New Art Idea – Pavlov’s Troll (working title)

So, I’ve gotten an idea for a new art piece. It’s a performance piece of sorts. I’m a little torn about it though, as it would entail most likely pissing some people off. I don’t really like to do that without good reason. Also, I’m not 100% on the legalities of it.

Here’s the background:

I’ve been spending a lot of time on a couple of Internet forums lately. The forums in question mostly deal with controversial subjects and are riddled with very heated debate. More than a few times, I’ve left the forums shaking my head at the gross abundance of sheer idiocy being spewed. It’s positively mind-boggling. The absolute ubiquitousness of ignorance has caused me to come away, a number of times, stuttering in disbelief. I began to realize, after debating passionately on a number of subjects, that in the grand scheme of things, these exchanges really didn’t mean anything it all. It was all for naught. I’ve always been a staunch believer in the process and worth of free and open debate, but I began to realize that Internet chat forum debate was a much different animal than in-person, face to face debate. In the chat forum, all but a very tiny minority of people seem to gain anything from such exchanges. Very few seem to come away with anything more than what they arrived with. It all started looking like a colossal waste of time. So, I started to play around just a little bit. I began testing to see how I could manipulate people into responding in certain ways. And, I was fairly successful.

I started seeing if I could enter certain opinions or information, formatted in such a way that they would illicit a predictable response. And, in the wake of this, an art concept was born. There seemed to be some Pavlovian aspect to this: I would enter a forum, ring the dinner bell, and the dogs would start drooling — in a sort of way, at least.

Here’s the piece in its very, very rough form:

The working title is:

Pavlov’s Troll

I got the idea to visit a number of forums (It would have to be ones other than ones I’m already involved in, as I wouldn’t want to people to recognize me — which might be possible if people were familiar with my writing style.)  Once there,  I would goad people  into entering in to heated “flame wars.” Yes, I would act the part of a “troll.” The point of it would be to illicit responses, with the intention known only by me beforehand. Yes, I know, it sounds kind of dumb. If you go into a forum and insult people, they’re going to get angry, there’s nothing particularly amazing about that. But, it’s more subtle than that. I don’t fully understand it all yet myself (I’m still fleshing it out) but there’s something about going into a forum knowing that the result you seek is a certain result, taking steps to provoke such a result, and then seeing its realization…

Perhaps this is a study, or commentary, on insignificant, or misplaced methods of personal empowerment? At this point, who knows?

Anyway, the goal is to enter a forum where I’m not known and start a heated flame war that will hopefully degrade into ad hominem mud-slinging and personal attacks. I’m also going to set a success target: I’m going to try to make it so that I’m not easily identifiable to the people on the forum, but that my true, real life identity is able to be found out. I figure that if I get people hot enough, sooner or later someone will go poking around and “out” me. I might do something like place the “Bloated” url, or the O.M.S.D.C. url into my profile. Those can be traced back to me. But, the “target” will be hit when someone attacks my art work without direct provocation (i.e. I wont bring up art at all.) My intention going in will be to have my art-work attacked (your art sucks, etc.) and when someone does that (without me directly provoking such a specific attack – Such as stating:  “I’m a great artist”, or something.) the experiment will be deemed a success.

Like I said, I haven’t fully fleshed it out yet, nor do I yet understand exactly what it’s all about, but there’s definitely something here — some commentary on the Internet culture. So, I think I’ll probably try one or perhaps two test runs on a forum somewhere next week when I have more time and see how it goes, and if it sparks any further insight into what I’m trying to accomplish.

When it’s all over, I have an idea for a new digital work that will incorporate the phrases directed at me during the course of the flame wars collaged with Pavlovian influenced images. Of course, this work is the real focus of the project. But, I want REAL statements derived from REAL people on real Internet chat forums for the piece. We’ll see how it goes. I suppose this is kind of an expansion on some of my older poetry works like “Still We Fail” I really hate trolls myself, and don’t like the idea of getting people all riled up and pissed off for such a thing. But, hey: “Anything for art.” Isn’t that what they say?

I will try it on a forum where such behavior is tolerated somewhat and not entirely unexpected — perhaps something like Ogrish.Com or some such site. I’m not sure yet. If anyone has any comments or suggestions about where you think this should go, let me know. But, I might use any suggestion you might have… so keep that in mind before commenting. 😉

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