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1113 Vine Street, Houston, Texas, USA

HOUSTON, TEXAS – June 23, 2009 – The increasingly pervasive, user-created content of online social media – tweets, confessional video, status updates, online gaming – are these subjects for art? In online parlance a poke is a virtual gesture intended as interaction without any specific purpose, usually interpreted as “hello.” POKE! is also a new FotoFest exhibition featuring six technologically savvy artists who explore online social media and its evolving relationship with the public, the media, and art.

On view September 10 – October 24, 2009, POKE! explores the inter-personal intentions of social media technology and the nature of modern internet-mediated relationships with work that references and uses source material from popular online social media websites such as Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, Craigslist, and YouTube.

Curator, and FotoFest Exhibitions Coordinator, Jennifer Ward says, “It’s hard not to acknowledge the impact of web-based social media technology on contemporary life. Video and photos from demonstrations following this summer’s Iranian elections shaped global perception of the event. Cellphone video of Oakland, California police shooting a handcuffed man on a train platform was broadcast on television stations that downloaded it from the internet. An online campaign brought to light and eventually freed a young Chinese woman jailed after killing her rapist in self defense. These are three extraordinary examples plucked from a vast sea of content, most of which is far less spectacular.”

The cultural impact of unfiltered online content, created, accessed, and obsolete within the same moment, is not likely to be understood in the near future. What is clear is that social media, and the buzzwords and jargon surrounding it, have captured the imaginations of individuals and institutions alike. Political candidates update supporters from their Blackberries aboard campaign buses. News reporters cite online sources and micro-blog from warzones. Adolescents secure recording contracts based on the popularity of their viral videos.

“Contemporary artists are also turning to the online world for source material or inspiration,” says Ms. Ward. “Reaching into the stream of online information, artists are pulling out a great variety of content, from the profound to the mundane. The artists in this exhibition do not merely consume media. They take the disposable bits of electronic information – tourist photos, personal documents, status updates, instant messages, random confessions, viral videos, etc. – and process, rework, and re-contextualize it before throwing it back into the stream for others.”

The artists exhibited in POKE! work in both digital and analogue media, and the exhibition features two-dimensional framed works, video pieces, online projects, and installation works.

POKE! is on view at FotoFest, 1113 Vine Street, Houston, Texas 77002, Monday – Friday 10am – 5pm, Saturday noon-5pm. Admission to FotoFest exhibitions is free.

For more information on FotoFest Exhibitions and other programs, please visit www.fotofest.org.

For further information, interviews and visuals, please contact:
Vinod Hopson, FotoFest Press Officer, T: 713.223.5522 ext 26,
E: press3@fotofest.org

Click here to read the entire press release.

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