For Artists, Craigslist Is Both Medium And Message

Thanks Craig! Wheat-paste poster i i

ThanksCraig.net — an art project in itself — also provides a home for three other projects. One of them, Chris Reynolds' Fortune Cookie Project, includes the image below. Thanks Craig hide caption

itoggle caption Thanks Craig
Thanks Craig! Wheat-paste poster

ThanksCraig.net — an art project in itself — also provides a home for three other projects. One of them, Chris Reynolds' Fortune Cookie Project, includes the image below.

Thanks Craig
Fortune Cookie image i i
Chris Reynolds
Fortune Cookie image
Chris Reynolds
Portrait from "Im•migrant" i i

Melanie Wider reached out to subjects via Craigslist — then met them to take their portraits and record their stories in a notebook. Presenting them together, Wider's Im•migrant "attempts to inscribe immigration not as a single person's story, but as a common history." Melanie Wider hide caption

itoggle caption Melanie Wider
Portrait from "Im•migrant"

Melanie Wider reached out to subjects via Craigslist — then met them to take their portraits and record their stories in a notebook. Presenting them together, Wider's Im•migrant "attempts to inscribe immigration not as a single person's story, but as a common history."

Melanie Wider

The 'Walk a Mile' Project

In December 2006, artist Kate Balug posted a Craigslist ad: "Are you having trouble throwing away your old shoes? I want to give your shoes, and the stories they carry with them, a new home."

Balug convinced five individuals — "from a transgender artist to a web designer standing on a corner to get work to a mom with her wedding shoes" — to part with their footwear and to tell their tales. Together, they became a multimedia installation.

Millions of people go to Craigslist in search of all kinds of things: a futon, an apartment, concert tickets, a job, new love.

Now, in Los Angeles — often described as a city with no center — three artists are using it to create a sense of community.

Kate Balug says she and her collaborators are interested in examining how Craigslist — as ubiquitous in L.A. as cars and smog and cell phones — uncovers the shared interests of people who, on the surface, have little more in common than geography.

"Typically people don't talk about Craigslist, because it's almost like breathing," Balug says. "You need something, you go online."

That common behavior, Balug says, brings Angelenos together in a virtual give-and-take, where wants and needs are met with the click of a mouse.

Balug and her colleagues, Melanie Wider and Chris Reynolds, set up ThanksCraig.net in part as a way to highlight their work. And to a certain extent, the site is still a means of self-promotion.

But it's also an experiment aimed at reintroducing the "virtual neighorhood" that's grown up at Craigslist to the physical landscape of the city.

Three Projects And A Frame

Each artist created a project — Balug's Walk a Mile, Wider's Im•migrant and Reynolds' The Fortune Cookie Project — involving "virtual communication leading to physical meetings with Craigslist users."

Simultaneously, the artists created big, handmade posters that they've been pasting up around Los Angeles. Each has one question on it: "What has Craigslist done for you?"

The point? Simple, really. There's blank space. The artists want people to fill it up. They want to see how L.A. residents react, given the opportunity to say anything.

Sometimes, the posters get torn down. And the contributions on those that remain aren't always PG-rated.

"Thanks for the sh***y jobs and the crazy roommate," Wider read one morning. "Thanks for the high-quality ridiculous cheap s***."

The profanity didn't faze Reynolds.

"It's also very interesting to see no one signed their name," he says. "It's just like Craigslist!"

Craigslist creator Craig Newmark appreciates how the artists are using his site to bring people together.

"We need a lot more of that in our culture, because we've grown apart from each other as people," Newmark says.

So can Craigslist be that center that so many people say L.A. lacks? It just might get people thinking about what the word "community" means to them. And that, the artists say, is a crucial first step.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.