in this instance being mass produced media such as TV shows, podcasts, websites, or objects such as tablets, smartphones etc. This damning statement on the state of cultural production runs very similar to Karl Marx’s infamous statement, ‘Religion is the opiate of the masses’. Religion in this case being mass cultural production. Fan art proves this idea wrong. The mass cultural production which Horkheimer and Adorno so fervently diminish is the canon from which artists get their ideas from, to produce fan art, which is not the result of a controlled people. The mass cultural production of mainstream media is inspiring and encouraging the production of art. Whether art is accessed through other forms of cultural production is negligible, to the effect art can have on its audiences.
Fan art is also subject to the masses in a way that art in galleries could never be. The internet, by default of being populated heavily with younger generations, is more left-wing than real life society will allow. One need only Google SJW to understand the extent to which the internet, and therefore social media, are biased. Therefore fan art is also under a type of scrutiny in social media that non-internet art could never be. Art on social media then begins to respond to that, the same way art has always responded to society, by beginning to incorporate feminism, LGBT issues, and other political issues which are often marked as controversial in the real world.
The dark side with posting anything on social media sites is that you, the poster, are not the owner of it. When you are agreeing to any social media’s terms and conditions you are allowing the website, whether it is Tumblr or Instagram, full ownership of whatever you upload. This can be seen by the production of Richard Prince’s prints of Instagram photos. Legal action cannot be taken by the original uploaders because by uploading the images to Instagram, the photos are property of Instagram. Similarly, producers of fan art incur similar problems when uploading their art to social media websites, where often it can be stolen with little to no ramifications.
Fan art is difficult to legally claim as the artists do not own the characters and images, therefore when they are stolen by other corporations or people, there is not much that can be done. However when posting art that is not fan based online on social media accounts, similar problems occur, and the images are susceptible to any form of plagiarism.
As seen in the image, the original art from a 17 year old high school student was taken from social media site, Tumblr, and used by a corporation to further their profits. Posting art to social media carries the same risks as posting fan art; however the positive such as exposure and critiquing may outweigh the negatives.
I cannot relate the connection between fan art and social media to my work heavily throughout the semester; however in my initial content calendar plans I suggested encouragement for UCC through fan art. For the assignment I created a fake book publisher, which had it been real, would have had fans of their books. I suggested weekly features of fan content, such as fan art, which had been submitted via different social media accounts. The possible success of this venture, had the organisation been real, could have highlighted the impact social media accounts could have on the popularity of fan art.
The most interesting aspect of this course has been learning to deal with social media in a way that I am not used to. As a product of my generation, I am used to using social media as a consumer, and have never really paid any attention to the efforts and strategies companies put into making themselves accessible online. By looking at social media from an organisational, marketing perspective, it is interesting to see all the opportunities that are possible, and now watching other companies employ these strategies in a nonchalant way as to not alert the consumer base to their plans and strategies. These strategies can even be taken to apply to yourself to create a personal online brand. However, I think I will stick to using these tactics on behalf of an organisation.
By Kaveri Dubey
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