Studio Fridays: Smells like Tumblr Spirit

Here are some loosely connected thoughts on Truth, Improv, Hyperallergic’s Tumblr Art Symposium, Kurt Cobain, more, etc. If your media diet is unstable, this post might not be for you. It’s undercooked and erratic. Let me tell you about my busy week:

Recently I have been working with a lot of Improv performers at the Peoples Improv Theatre and the Upright Citizen’s Brigade

One of the things we do before a practice is briefly summarize our weeks by sharing some quick stories. It’s a helpful ritual to get on the same page before jumping into performative exercises. Here we are sharing our reality before we attempt to invent realities. 

I’ve noticed that I often find it hard to access my week- my first instinct is to find the center- an emotional impression instead of a specific event: “well I know I feel like I was really busy, but I can’t think of anything that I did in particular…”

This is not a good way to talk about life- as though it’s a blur of indistinguishable moments I’m flowing through on an emotional current. It’s a design flaw in layout of my personal theme. It’s the infinite scroll and not the structural archive. Forgive me if I begin overlaying Tumblr metaphors onto cognition again. 

Memories are inventions- a linking of visual and emotional data filtered through a need for narrative continuity. Memories are interior performances to appease the tastes of an inner tyrant. Dance for me brain- ENTERTAIN ME!

Lying is when we expand the audience of our memories to include the perceived perceptions of other tyrants. Lying is when we consciously or subconsciously try to anticipate the reaction of others and enhance or alter our own movements to coerce them to dance with us. Here we are now- ENTERTAIN US!

I feel like most episodes of Radio Lab eventually start talking about this. 

I was thinking a lot about the difficulty any individual voice has with being truthful. The monologist is involved in a kind of world building exercise that uses the bricks of reality and the mortar of “insight” to construct a form that can consolidate and contain time and space. 

We are all unreliable narrators of our own experience, no less the observable world. What rings true is highly creative and imaginative act. 

It’s a convoluted thought and hard to unpack. I end up jumping the tracks and looking for a metaphor:

Here is a link of Kurt Cobain’s isolated vocals from Smells Like Teen Spirit

How eerie he sounds outside of the arrangement.  How disorienting it sounds to leave the silence between his soaring rage. A lot goes into justifying that tone.


I was thinking about the upcoming Tumblr Art symposium at Hyperallergic. Here is the first essay in the series by Ben Valentine.

Formally talking about Tumblr presents a reliable narrator problem. A presenter might talk about the structure of the service and how it dictates use. They might discuss personal experience with, you know, tumbling.

Ben’s approach was to write an insightful piece that begins broadly and quickly focuses in on those using the service as an artform in and of itself. Tumblr as the medium.

There’s a lot of very cool stuff that he shares. The creativity in response to the service is definitely vast and interesting. He highlights some of the inherent problems with thinking of the service as an artform: 

This quick and easy dissemination of content is great, but it creates an issue: sustained attention on a single work is hard to come by, therefore deemphasizing authorship. This is problematic, at best, for a traditional artistic practice. A Tumblr viewer could conceivably click on every image and follow each link through to it source, but there are thousands of photographs surrounding it, so why bother? 

Valentine also addresses the scale and accessibility issue. 

Assigning weight to the insight to any particular voice inside of a 91 million person community inherently involves a lot of politics and imagination. 

Last week a Tumblr user I follow posted a vague and general gripe about not being paid attention to, and a lack of ‘customer service.’ Don’t know what he was referring to. I unfollowed.  It seemed weird for any one person to think their voice was needed here or they could have a complaint that needed to be addressed immediately. I suppose the push towards using this platform as a business tool comes part and parcel with this kind of thinking. Even Valentine who was writing about the artistic possibilities of the forum talked about “web 2.0” artists who thought about the service in terms of cost / benefit. 

It’s true that there are some venues and realities that are worth battling for attention. But in this free to use mash up world we are only as interesting as our own force of imagination allows. Entitlement is wasted pulp fiction. 


This tumblr passed the 100,000 follower mark last week and I thought to myself: “huh, I really have spent a lot of time starring at this service.” Felt like I set a high score on Q*BertI feel stupid and contagious! 

I look forward to all of the myth making in front of me. It’s cool that maybe some people will indulge it possibly. Feel hopeful that more people will join in the dance I’m doing. Feel like it’s surprising and erratic. Want to mosh my way out of confusion and jealousy. Want to say truthful things in life and in art whatever the forum.