Saturday, February 6, 2010

How I Learned to Love Facebook by Charles Hackbarth

It’s 6 am and I’ve just woken from a dream in which I’d written the most clever facebook  status update in the history of electronic networking. Unfortunately, the content of that update had vanished like vapours on a windshield. Compelled to write an update, I recounted the fact that I’d had a dream but lost it’s illusive content.

Six months ago, when friends suggested that I join Facebook, I scoffed. What me?  I’m an avowed anti-social lone wolf. I never answer the phone and I cross the street to avoid people. Even spending time with my loved ones can be tense if I haven’t spent enough time alone. But curiosity got the better of me and, slowly, cautiously, I ventured into the vortex.

So, I opened an account and added friends that I knew itrw (in the real world) who were on Facebook. I was happy to say I had 20 facebook “friends”. However I couldn’t help noticing that other facebookers, especially my artist friends, had hundreds, even thousands, of “friends”. How on earth can someone have that many friends? It seemed artificial, greedy, slutty and voyeuristic. And of course, it is. Yet… I couldn’t help trolling through the friend lists of other people. I noticed that my friend Jeff in Ottawa had friended  ArtListPro, a rambling full throttle smorgasbord of unmitigated art information.

I noticed that ArtListPro had more than 200 friends so I started posting photos of my work on their page and commenting on the postings. Much of the postings were of international artists. I was fascinated. I wondered where they were based – New York, L.A. Rome?  Before long I found myself in a dialogue with Chris Healey one of the proprietors. Turns out, ArtListPro was based in Toronto, a mere kilometre from loop gallery. ArtListPro was launching a website. Chris was organizing an art exhibit at CulturShok on Queen Street West at Dufferin to launch the site so he invited me to include a piece. Of course I jumped at the opportunity. The ArtListPro community extends far beyond the city limits. A number of guests at the opening traveled from Ottawa, Montreal and Guelph.

More recently, Juno Youn organized a fundraiser for Haiti using Facebook. In fact the show opens tonight (Saturday, February 6th at Jimmy’s Coffee on Portland Ave). Juno sent out a call for art for the silent auction. I, once again, jumped at the opportunity. In just two months I have participated in two shows which were initiated through Facebook. My friend list grows daily. Once I got passed the initial shy stage of cyber networking I entered into what I called my facebook slut phase. I threw myself at any artist or musician I recognized. Before long I found myself among the who’s-who of Canadian Art and experimental electronic artists. Two communities I have an affinity with.

Sixteen years ago, when my wife was doing her masters at York, we had access to the internet through her university account. Back then, everything was text. I’m talking pre-Windows. My fantasy about what the internet would offer is very much what facebook offers today, an opportunity for each of us to be one of the jewels in Lord Indra’s Net.  According to Wikipedia, Lord Indra's Net: In Buddhism, one of the metaphors for the inter-connectedness of all things is found in Indra’s Net. In Vedic mythology, the net hangs over the palace of the god Indra. The net is held together by a jewel located at each intersection of the net’s fibers and when the sun shines on one jewel, the reflection of that jewel becomes a part of all the other jewels’ radiance.
Indra’s Net is part of a Buddhist teaching which describes infinite realms of space within infinite realms of space, all connected, all dependent on the others.

By Charles Hackbarth