Fresh & New(er)

discussion of issues around digital media and museums by Seb Chan

Fresh & New(er) header image 2

Digital graffiti or derivative art? Notes on a skeleton

July 13th, 2009 by Seb Chan

Portrait of an articulated skeleton on a bentwood chair

A pretty innocuous and humorous image from our Phillips Collection in the Commons on Flickr with a lot of views – nearly 33,000.

A quick mouseover reveals this hodge podge of notes.

Is this graffiti? Should they be removed? Would removal just be ‘feeding the trolls‘?

Are they doing it for the lulz?

Or is this some kind of emergent co-collaborative net-art?

Even the Flickr community isn’t quite sure. Here’s a few comments from the image.

mrsvenerdì says:
what a pity all that notes on it!

LandKat says:
What made people decide to hijack this lovely/hilarious photo with notes? I love the effect, I just wonder how it happened.

Big Lion Head says:
Personally speaking the adding of multiple boxes and notes works marvelously on a number of levels. There’s the level of obvious frivolity and humor which ties in nicely with the original theme of the image itself ie. a bit of a laugh. There’s also a privacy factor in that eventually, the sheer volume of notes/boxes will render the image impossible to see and thus affording the subject a little privacy, dignity and respect because let’s face it, setting up a human skeleton in this way doesn’t exactly display a huge amount of respect for the dead. That is of course unless the ‘sitter’ knew well the ‘placer ‘ and indeed asked for that picture to be set up for him. (Doubtful but possible all the same)
There’s also the fact that the adding of notes is adding to the impact of the image from a contemporary artistic viewpoint. Some of the comments are very thoughtful and left-of-center, the massive volume of opinions somehow gives the image a whole new dimension otherwise forgotten, unseen and unimagined by the original creator. I personally would be ‘chuffed to bits’ if one of my own images took on such vibrant attention. (edited)

Personally I’m happy that this sort of interaction is able to take place on Flickr but doesn’t need to travel with the image everywhere else it goes. It is clearly part of Flickr culture and illustrates why an organisation might expect and tolerate different forms of interactions with their ‘assets’ in different environments.

Tags: 1 Comment

  • Right on, Seb. Let Flickr users do what Flickr users do. Too many people take too much too seriously, if you ask me.