On April 21 around 1:07 PM, @FlyColony tweeted, “KMCXKMCXKMCXKMCXKMXKMXKMXKMKMK8MKI8MKI8MK8MK8MK8MK8MK8MK8MK8MK8MK8MK8MK87
This was no ordinary tweet, it was delivered by a colony of houseflies living in an acrylic ball with a keyboard. The Twitter handle @flycolony was a record of their movements. Tweets went out whenever the keyboard recorded 140 characters of movement or when the flies triggered the return key. Their raison d’être was the work of artist David Bowen.
The “art” piece has its critiques. Design Boom user Paedra said:
a can of insecticide for the creators of this intellectual BS
LET THE FLIES OUT !!!!!!!!!
Twitter Art has a bad reputation for being unacademic, uninspired, and banal, but it’s unfair to hold tweets to the same criteria as say, oil painting, sculpture, or architecture. As a medium, Twitter is approximately 9 years old, but it’s already being used by overused by over 500 million users to express mundane, ridiculous, and even newsworthy words. It’s usually not artistic. At least…not yet.
As an interactive installation with thousands of followers, I find the premise of tweeting houseflies intriguing and possibly beautiful. I know that others do not share this opinion because a housefly colony doesn’t lend itself easily to any aesthetic criteria. What made the piece intriguing and “artistic” enough for me?
I found its execution was thought provoking – what is Art and what is a tweet? I know tweets can be no more than 140 characters, but they can also be 1 character. I know tweets are sent by human actions, but now they can also be sent as a series of data sets of housefly movements. When is a tweet no longer just a tweet but Art? How does one judge the quality of its artistic quality?
I love these theoretical dilemmas and I think great art projects aren’t necessarily comfortable or beautiful but provocative and engaging. Art helps me to see something about a medium or subject in a way that I haven’t seen before. Seeing houseflies tweet definitely falls into this category. Also, the acrylic bubble looks gorgeous.
At the last count, the flies have managed to accumulate nearly 3,700 followers (more than I have). The flies have also managed to send out 96,000 tweets. (They move around a lot?) The flies have since stopped tweeting – presumably dead since their lifespan is about 15-30 days.