Art & Design

Across the Tumblrverse: Artist Tyson Parks on His Piece ‘Blogroll’ and His Trippy Tumblr

Art & Design

Across the Tumblrverse: Artist Tyson Parks on His Piece ‘Blogroll’ and His Trippy Tumblr


Prompted to describe Tyson Parks’s “Bearmod ernity” tumblr, in all its slippery and sparkling, empyreal Internet-ness, this is the best I came up with: Bearmod ernity looks like the future, but in the way that futures, imagined, always reflect the present and the person of their production more than anything that will actually be. Bearmod is like a present future (or maybe it’s a future present)… Whichever it is, it’s a vision, a world imagined and an experience.

Later, I asked Tyson Parks to describe his tumblr and then to summarize it in three keywords or concepts (you know, like, panoptical, phallocratic, mysticism). Here is what he wrote: “It’s hard to define, but I suppose my Bearmod tumblr is probably best described as a visual journal of my internet experience. With it,  I am always switching through different modalities of collecting including being a gadget consumer, shock-reaction troller, pr0n leacher, WTF re-blogger, self-promoting artist, curator of colleague’s works, catalog image fetishist, art project mood-board maker, texture cataloguer, art history investigator, etc.  Simultaneously I feel that tumblr is a visual conversation and much of the time I like to let myself fall into the global stream of consciousness that is flowing through my dashboard. This makes the keywords description difficult so… Bearmod ernity is yesterday, today, and tomorrow.”

Tyson Parks is a Montreal-based artist who makes what I would confidently call in conversation “new media” or “internet” art but, if cornered, would be forced to admit that I don’t really know what that means. His bio says that he is an “artist and professional working at the intersections of sound, video, photography, software, electronics, interactivity, and the internet.” Parks makes digital paintings and music visualizations. Last year, I had the opportunity to play with his “Wave Painter” interactive digital painting installation which allows the user to stroke and splat “paint” onto a large projected canvas using his or her body. The piece was also used by dancers for a performance by current Montreal darling Grimes.

Parks sometimes works under the alias Bearmod (“Born to be an astronaut, skateboarding and gangster rap derailed Bearmod from going the straight and narrow route to the launch pad… Dedicated to finding ‘that new new’ in everything he does, Bearmod and his constantly evolving creative toolkit cooks up something fresh for his fans’ ears and eyes, in an attempt to pop bodies and blow minds.”) In every aspect of his artistic production, Parks’ aesthetic is indefinable yet absolutely identifiable. I could pick out his imagery in a Tumblr line-up any day.

Parks was one of 500-odd artists who responded to YouTube art star Hennessy Youngman’s recent open internet invitation to participate in a group show at Maurizio Cattelan and Massimiliano Gioni’s Family Business Gallery in Chelsea, New York (which is beautifully situated right next to, in Hennessy’s words, “the motherfucking Gagosian”). Youngman’s invitation was simple: greeting www, I’m curating a show, and if you can get your stuff down to this gallery on one of three alloted drop off days (March 30th-April 1st), you’ll be in my show. Every medium welcome. The exhibition was originally called Itsa Small, Small World. This was changed at the last minute to It’s a Clusterf*ck, an apt description for the resulting mess: 500 pieces crammed into a 125 square-foot space (hung on wall, floor and ceiling) and an opening party mob, hundreds youthful attendees smoking, drinking, and photographing each other, that flooded the Chelsea street into the night.

The piece that Tyson Parks dropped off is called Blogroll. Blogroll is a 36ft. x 5in. inkjet print of about 1800 images, representing about 63 days of Tyson’s personal tumbling, from February 7th to April 10th, 2011. The print is rolled around a custom made roll and is intended to be hung from a towel holder. It was initially produced for a show in Montreal at Galerie Pangée called Pr0n that was curated by Raji Sohal, in collaboration with the online gallery Bozeau Ortega Contemporary Arts (BOCA). Tyson is a rapid tumblr user. For him, tumblr is largely an alternative saving method of images found on the internet.

