Immersive Van Gogh is art, and you can post that

If you attend an art exhibit in 2021 and don’t share a picture of it, did you even attend?

You are reading Greg’s weekly email about creative, digital, social, and cultural signals worth noting, and sometimes a dumb viral video worth sharing with your friends. Today’s email was written to Broken Spindles’ 2004 album fulfilled/complete. Follow @gregswan on TwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn.


Last weekend we attended the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit you’ve probably seen all over your Instagram feeds, no matter what market you live in.

The Star Tribune art critic eviscerated the show, saying it was 1) “creating a spectacle out of [Van Gogh’s] art and exploiting it for marketing purposes,” 2) that “anything educational had been sucked out,” and 3) that “the marketing team of ‘Immersive Van Gogh’ asks visitors to take pics and post on social media, thus creating free advertising for the show.”

Having just watched Netflix’s Bob Ross documentary about a beloved artist whose family isn’t earning anything on his likeness and residuals, I can sympathize the thread about following the profits. Tickets were quite expensive for my family of five to attend ($354), and the gift shop was selling $12 button magnets and $30 journals (that we bought).

Having helped produce immersive art and music exhibitions myself, I also sympathize with the investment of technology, creative, and music to recoup. But here’s the kicker, Van Gogh's paintings are not copyrighted, and there aren’t residuals because the artist has been dead for a long time. This means that Van Gogh's paintings are now a part of the public domain. It’s fair use. There are three immersive Monet shows in production, so you can bet this won’t be the last of these. Or want to start one yourself? You can. That’s the beauty of public domain.

But I completely object to the second point about lack of education about the artist or his pieces. The exhibit’s accompanying mobile app was filled with deep background for all attendees and features a free audio tour, too. My family listened to the aural exhibit preview en route to the show, we studied each artwork and read the backgrounds in advance, and had SO MANY conversations about technique, mental health, and the nature of misunderstood genius on the drive home. The soundtrack was incredible and full of culture in both historical and modern genres. You can stream it on Spotify here.

And as for the Star Tribune’s third complaint about how people take photos and share them on social media being bad because it creates free publicity for the show — I’m sorry but that’s called modern marketing for modern times. If you attend an art exhibit in 2021 and don’t share a picture of it, did you even attend an exhibit? Don’t me going on that one. More exhibits should facilitate social sharing. In fact, the Minneapolis Institute of Art praised my daughter and I for highlighting their collection on YouTube to share art with those who don’t have access to physical galleries. There are a lot worse things on our collective feeds than art these days.

There’s a quote in the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit’s audio preview that says something like “it’s impossible to be passive when experiencing this show,” and that’s completely true. Although certainly not a substitute for viewing art in a museum, supporting your local galleries, or buying local art – it was an incredible complement to those and modern celebration of creativity. And yes, I was wearing my hat that reads “WILL TECHNOLOGY ENHANCE HUMAN CREATIVITY?” It will. And does.

With the lockdown and everything that’s come after, it’s been too long since I stood in an art exhibition and became overwhelmed and overjoyed to the point of happy tears.

I needed it. Badly. Maybe we all do. That’s what art is all about. -Greg


This week a long-form interview I did for the Mixing Board Studio Session Series published here. Mixing Board founder Sean Garrett and I chatted for almost an hour about the intersection of where culture, the internet, and brands are going.

We talked about the need for modern marketers to be lifelong students, generational tension in platforms and social behavior, influencers, NFTs, and how a brand can stay in tune with changing digital trends. You know, just a few things. They cleaned it up into a nice little recap you can read by clicking on my face above. 😎

In other news, a video I took of a bottle flipping robot at SXSW 2017 got used in an Astonishing Studios’ YouTube video about a DIY LEGO bottle flipping robot. You can watch that here.

And my kids went back to school this week, attending IRL for the first time in 18 months. Their new school district is BYODevice, so we sent them with new Samsung 15.6" Chromebooks with 4GB Memory and 128GB eMMC Flash Memory. The screens are HUGE, and they’re pretty light. We’re pretty hard on technology at my house, so our goal is they get two years out of them. Battery life will be key. I’ll keep you posted.

