In 2011, The Poetic Turn – one of our workshops – was created by Danielle Bleackley. As she witnessed the pervasiveness of text messaging and social media use rise with teens, and saw the vast archive of textual data that gathers on cell phones growing, Danielle wanted to create a workshop that could harness the incredible time and energy that youth spend with social media, digital communication technologies and their digital archives, and reroute it into a focus on art-making. How might the immaterial (text messages, Facebook wall posts, and Tumblr posts etc) be translated into artwork, and into something material? At school, students rarely get the opportunity to use their cell phones or Facebook accounts in connection to their creative pursuits. With this workshop Danielle wondered what could be accomplished and created by harnessing this energy rather than prohibiting it. The Poetic Turn received funding in 2011 and 2012 by the Ontario Art Council’s Artists in Education program and the first workshop ran in the fall of 2011 at Branksome Hall in Toronto. It has since reached over 400 students in both the public and private school systems in Toronto and surrounding areas.
After 3 years of workshops, incredible feedback, artwork and growing interest and momentum Danielle began to develop 1000 Invisible Threads. With this larger project, she is focusing her energies on researching and developing a roster of workshops for youth that explore the connections between social media use and creativity. Emphasis for these workshops is on initiating dialogue with students about how language and photography shape their online personas, and encouraging critical consideration of online activity and messaging. Opening up the possibility that tweets, texts and instagrams can be more than mundane, endless threads of words and images – rather, that social media use has the potential to ignite creativity. The focus for the workshops is to find balance between digital and analog processes – with the goal of finding out how they might inform each other in creative work. Participants begin to critically examine their online persona while exploring their creative side. Moving from the starting point of the screen and social media (the immaterial), they begin to photograph, write, move, and draw with their hands to create something artworks (the material).
Why do we call it 1000 Invisible Threads?
Imagine the thousands of imaginary lines or invisible threads connecting the last photo you posted to Instagram, or your last Facebook post – one thread traveling from you outwards in the direction of every other person who views it. Across the street, or across the world, our relationships in social media are all about these invisible threads – texts sent, images seen, a video gone viral, a tumblr post. Each social media gesture travels millions of miles in seconds; thousands of invisible threads that link us to each other. And yet, these invisible threads exist without digital communication technologies too – I am interested in those connections, those ties – time spent, words said or written, experiences felt – that link us to each other.