A Non-Virtual Facebook Wall

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In which Julia Butareva engages with Postcrypt’s “Exhibition” exhibition.


We know we leave our traces in cyberspace. They can be Googled in an instant, and more importantly Facebooked. It takes vigilance and strict use of privacy controls to keep our interests in “kayaking” and other outdoor sports hidden from public safety officials and potential employers.

But at least we have the power (now that the mini-feed controversy has died down), to decide to use those controls. But what if someone put your Facebook profile on a gallery wall?  Esther S. White B ‘07, Naomi Nevitt B ‘07, and Nomaduma Masilda B’07, curators of the “Exhibition” exhibition at Postcrypt Art Gallery, did exactly that in a provocative installation.  Reactions were varied.  Some people tore down their pages.  Here are the artists’ answers to a few of Bwog’s questions: 

facebookwall2Were the people whose profiles are on display asked for permission?  Did they volunteer?  Does that affect the meaning of the piece? 

Facebook profiles are freely available on the internet (despite any supposed privacy features of the site), which is why we did not ask for permission to use individuals’ profiles in the project. Asking for permission probably would have detracted from the work’s success because it relied partly on the viewer’s reaction of surprise at finding herself represented in the gallery space. 

Was it a comment on the minifeed or just on Facebook’s general culture of exhibitionism? 

The project was not a comment on any particular “feature” of Facebook, but more the way that people use it and its normal context.

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  1. Privacy violation?  

    Can someone tell everyone whose profiles are up there?

  2. i'm pretty sure  

    that none of these photos or profiles were stock, and therefore available for public display. it's one (unpleasant) thing to have an employer background check your facebook profile before hiring you; it's another thing to post a profile as part of your own personal art exhibition without any sort of notification or allowance.

    if a name other than your own is on the page, i would say it is a copyright violation to use the pictures or info in an art show without permission.

  3. sad  

    it's a bit sad that facebook is so pervasive that art comments on it. it's a useful and diverting website, but does it have to be the center of our lives and our art? kind of pathetic.

  4. this is...  

    Completely illegal. Facebook profiles are a) not public because you need a password to log in to the system, and even if they were, they are still b) protected by copyright. Copyright protects original creation. Each person's facebook profile is an original compilation of facts of their choosing, and therefore gets an automatic copyright protection whether you have registered a copyright or not. In addition, taking the facebook photos along with the profile is a clear reproduction and therefore a copyright violation against both the facebook user and the person who took the photo. Also, because they are using them in another art creation without the creator's permission, they are creating a derivative work, which is also illegal. If you really wanted to know, it violates section 103(2), 106(1), 106(2) of the copyright act.

    Also, generally, you need waivers for all of this anyway from the people involved.

    This artist is a completely idiot, and if she continues to do things like this, she is going to get burned down the road...

  5. Anonymous  

    first, i agree with everyone in that this is a gross violation of privacy and copyright law. Second, using your print quota in conjunction with internet explorer IS NOT ART.

  6. in defense  

    Yes, it may be sad that Facebook has gotten to the point where art has commented on it, but that’s the whole point. It’s a social commentary, like the artist said. Facebook has become so prominent these days that you might as well have your life posted on a wall in the basement of St. Paul’s.

    Besides that, I don’t see what the big deal is about the whole privacy thing. It’s not much different from someone from Columbia logging onto Facebook themselves and looking through people’s profiles. If you didn’t want someone printing out your profile you probably wouldn’t have had to worry if you had your privacy settings set to friends-only or whatever. You should be more concerned about potential employers scoping out your profiles than with other students printing them for a show like this.

    I'd like to see who would bother with copyrights in this case anyway. If it really bothers you go look for your face and take it off. God knows we don't need another privacy/freedom conspiracy around here, especially over someone's art.

  7. narrator  

    and thus began facebookgate 3.0...

  8. Amazing.  

    How wonderfully meta! This is great Esther and Naomi, keep it up! We definitely need more ironic, post-modern meta comments on our boring, meaningless lives, you can never have enough.

  9. Misspelling  

    Her name is Nomaduma Masilela.

  10. Sprinkles  

    So...can I write on their wall, like on real Facebook?

  11. other

    wow, you guys are closed-minded philistines preoccupied with legal technicalities. glad I didn't pick columbia.

  12. Jonathan

    And I was going to do a giant face book profile for a project, dammit.

  13. Clay

    It would be very difficult to pursue a copyright claim in the courts because: Facebook does not guarantee privacy in any way as defined by the user agreement. The artist does not claim to have created the work herself, and credit is inherently included because the profiles list the name and even include a photo of all of the supposed "writers" of their "works". The title of the work likely includes the phrase "found materials". . . so if your name is on the wall, don't make a huge effort

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