The #FreeRepublicOfRepetition project has ended. At least, it has in terms of the frenzied 27-hour social media / post-it note production process. It may yet be the starting point of my next project. It may not. I don’t know yet. Watch this space. I need to now sit back, reflect, and think.
I feel a big sense of relief now that I have ‘finished’. I am no longer writing #FreeRepublicofRepetition’ over and over and again and pouring out my thoughts onto paper. I am not clock watching so that I don’t forget to post to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram on the hour every hour. The pressure to think of a new way to present #FreeRepublicofRepetition in materials (such as Lego, paper, wool) has gone.
Although I have nothing solid to show for the last two days (my studio walls are still bare), I feel I have achieved a lot and I have something worthwhile in my head.
I’ve had such fun doing this. I’ve really enjoyed pouring my random thoughts onto paper and spreading them around the top floor of the Wolverhampton School of Art. I’ve soaked up the reactions.
After the task ended, at 3pm today, we had a group-crit. I was the first to face the ‘firing squad’. I briefly introduced the work and waited for a reaction. I had no notion of what it would be.
One student told me that she’d tried to google ‘#FreeRepublicofRepetition’ once the notes started appearing and the top hit was a website about Barack Obama. Another student said that she’d worried that she was supposed to know what it was about. A third told me that as more notes appeared, he began to feel quite annoyed. That was exactly the response I wanted. It was a virus, and as a virus spreads, that is quite annoying. That was also, I imagine, the social media reaction as well.
Hearing this feedback, I had a thought about the two strands of the project: the social media strand and the real life strand. There is an interesting relationship between posting personal information to social media and posting personal information on the walls of the art building in Wolverhampton. The more I got into the task of the notes, the more bizarre and personal the messages got. I shared information that I might not otherwise have offered, such as the fact I’d been ill earlier in the week, what I like to eat, my thoughts about this task and odd facts about my life. The messages had started off being manifestos for the Free Republic of Repetition, this mythical political group, and ended up being personal manifestos and ditties. I became the Free Republic of Repetition. I don’t know why that is.
I’m intrigued that I didn’t once run out of things to say. It just flowed and flowed and flowed. I could have carried on. Some days I am like that on social media as well.
However, as people responded to me face-to-face with their reactions to individual posts, I felt an odd and unsettling feeling of exposure. If I had posted the equivalent information to Facebook and they had responded with a comment to the post in exactly the same way, I wouldn’t have felt so vulnerable. Social media removes us from ourselves and others. It is a barrier between the two. There was no barrier as I exposed some aspects of myself on the walls of Wolverhampton Art School. But what is the difference between doing that and writing personal things on Facebook? Semantically, nothing. But psychologically, quite a lot.
That is an interesting idea. One which, I will conjugate over the next few days. This project has three main themes: creating a virus (ironically, just as a I was recovering from one), creating something with no tangible meaning in order to incite or confuse (or at least observe the reaction of) and the contrast between exposing information in the real worlds and the virtual worlds. I turned the 7th Floor into my Facebook page and it was really, rather weird.