The creation of Blogroll was prompted by a desire for a physical interaction with his acquired image collection. Due to the high-level of response, Hennessy and Family Business ended up closing the drop-off period early on Sunday with a note: “Sorry everyone we can’t collect anymore art. Packed house.” Many artists just left their work, along with waivers exempting the gallery from any damages or losses, outside the gallery. Tyson ended up essentially toilet-papering the façade of the gallery with his.

I wanted to chat with Tyson face-to-screen via Skype (the closest thing to RL our distant cities would allow, plus Tyson has a handsome face which would have been nice to look at) but, having lost my voice to strep throat, what we have instead is a long, poorly punctuated Google Chat conversation, from which the following is excerpted (with punctuation and spelling amended). Here Tyson and I discuss his piece Blogroll and how Hennessy Youngman’s Itsa Small, Small World was a lot like tumbr itself.

Have you seen any images of the space without people in it? It’s like 500 artists in a 125 square foot space. Everyone was on the street.

The photos of the show are pretty amazing and I think it’s a really great physical manifestation of the dynamics that have developed between contemporary art and the internet.

Totally. The joke was that the whole internet showed up for the party. Do you think that was expected?

Crowdsourcing a show with (what was intended to be) no limitations on medium, size, theme, amount, content, etc., expresses the same attempt or symbol of freedom that many see the internet to be. It’s hard to know what anyone expected. For me, I expected it to be a mess of chaos, but had no idea how exactly that chaos would manifest.

A lot of artists I talked to when I “dropped” off my piece had brought pieces that they didn’t care about at all and it sounded like they had little to no intention of trying to come back and recollect. After all, we had knowingly participated in an exhibition which we were told would not be responsible for protecting the works from damage. In that way I think a lot of artists brought work to the show as if it was a graveyard or an art dumpster. Which is a hilarious side-effect of the show’s curatorial process.

I would be interested to see a catalog of all the pieces there, even a website document of what actually ended up in that space.

Yeah, I actually thought that if I were in New York I would go spend a day photographing each individual piece and make a tumblr page for the show.

Let’s talk about the piece you contributed to the show, Blogroll. I love that the blogroll made physical is a scroll, this ancient medium. You’ve turned it around. A new way of distributing information (Tumblr) back into the oldest.

A lot of my art projects, or intended ones at least, are attempts at transference between mediums, modalities, idea spaces, etc. Often stemming from a personal desire to have that transference bridge a gap of limitations or break illusions of different technologies. In this case, it was kind of simple. I wanted to hold in my hand a physical manifestation of this virtual strip of images that our computers, iPads, etc. have us scroll up and down on all day.

It can be a frustrating illusion being trapped inside that rectangular box of a screen. I think a lot about how viewing something on a scroll format is so much more interesting than in a book format. Although the specific format of my Blogroll print came initially out of paper/cost calculations and the idea of printing a long strip, I was conscious of the fact that it was going to be a similar format to “toilet paper” and that this format would be instantly evoked by the piece.

 Haha. TP, like tumblr, a disposable, ephemeral medium with a lot of shit on it.

Yeah… for me, that’s really not how I feel about it but I know that in some ways that is the inescapable truth. Tumblr serves to devalue the images contained within its stream through its freedom of mass, instantaneous, passive dissemination. It’s funny that in a lot of ways similar aspects of tumblr also show up in Hennessy’s show.

Like what?

People brought artworks that were disposable to them. The artwork is in such a jumble that you get no sense of intentional curation. It’s like a live stream of artwork that people were able to easily pass to the gallery by all the people that are in Hennessy’s “network.”

It’s like a physical manifestation of his dashboard. Individual works only relate to one another by the random, unintentional way in which they have been orientated next to other works, which is like the random “archive” views that are available. There are lots of parallels that can be drawn between the show and tumblr or many other “internet” paradigms. Which ultimately is a success for Henessy, I think.

Itsa a Small, Small World/It’s a Clusterf*ck closed on April 16th.