Here’s what else I’m tracking this week…

Mark Your Calendars for TikTok World, Sept 28: Most major platforms host annual events to share data milestones, demo new product features, and offer marketers and developers insights into where trends are headed (e.g., Facebook F8, Snapchat Partner Summit, Apple WWDC). TikTok is joining that tradition with the announcement of TikTok World, a “bespoke virtual platform and our inaugural event where we'll look into the future of creativity, community and commerce.” Register to attend here.

Dead Internet Theory Isn’t Entirely Far-Fetched: The Atlantic published a piece called Maybe You Missed It, but the Internet ‘Died’ Five Years Ago that is based on“dead internet theory,” which suggests that the internet has been almost entirely taken over by artificial intelligence.

Perhaps you’ve noticed that some of the same content, memes, themes, and comments are being recycled month-over-month, year-over-year, and seem to be posted by questionable users. Are we all interacting with bots that are using algorithms to keep us busy as some kind of government gaslighting? Probably not. But then again, we know social media is flooded with bots and inauthentic content, some openly driven by foreign governments. In 2018, the New Yorker wrote, “Studies generally suggest that, year after year, less than 60 percent of web traffic is human; some years, according to some researchers, a healthy majority of it is bot.” More recent reports indicate just over 40 percent of web traffic is from bots, and some of those bots are doing helpful things (help refresh your feeds or figure out how to rank Google search results).

But as Huffington Post’s Andy Campbell pointed out, the number of fake breaking news accounts has skyrocketed from humans and bots combined: “Unconfirmed reports of shots fired, and within seconds there are fifty BREAKING 911-type accounts filling the lull in news with random false information.”

Luckily, the platforms and media partners are actively fighting bots and A.I. manipulation. But that same focus and effort aren’t quite so prevalent on Reddit, message boards, and dark social chat rooms where trends start, news spreads, and disinformation can run rampant.

Key quote: “If I was real I’m pretty sure I’d be out there living each day to the fullest and experiencing everything I possibly could with every given moment of the relatively infinitesimal amount of time I’ll exist for instead of posting on the internet about nonsense.”

Deepfake Modeling is the New Stock Photo Modeling: Stock images are marketers’ favorite shortcut, especially in the social media age. But sometimes the stock image models themselves experience regret about lending out their likeness for short-term cash only to find themselves on everything from pet food to period products. Now, people are hiring out their faces to become deepfake-style marketing clones that are used as AI-powered characters that say or do anything, in any language.

Will deepfake models have the same regrets as stock photo models? Probably. Although SAG-AFTRA is already getting involved to offer some protections.

Key quote: “The firm does not let people have a say in how their likeness will be used or what words will be put into their mouths, but it has an ethics policy specifying that it will not work with certain industries… We’re pretty conservative about the types of businesses that we work with… That means no gambling, no sex, and no politics.

NFT PFPs Coming to an Avatar Near You: You may notice profile pictures of people from LinkedIn changing from their traditional portraits to cartoon characters of animals that don't look like them in the slightest.

Versed’s Meta Mike flagged this emerging trend and noted that these avatars do, however, represent their status: “This trend comes after a growing volume of NFT Profile Picture (PFP) projects that are taking the Metaverse by storm. For those who have adopted early and own a trending PFP NFT, they are now expressing their individuality through their community ties. Who knows, Jane Smith may soon be better known as BAYC 5975!”

Reads of the Week: 1) The Final Frontier of the Text Inbox; 2) So Your Brand Just Bought Your First NFT, What Next? 3) Who Runs Twitter’s @Twitter? 4) TikTok Is Impacting The Luxury Resale Market, Here’s How; 5) Twitter Thread: “I once read that your manager has a greater impact on your health than your doctor and I think about it a lot.”

Quick Hits:

See you on the internet!
Greg

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