What is all this outpouring of communication? Reading the (heartwarming, inspiring, grassroots-good) notes on the Peckham Post-It wall you really feel like no one ever had a chance to say anything to anyone before. Does anyone remember the Warhol quote wondering where all the ugly people have gone? Twenty years ago, he said, everyone was ugly. Now everyone’s beautiful. Where have the ugly people all gone?
It’s like we’ve been kept in small rooms with no one to talk to until Facebook and Twitter arrived and said, hey, talk into this, and then pass it on, indefinitely. Now we can’t move without typing on our phones. Where has all this come from, all that we have to say? It’s endlessly, endlessly exciting. Did you know one of the most substantial (number-wise) new creations to the English language, besides words that have arisen for new technologies and those from interaction with other languages, is words with prepositions: speak up, conjure up, shout out, rise up, close down, lay down, come with, shut up, make up, make out, etc? Speaking and conjuring weren’t enough; we had to raise the word count! We had to raise the word count up!
And these bloggers! What are they all talking about? What insights do they have that actual reporters or actual researchers do not? Amazing that you give a population new technology and all it wants to do is talk more.
The US artist Joseph Grigely is hearing impaired and communicates largely through Post-Its; he made an installation of all the conversations he’d had over the years at the 2000 Whitney Biennial in New York called White Noise. The idea was to turn communication into something physically overpowering: walking into the room one would sense the sheer amount of language ones uses and goes through on a daily basis. The work did feel, indeed, like a lot of noise — a great, synesthetic concatenation of the senses there: feeling, hearing, seeing.
Little did Grigely know, we suspect, what a leitmotif his idea of exponentially expanding visual communication would become for the new century which that Biennial pointedly positioned itself to herald. We’re not sure if anyone remembers but the Whitney Biennial, in an almost quaint enthralment with the new millenium, changed its periodicity (it used to be on odd years) so it would fall on the year 2000.
The year 2000! Think of that — when numbers mattered. When everything was Y2K and gr8.