Zach Whitworth

The Use of Long-lasting Materials

How responsible is it to keep making more stuff?

Modern consumer objects are made to last, but problems arise when they are discarded. Similarly, art objects have traditionally been made to last, often with the hope that they may be maintained by collectors and museums. Not only does art preservation require space, but long-lasting artwork tends to rely on the use of unnatural and toxic materials.

Sustainability is discussed in art circles, but largely in regards to making objects that will remain intact for centuries. Conservation is also an important subject in art, but it normally addresses paintings, sculptures, etc. rather than the environment.

As human-created ecological collapse continues to progress, it is imperative for artists to recognize the environmental impact of their work. It may not be possible for an artist to entirely avoid waste, but they can still make efforts to reduce their footprint.

Artists must re-think their relationship with materials. How are they produced? What is scrapped during the process of making an artwork? What are the consequences of creating something that can’t return to the earth?

It may ultimately necessitate a shift toward more ephemeral, recyclable/degradable, and compact forms of art-making.


Art as research

The word “research” often floats around art discourse. An artist might claim their work stems from some sort of research or that a project is the research itself. If research is involved in art practices, then we should understand and evaluate it with research guidelines.

Art as a hypothesis: In this case, an artwork would be an unsolved idea or proposal. This might be a question or suggestion, which an audience can respond to directly or indirectly.

Art as an experiment: If an artist looks for an answer to their hypothesis, they might construct a project that tests that idea. This may lead to further questions rather than a conclusion.

Art as a conclusion: An artwork at this level is usually presented as a statement, assertion, or experiment’s results, claiming something to be true.

If an artist is a researcher, then at what level of the research process does responsible art exist? A hypothesis or experiment leaves room for questioning and learning, but art as a conclusion could be closed to criticism. Artists should be careful not to jump to conclusions and present misleading information. Like any other research, a responsible conclusion needs to be accompanied by the gathered data.

(This essay is a hypothesis.)


Weaponize your Instagram

It’s common to use platforms like Instagram as a popularity scheme, but it could also be used as a social weapon. Popular Instagrammers have consistent “looks” to brand their feeds. This might involve the use of a single filter or similar color palettes that maintain sleekness in one’s outward appearance online.

If someone decided to suddenly shift that “look”, perhaps in a radically different direction, this could indicate something is off, or something new is happening. Breaking conventions can be used to spark interest in a new post. If one normally uses short captions, an unexpectedly long caption might pique a viewer’s curiosity.

First posts can also do this, moving the look from nothing to something. Instagram profiles with one post force visitors to only interact with that post.

Following other profiles sends them notifications and can entice someone to open your profile. If you wanted to spread information in a low-key way, you could create that point of visual intrigue and follow everyone who you would want to see that post.

Think of Instagram as a form of tactical media and social tool. Attract people to one post, and the information will be understood as far more important.

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