“Re-blogging” is a way of populating a website by posting images, texts, videos, or other forms of “found” web content discovered while browsing the Internet. The term “blogging” first came into use at the end of the 1990s to describe a form of online publishing whose historical roots lie in Usenet, a computer network communications system popular among early adopters long before the establishment of the World Wide Web. Bloggers have always borrowed content from one another; a set of social codes governing linking and source citation emerged around these casual exchanges, published on popular blogging platforms. With the advent of social media during the first decade of the millennium, however, networked publishing platforms such as Tumblr and Twitter have popularized the re-blog as a means of appropriating others’ content, while rendering the rules that governed the early “social web” increasingly complicated if not altogether obsolete.
Cory Arcangel’s web-based projects take these cultural shifts in stride, playing with the language of the Web as a means of reflecting the Internet back onto itself. He credits Eyebeam’s reBlog project, a piece of software that enables users to find and repurpose blog content, with introducing him to the term. On his Tumblr blog, What a Misunderstanding, Arcangel posts each week’s winner from the New Yorker’s “Cartoon Caption Contest,” replacing the winning caption with the exclamation “What a misunderstanding!” For another website, Sorry I Haven’t Posted, Arcangel chooses posts, culled by an algorithm, which contain the phrase known to every failed blogger, and re-blogs their apologies and empty promises to post more frequently. Posted without commentary, these words and images relay the unintentional humor people reveal through their online behavior.
As part of a media partnership between the Whitney and the website Buzzfeed, Arcangel is using Buzzfeed’s socially driven platform to share Web content that relates to his exhibition, Pro Tools. In a recent post, for instance, Arcangel illustrates the history of videogame bowling with a series of YouTube videos posted from his personal account that document various games, from the Atari 2600 (released in 1977) to the Nintendo Game Cube (released in 2001). This post sketches the history behind Various Self Playing Bowling Games (2011), a series of multi-channel projections of bowling video games from the 1970s to the 2000s that have been hacked to bowl only gutter balls; the piece forms the centerpiece for Pro Tools. In an essay written for the exhibition by Christiane Paul, the Whitney’s Adjunct Curator of New Media Arts, Arcangel said of his work: “I have found the repetitive failure of a poorly rendered 3-d human figure bowling to somehow be an apt metaphor for our culture’s bizarre fascination with technology.”
The visual language of online advertising is of interest to Arcangel, too: Designing some by himself and producing others using free online software that automatically generates fonts and background colors, Arcangel has also developed a series of playfully insidious ads to advertise his Whitney exhibition on Buzzfeed’s website. Look for them over the course of the exhibition, which ends on September 11, 2011.