Real Time Mobile Art Exhibition Essay


Real Time

@ The Dallas Contemporary February 15 - May 10 2008
Curated by Dean Terry with John Pomara

inter.sect art collective
Kirsten Macy
Doreen Maloney
Marisa Olson
Marjorie & Ludwig Schwarz
Leslie Sharpe
Bart Weiss

What kind of art can you make on a mobile phone in 15 seconds?

The art of the mobile phone is the art of the hurried, the time starved, the always on. It is the art of waiting in lines, sitting in traffic, and mind numbing meetings. It is the art of the art of the exhausted, overworked American. Rather than the result of long hours of extended reflection it is the art of the pressured moment.

The mobile phone is the one device we have with us in these moments, and precisely because of its restrictiveness, it is ideally suited as an art machine. It’s products are the 140 character SMS message, the 15 second video, the grainy blur of a 640 x 480 cameraphone image. These are the microexpressions of the metatasker. Microart is about the composite and sequential effect of a large number of small bits that create a stream rather than fewer, individual substantive statements.

The work you will see in this exhibition changes every day, and indeed was probably made just before you arrived at the showing. Rather than placing works in the space that were created beforehand, each artist will generate video from a mobile phone each day and send it to the Dallas Contemporary from wherever they happen to be. The work is sent like a text message or an email with a video attachment from the device. Most entries will take the artist less than a minute to compose and send, and each message is also delivered to an exhibition website at

The result of this mobile art process process will be a series of “micro art” pieces that will constitute, rather than a single work, a continuum of discrete pieces that create a loose narrative or sequence, based around any conceptual frame the artists desires. Each artist has been encouraged to interpret these working conditions differently.

Microart is about accepting and exhibiting (mostly) failure rather than (mostly) success. It is about the composite and sequential effect of a large number of small bits that create a stream rather than fewer, individual substantive statements. And its about honesty and directness of the process. Individual posts may be disposable, like most cultural productions in consumer society, but the goal is that the cumulative effect is not.

The idea behind this exhibition emphasizes process over permanence, transparency over secrecy and opacity, and an open (virtual) studio door with a closed one, where the artist has walked through and escaped out into the world.

Choosing the artists for this project was a difficult and time consuming task. The concern was not necessarily whether they had done mobile work before, but rather in challenging them with the construct. The demands (daily uploads) and limitations (cell phone video) require a certain commitment of the participants: they cannot just send a work to the space, attend the opening, and forget about it. And in most cases the participants are forced to alter their normal practices - especially in terms of time and control over their creative products.

Real Time gives viewers and participants the ability to reinterpret the way they interact with each other via mobile technology, and to examine how it simultaneously connects and disconnects us from each other. More and more the mobile phone will be the mediating device between people and places.

When time is sliced in ever finer increments, and we endure a daily war of attention, what kind of art can be produced in these circumstances? Real Time is an attempt to answer that question, and challenges us to anticipate, participate in, and critique creative practice in emerging mobile culture.

-Dean Terry
February 2008

Follow the show every day through May 10 2008 at