ARTISTS ONLINE? The Paradox of Creative Identity

14/03/2010 at 6:45 pm 2 comments


As I juggle my writing schedule with the twin distractions of twitter and facecrack; It occurs to me how suddenly we take this for granted. Look back to just three or four years ago and nobody was on either. Now you’re mad if you don’t use social to keep yourself in the media loop and within earshot of others. As discussed in a previous post and ad nauseum elsewhere this is some powerful mojo for building audiences, tribes & ultimately careers. Provided it’s handled properly of course.

Since I started this blog six months ago I’ve been astonished that 1) anyone actually reads it; but 2) that slowly but surely, I’m actually gaining traction. Granted, I’ve taken a strategic approach based loosely on the Seth Godin book ‘Tribes’ and specific tactical use of social media tools with some skills I picked up in another life as a digital copywriter a year or two back. It’s not rocket science- I’ve positioned myself in a certain way that people will either agree or disagree with what I’m doing; and more importantly kept a steady stream of posts up. In that time, I’ve been approached to write for a couple of other sites, invited to speak on a writers’ festival panel, and had artists approach me to start up a ‘dialogue’ about their work (more on that later). What started as a tongue-in-cheek rant has grown legs and started kicking. It’s all a bit sudden.

Not that I’m getting cold feet – quite the opposite, the more I look around the more there is to say about theatre, arts, writing and the myriad of events happening in and around this mad city I’m stuck in; Sydney (it’s a love-hate relationship – if we were dating on facebook I’d say: “it’s complicated”). But in my research and development of an online presence I came up against an issue that appears to have been sleeping right under my nose. I got into a twitter conversation with someone based around a mutual interest in the recent William Yang performance at Carriageworks.

Katrucia: @fivewalls so who are you??

fivewalls: @Katrucia me? just another writer/performer/artist. no-one in particular 🙂 yet

Katrucia: @fivewalls well looks like you’ve got the whole self deprecating artist thing down pat

fivewalls: @Katrucia: no, i’m just being modest because you don’t know me very well. I’m actually an extraordinary talent. but saying as much is less impressive

[and so on]

I’ve brought this up to show how artists can easily fall into a trap when putting themselves into a digital context. Too modest and we’re “self-deprecating”, too self-aggrandising and we’re likely to be chopped down like the tall poppies we are. Opinionated. Effing. Wankers. Right? I fall into the latter category. Of course, if your opinions have the consistency of reconstituted oatmeal this isn’t an issue, but artists tend to be more informed (correctly or not), more extreme and by their very nature, more vocal. The strategy “be nice” – while popular and effective in the commercial world, does not always apply to those of us hooked on expression.

Additionally there is the factor that many artists, writers and even some actors are not particularly interested in being popular. Many of us are interested in the work. That’s one of the reasons I write under a pseudonym – which inadvertently lead to this post when my new friend @Katrucia asked the obvious question “who are you?”. I made a conscious decision about how I answered; given that both “no-one in particular” and “an extraordinary talent” are both accurate descriptions to work with.

Of course, you wouldn’t say either without a hint of sarcasm, which doesn’t always translate in the digital world… It got me wondering: is it possible to self-promote online without coming off as a little bit of a complete tosser? And if someone is being deliberately modest, are they just playing coy? One of the most effective arts marketing campaigns I’ve seen recently is by theatre company Cry Havoc, who make no such apologies for their intent to bring a revolution to the theatre world. While the work is impressive (erring on the side of convention), it’s their grasp of marketing that resonates with me for this post. The week my review of Orestes 2.0 was linked from their website; 5th Wall gained a record number of hits. So call it over-the-top if you will, but the no-nonsense attitude works. But you wouldn’t want to take that approach without a serious sense of self-worth… Wankers.

What approach do you prefer to promoting your work online? Softly-Softly or Larger-Than-Life? Is there an in-between?

Entry filed under: Marketing. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Elena  |  14/03/2010 at 8:09 pm

    I can’t be anything but self-deprecative. I’ve tried the shameless promotion and just can’t do it. Plus, people seem to like/identify with my self-deprecating tone of writing.

    But audiences can tell when you’re being insincere. Then again, if I link to a blog post and poke fun at my own writing within the same Twitter update, OBVIOUSLY I’m linking because I want people to read it.

    So I guess to me, the whole self-deprecating thing is just my “writer’s voice” coming through.
    BTW I completley relate to your love-hate relationship with Sydney, even though i haven’t even lived here a year yet.

  • 2. anvildrops  |  14/03/2010 at 8:42 pm

    Hi Elena, thanks for commenting!

    Similarly, I should hope that those who read my constant big-noting and selling tickets for myself are capable of spotting OBVIOUS irony 🙂

    As my friend SENAGAL says, I’m the only one he knows who can lose a game of chess and berate the victor for taking too long in winning.

    I don’t know any artist who hasn’t struggled with the necessity to believe absolutely in what they do.

    SYDNEY: love the weather, hate the idiotic commercialism. but when you get past the fake tan She’s got a kind soul, just doesnt get much of a chance to use it…


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