Backwards and in High Heels

By: Peggy Nelson
November 30, 2009


Attention gets a lot of attention these days. Mostly as currency, as in, how to make paying attention pay off. Switch one value proposition for another, dissolve everything in the universal $olvent.

I’m going to use it as an art material. This month I offer you a Portrait of the Artist as Attention-Span.


[Daughter of Art History: Theatre B (1998) by Yasumasa Morimura]

I’m a new media artist, which means I used to be a painter. I got an MFA in Painting and Drawing from CCAC (now CCA) in California in the late 90s, which meant I became an Official Artist at the height of the tech bubble. I hatched and started exhibiting. But somewhere along the way of crafting graven images and hanging around Craig Baldwin’s basement and making and losing a fortune and going to Burning Man, my allegiance to form faded.


The other day I was reading Twitter backwards. Twitter does not encourage the retrospective glance, it’s an app for Being In The Now. The only time you review someone’s oeuvre is when you scan their last few posts just prior to clicking “follow.” But I have to do this or I can’t keep the stories straight, I need to remember who I’m pretending to be, and when, and why.


Anyway I was going backwards as usual and I realized that Twitter had recorded my spans of attention, just a pinch twixt world and self; but in aggregate, a portrait. And a process – it chronicled how I had used one to construct the other, and both to construct the art.

During my residency on HiLobrow I’ll be working on a more finished portrait. At the end of the month, it should look just like you.


Peggy Nelson is’s artist in residence for the month of December 2009. All posts by this and other artists in residence can be enjoyed here.


Art, Kudos, Spectacles