It began with the pandemic. Like so many others who discovered their lives and livelihoods upended by Covid-19, artists turned to digital areas. As museums, galleries and different venues for sharing and viewing artwork closed, a path ahead turned obscured. Although some establishments did pivot to the digital area within the type of on-line exhibitions or digital excursions, these had been primarily main gamers with hefty budgets – locations that few artists have entry to. For up and comers with out an already established fanbase, the shutdown was crippling. Then, they found TikTok.
TikTok, the short-form video-sharing app from Chinese language web firm ByteDance, has blown up over the previous few years. According to Anne Gerlieb, a professor on the College of Bonn’s Artwork Historical past division, TikTok “hit 800 million lively customers throughout the lockdown intervals of 2020/21”. The fantastic thing about TikTok is, above all else, its accessibility. A simple medium to grasp, customers can edit and insert voiceovers or music by means of easy in-app instruments. What started as a dance-share platform morphed into one thing else altogether, and creators had been keen to leap on the bandwagon.
For a lot of artists, TikTok gave them entry to a following that not solely carried them by means of the pandemic however, in some instances, modified the character of their enterprise altogether. “What TikTok allowed me to do was set up a web based shopper base and shift to creating no matter I wished,” Vancouver-based ceramicist Tessa Reed tells Inventive Growth. “It additionally gave me confidence in having the engagement and constant individuals who would assist my enterprise exterior the stockists and wholesale market…proper now, my enterprise mannequin is totally completely different than it was earlier than, and that’s largely due to TikTok.”
Past gaining a following, success that artists have discovered on TikTok has contributed to their observe in different methods. For Brooklyn-based artist Tabitha Whitley, who joined TikTok within the early days of the pandemic, the social media platform not solely resulted in a significant uptick in gross sales but in addition helped her forge relationships throughout a time of isolation. “I really feel like I am making honest connections with different artists,” Whitley instructed Inventive Growth of the platform. “There’s an actual inventive group there that I did not anticipate.”
Not everybody can go viral, particularly because the medium turns into extra saturated, however Reed and Whitley are each artists whose movies frequently appeal to hundreds of views, with some reaching the excessive six figures. Their strategy to the platform is authenticity, with virality being a welcome however secondary concern. “My TikTok is extra about exhibiting my course of and exploration than it ever has been my product,” says Reed. Gerlieb’s analysis reinforces this concept, and he or she has noticed that artists use TikTok extra as a “digital studio go to” than a advertising and marketing platform. “Virtually all the time what I made had been clips that hit me emotionally or one thing I used to be tremendous engaged with or obsessed about and speaking about very viscerally,” says Reed. “I feel these are those that go extra viral and do not take me as a lot time.”
Whereas TikTok might have begun as a spot for Gen Zers to share dances, the seek for connection that the pandemic exacerbated opened the app as much as creators providing one thing deeper. In contrast to Instagram, which is a extremely curated on-line area extra harking back to a gallery or museum, TikTok is meant to be a spot of authenticity, promising an immediacy and messiness that a lot of its customers crave. “In case you’re producing content material that’s significant and you’ve got one thing particular to say, and you discover an eloquent, to-the-point manner of claiming it, it resonates with individuals greater than gimmicky issues,” says Whitley.
And but there’s the plain actuality of algorithms and the precise nature of the digital area that has its pitfalls for creators. Artists who discovered early success on TikTok, many missing a standard artwork faculty background or gallery illustration, now really feel hemmed in by the preliminary model that gained them notoriety and allowed them to bypass these established gatekeepers. “Tailoring your artwork to TikTok isn’t any completely different than tailoring your artwork to a gallery or an viewers as a result of it is equally harmful it doesn’t matter what,” warns Whitley. “If you’re creating work for the app or creating the work that you simply suppose different individuals need to see, you are going to lose the sincerity that introduced individuals to it within the first place. That may occur to anybody beneath any circumstances exterior of TikTok.”
This burden of sustaining a sure aesthetic breeds a concern of experimentation, and it could additionally put undue strain on the inventive course of itself. Today, there’s an unprecedented stage of documentation, which is usually a fantastic factor. TikTok invitations the lots into an artist’s area like by no means earlier than, giving them a front-row view of the inventive course of. And but, lots of this documentation has a sure anticipated stage of refinement, which may take away from the rawness of inventive expression. “I really feel prefer it provides this expectation for brand spanking new or youthful artists to have extra polish in how they doc the progress than truly creating the work itself,” observes Reed.
Past the concern of experimentation and a lack of curiosity from a web based viewers, some artists are additionally spending extra time creating content material than precise bodily artworks. “I’ll say there’s an actual battle as a result of there is a strain to create content material at a price artists cannot create at,” says Whitley. “I feel it is vital to place your art work first and determine the way you share.” Typically, this implies stepping away from social media altogether – one thing Reed has completed for months at a time. In different instances, it entails a sure acceptance that perhaps not each video will go viral and even achieve traction in any respect. If you’re dedicated to establishing an inventive profession with longevity, there must be a stronger dedication to the artwork itself than to digital documentation.
On this manner, the way forward for TikTok is unsure. Is it a passing fad or an artwork market disruptor? Can it successfully dismantle the elitist gatekeepers of the artwork world, or will it breed a wholly completely different style of artwork made for the platform itself? Perhaps all of it depends upon how you employ it. “TikTok in and of itself will not be a sustainable factor,” says Reed. “I discover it overwhelming due to the fad kind of engagement and momentary virality of all the things. As an artist, that is not how one can sustainably run a enterprise long-term. It is actually nice for constructing a fan base, however it’s additionally not constructed for longevity.”