Monday, December 22, 2014

FoMO Art World

Sooo, I’m back in NYC for a small stretch and I am happy to be whirled around with seeing old friends, making new, and absorbing that special type of energy that only exists in this city. I have also been going to art things, museums, shows, openings, parties, drinks and a general rush to settle and to spark things for the near and far futures. Whilst doing all these things I have also been reminded of that ever present other type of NYC energy and that is this sense that there is too little time with too much to do.

Life is busy, beautifully so, but in talking to and participating in this pace there is this gnawing anxiety that seems to consume almost all that participate in the art world and that is the fear of missing out, or more truncatedly known as FoMO. So this is basically the fear that your friends/peer group is having more fun, has more access, and is somewhere better then where you are. The tool that most triggers this fear is social media, which allows our seamless windowing into others’, lives, known and unknown. It’s such a tragedy this FoMO-ing because it actually sucks up your time and makes you actually miss the life you have. But, we are human, we all have this feeling at times, I know I do, but what I want to quickly reflect on is how it is permeating the art world.

Having a conversation the other day, the topic of traveling around the world was brought up. Travel is great, new topographies, realities, people, and culture, all great, great, great. What is not great, which I see so prevalent in the art world, is this badge collecting of traveling almost solely in conjunction with the art fair, biennale, circuit. Seriously, you (everyone) going to Miami, going to Basel, going to Paris, going to London, going to Hong Kong, going to Dubai, going to Glasgow, going to Kassel, going to Los Angeles, going to Brussels is number one so utterly boring and two literally killing the planet. Like thanks you “just killed a polar bear,” as my friend said.

This type of mobility is equivalent to the lifestyle of the very rich in both money and time. Time, more then money, is the new capital and having time is an equivocation of one’s bohemian actualization. The art fair circuit has been created for the super rich with flexibility with time and the galleries, artists and the rest of the art eco-system feels a need to participate as these are the settings money is made, networks are nurtured, and the general illusion of freedom and rarefied elitism is maintain. Artists, curators, and writers, save up their money, take time off their day jobs and try to jimmy some sort of room and ride in order to converge to these places and to bask in this background of this crazy illusion. Sure it might be fun, sure you might get into THE party, or see THE performance or go to THE house but it’s fun like how spring break might be fun to some people and every year, every month, every few weeks, you can go do this, and people do this and they think that somehow that means something. But after a while it is the same party, the same people, it just happens to be in a new city that you barely see and it all feels like hedonistic hell. If you can throw your hands up and say ‘fuck it’ and just throw your cares to the party gods for a few days, do so. But if you think that being there is some sort of measure of something then, hunny, wake up.

Speaking of travel, why is this intense type of jet set lifestyle so en vogue? While besides the thing about money and time mentioned above, it has become the now expected practice of curators to be insanely mobile. The recent New Yorker profile and Hans Ulrich Obrist by D.T. Max[i] is a testament to this in that he has built his curatorial visibility and methodology on traveling, being and going to everything and everywhere. He is certainly not alone. We all know people that are either in the thick of it or want to be in the thick of it that are everywhere always. The ones where it seems humanly impossible all the places they appear. They go to hundreds of shows, events, and talks a month. They are in this and that group show; they are contributing to this and that publication. Their names become this bleeping light of how busy they are and how busy you could be if you just tried harder.

Impressive? Yes. Depressing? Totally. Impressive because there really are those types of people who live, breath and shit art and they should just let that freak flag fly but the depressing thing is that a lot of those everywhere-people are just social climbers that are diluting the pool with all their efforts. This is a strange case of FoMO because those that are like this are the biggest sufferers but also the greatest producers of it. What does that equal? Win/win? Lose/lose?

Everyone wants to go to the party but you just aren’t invited. I don’t know how many times this past week alone I was told about a party that so and so is at, is having, is going to, was invited to, is coming from. Those parties that equal your tier in the art world sort of parties. There are tiers in life and there are most certainly tiers in high school. Oops did I say high school? I meant the art world. Snippiness aside, there is tiers and there is this bizarre thing where people really get a certain type a way about it. Like salivating at the idea that their friend is at a certain thing and that they are in some way aurically invited or that they are soon to be. These parties elicit the most intense sort of art FoMO because it is so personal. It equates either if you are known or not. An invitation equals existence. If you are not invited you do not exist to that host/hostess/group of people and that is like stabby-stabby to your idea of self. Not a good look. Obviously it is a not very nice feeling to feel left out but the thing is, is that one is actually not missing out at all. This is just such an obvious statement I’m not sure how else to say it.  

Where does this all come from? Well, there are studies now that explain the phemon of FoMO and why we do it and what that all means. A study was done by Dr. Przybylski for the journal, Computers in Human Behavior, entitled Motivational, emotional, and behavioral correlated of fear of missing out[ii] and was published in 2013.  The study collected data on the spectrums of FoMO and analyzed the data in what that might imply and what it might mean for future research. In essence it shows the prevalence of FoMO and explains who it effects and why. The most interesting contextualization from this study is that FoMO is a symptom of a lack in psychic health. In psychology there is a thing called Self-determination theory (SDT) which is, “effective self regulation and psychological health are based on the satisfaction of three basic psychological needs: competence – the capacity to effectively act on the world, autonomy – self-authorship or personal initiative, and relatedness – closeness or connectedness with others.” As their study progresses, it appears that those with low SDT abilities have tendency to have higher levels of FoMO. These outlined three basic psychological needs may seem obvious but I think it is foundational in how we look at ourselves and the baseline of how we interact in the art world. Those who are artists or have an alternate drive and philosophy of living have this arrogance of their subjective capacities and non-normalcy but in truth there is just as much dysfunction in basic interactions of others and the nurture of the self. Another finding made in this study states that younger males (under 30) are the group with the highest levels of FoMO. Just throwing that out there to trigger ideas of male dominance in the arts, in business, life in general maybe being related to this impulse. 

So what’s the point of this? Nothing really, it’s just on my mind. You know, the whole - what does it mean to live right now and why does it feel so bizarrely odd – type of thoughts. The fear of missing out is something I have felt all my life (violins play softly in the background). But maybe because I have basically been left out so much of my life I look at the current state of FoMO and how it manifests in the art world and I just shrug it off and think it all so very mellow-dramatically-tragic. Being left out hurts when you’re six and the whole class is invited to the party and you’re not. Not when you are twenty-six and you weren’t invited to the Cindy Sherman dinner. Wipe your tears, step away from your mobile devices and get drunk, make out, dance, hug a cat, help someone fix something, do something, anything that will make you feel fabulous, alive, have a pulse. Anything, is better then staring at a screen wishing you were somewhere else.

[i] Max, D.T., The Art of Conversation: The curator who talked his way to the top, The New Yorker Magazine, Issue Dec 8, 2014.

[ii] Przybylski, A, Murayama, K. DeHaan, C.R., Gladwell, V. Motivational, emotional, and behavioral correlates of fear of missing out, in Computers in Human Behavior, Vol. 29, Issue 4, July 2013 pp. 1841-1848.

*You can also take a sample questionnaire that was used in the study above to rate your FoMO level.