The Art of Internet Performance

We have all had some sort of emotionally meaningful experience on social media, whether it’s re-connecting with an old friend, finding out that someone is pregnant or just gave birth, following a celebrity’s up-to-the-minute news or just getting called out by your mom for Facebook PDA. As we reported yesterday in this Q&A with Facebook’s content strategy team, Facebook is just trying to quietly recede into the background so that you can unveil the drama of your life. There’s no time like the present. Ya dig?

This is where Hennessy Youngman comes in. The dude is actually not who he says he is, which is a clue that yes, this is a performance. Hennessy Youngman is Jayson Musson’s persona, and he shows up in online YouTube episodes of a series he likes to call “Art Thoughtz.” Hennessy has taken it upon himself to be an Internet art historian of sorts – or should we say Art Critic – most likely discussing issues of race, gender, art history, the Art World and life. He appears on the Internetz wearing an Angry Birds hat, some awesome bling and a delightfully dirty sense of humor. His latest episode is about how we perform our identities online, which is in and of itself performance art. Pioneering video artist Nam-June Paik would be proud of Hennessy. Here’s why.

In Lucy Liggett’s essay on, she writes that it is Paik who actually challenged our experience, understand and definitions of “television,” as it were.

Nam June Paik pioneered the development of electronic techniques to transform the video image from a literal representation of objects and events into an expression of the artist’s view of those objects and events. In doing so, he challenges our accepted notion of the reality of televised events. His work questions time and memory, the nature of music and art, even the essence of our sensory experiences. Most significantly, perhaps, that work questions our experience, our understanding, and our definitions of “television.”

In Youngman’s new video, which is featured on, he suggests that performance art is no longer unique and isolated to the few. It is open to the many, to the Internet users, to the world. It is here that we all perform – from the Occupiers to the random Facebook-ers and Twitter users – to everyone who put themselves out there. If we are vulnerable on social media, we will get our 15 minutes of fame. In the same way Paik challenged our ideas about television, Youngman asks us to rethink our experience of social media. Hennessy warns that the video is mad long – it is only 10 minutes long – but I implore you to stick around. I guarantee it’s worth that sliver of your hour.

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Facebook Comments