Social Media: Distracting Diversion or Useful Tool?

Social Media: Distracting Diversion or Useful Tool?

by CTN Member, Line Dufour

In the last six years, social media has served a vital role in enabling me to be a more publicly and community engaged artist. Not only has social media precipitated substantial and pervasive changes to communication, it has profoundly impacted the practice of tapestry weavers and textile artists from being a solitary, isolating practice to an interactive one. Social media has been instrumental in connecting tapestry and textile artists from all over the world, with varying degrees of experience, expertise and accomplishment. Because of it, it was possible to coordinate and create, “Fate, Destiny and Self-Determination: An International Tapestry installation” (FD&SD project) and could not have achieved the success it has without it.  Real connection with others, however, comes in the physicality of doing, in materiality, in actions, interactions, and events shared by an assortment of individuals and groups.
Consequently, the “Fate, Destiny and Self-Determination” initiative has been and continues to be an international dynamic community building endeavour, an educational initiative and a creative and innovative one.
In 2012, I was reluctant to embrace social media, unable to discern its benefits. Eventually it dawned on me it would be a terrific way to connect with other tapestry and textile artists, as I didn’t encounter them frequently in my daily life, and even rarely at Weaving Guild meetings. I realized that social media could be used to propel an art project forward and that’s when I thought that I would use it to create a publicly formed
installation using social media, particularly Facebook, and later Instagram and Twitter.
Fate, Destiny and Self-Determination” is composed of three sections: first, a tapestry woven panel created by me, referencing the contemporary practice of tapestry where artist and weaver are one. A second, smaller panel was woven by the public, ranging from the inexperienced and amateur to the professional. This referenced traditional tapestry conventions in that many weavers worked on the tapestry at the same time or at various stages and did not contribute to creating the tapestry designs. The final and most important section is composed of irregular shapes positioned at varying heights, between the two main panels, floating freely in space, as though the tapestry is pulling apart or coming together.
Each submission is photographed and posted to the Facebook page for the project. I also include information about the participants such as their website if they have one, and other comments they have made about the project or about their work and/or. lives.
Thus far, 811 shapes have been received from 39 countries, and a total of about 484 people have participated. The installation continues to expand as it accepts submissions on an ongoing basis. Part of the exhibition is the list of all participant names. If a label cannot be displayed in the gallery, a QR code label is available so that the gallery viewer can access the web page with the names of all participants. This initiative introduced me to many textile and tapestry artists, opened the door to new
friendships and alliances, and created opportunities for engagement with them. It facilitated discussion between us and “live” encounters with these various artists at various places the installation was exhibited.
I enjoyed receiving these small packages in the mail and was often impressed with their efforts, as well as the stories that accompanied them. Prolific and well-known artists participated, giving the project credibility.

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