Last night I logged onto Twitter and fessed up about how much I miss my pet fish Rainbow, who died in a tragic bathtub accident when I was 10. The exception was that this time the social media police didn’t criticize me for using social networks as a consultation office. Why? Because Twitter is the new therapist.
In reality, I was responding to the Art Gallery of Mississauga’s question: “Who do you miss and how will you tell them?” In association with Faisal Anwar’s project Tweetgarden, the AGM is hosting an exhibition in which people’s tweets will grow into a virtual tree as a form of public artwork. Anwar is encouraging people to share their private confessions, thoughts, and secrets on Twitter with the hashtag #treeconfessions to help the tree grow.
Although this project isn’t new, it is beginning a trend on Twitter. People are confessing to things like how much time they spend in front of a mirror, or family members they speak to on Skype. In fact, the question of whom you miss most is giving people the chance to remember and connect to their loved ones.
What is interesting about Anwar’s project is that it focuses neither solely on traditional art, nor on contemporary art alone. Instead, it combines both forms with the creation of a virtual tree.
In his own words: “Trees have been sites for people to gather and connect throughout history and mythology in cultures around the world.”
At the same time, however, his aim is to turn one of our most frequent acts in the modern world into art—using social media to reach out to people and express our feelings. Social networks are an escape route when communicating face-to-face causes too much anxiety.
This digital interaction is a modern attempt to fulfill “the same mythical innate desire of ours to reach out to someone to say our piece, dialogue, and to find answers and self-validation”, Anwar says.
Anwar, an interactive news media artist from Pakistan, has completed many other projects as an artist in Canada. He aims to combine art, culture and technology in a way that highlights private versus public spaces.
The AGM will be hosting a live view of confessions turning into a virtual tree on Thursday. The project will be expanded into a virtual garden of tweets with multiple trees if the posts continue afterwards.
Tweetgarden has been featured, presented, and appreciated at the Contact Photography festival, Royal Ontario Museum, and various other locations in previous years. Some of Anwar’s other projects have also been appreciated in festivals across Canadian provinces and internationally in cities like Dubai.
More recently, Anwar has directed six short films that have been featured in various festivals across the nation.