Interview | Faisal Anwar | Tweetgarden

On October 13, the AGM @AGMengage and Tweetgarden artist Faisal Anwar @fanwar engaged in a discussion through Twitter on subjects involving private and public spaces, how information has evolved, and performing personal acts on open networks. Tweetgarden is an interactive art installation using web/social art and public interactivity. Participants use their mobiles with the hashtag #treeconfessions to take part in growing a tree virtually and creating a picture grid experience that will be on display at the AGM.

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The AGM is pleased to welcome artist Faisal Anwar who is currently exhibiting his interactive web-based work, Tweetgarden, at the AGM. Faisal is an interactive, New Media artist from Pakistan, living and working in Canada. Faisal’s art practice explores sociopolitical spaces, which intrigues both mind and emotion through multiple layers of participatory experiences. Tweetgarden is an online, interactive installation in which participants turn private confessions and thoughts into a public artwork. Trees have been sites for people to gather and connect throughout history and mythology in cultures around the world. In Tweetgarden, watch a virtual tree grow – online and in the gallery – as participants share their thoughts, wishes and confessions. Share secrets, thoughts, confessions and wishes on twitter with #treeconfessions to take part in the project.

You may also remember other projects by Faisal such as Bring Your Own Bollywood, which invited the public to have their photo recreated into famous Bollywood posters, or Up High In The Sky from this year’s Scotiabank Nuit Blanche. We will be chatting with Faisal for the next hour. Please feel free to share questions & thoughts using the hashtag #Tweetgarden.

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Q1: Tweetgarden has been shown in other locations before the AGM including, Defining Moments, Scotiabank Nuit Blanche 2010, and the Royal Ontario Museum.  This is the first time that Tweetgarden has been shown in Mississauga. How do you see the work engaging the community’s audiences?

With every iteration of Tweetgarden, I feel the responses and interactions changes. At the AGM, the outlined thematic questions are something new and engaging in the project. I am looking forward to how the audiences and community engages and response.

[We are asking audiences to answer three questions over the course of the exhibition: 1. Who do you  miss and how do you tell them? 2. Do you share your secret wishes and prayers on social media? In person? 3. What is the place that you call home, and what are your favourite things about it?]

Q2: We’ve been receiving some truly touching confessions in gallery and online for Tweetgarden.TweetWhen you created the work, did you intent for it to help people share their thoughts in a therapeutic format?

Yes I was hoping the project would touch that cord. Confessions by in large are about sharing private and personal thoughts. In most cultures and religious beliefs, confessions are associated with wishes, prayers or heartfelt regrets. So for me its a wish and sign of success if people can feel that connection to open up and have the project become therapeutic.

Q3: A lot of your practice seems to be focused on public and private spaces and how these subjects play out online. Do you see Twitter as a platform where these boundaries are blurred? What interested you about twitter for this project?

Twitter has a more conversation style due to its limited word count and has given birth to its own slang and fast pace. The pace of twitter also connects with the idea of growing a tree virtually where responses grow leaves faster. I think all online social engagement blurs the boundaries between the private and public including twitter. Tweetgarden is an extension of one of my earlier project Oddspaces which finds a ways to connect people in different time zones and places. Through that process, I wanted to work with a metaphor that captured human engagement in a personal way.The history and connection of trees with prayers, life ,confessions is what interested me.

Q4: With social media becoming more and more prevalent, there have been discussions on whether this brings people closer or pushes them away. How do you see technology and the web playing a role in the future of everyday life?  

History shows that mankind has gone through evolution with each era of development. The present always differs from past. In contemporary times, social media tools are evolving how it effects and changes human behaviour. It can be discussed and analysed but either way,  it cannot be stopped now. Why should we try to stop it? At this point, evolution is inevitable.  Now there are more choices and accessibility when it comes to news, decisions, opinions, and everyday methods of interaction.

Q5: Given the rapidly changing medium that you work in, how do you stay updated with new technology & the social influence it brings? 

I’m an active user of technology myself. I research and stay updated through constant engagement with new tools and applications. I look out for inventions, blogs, and start up companies,and I also travel and meet new people to collaborate with. Its also mostly through experimentations in my own work that I discover new tools and ways to make artwork.

Thank you Faisal for chatting with us and sharing your insights on , online interaction, & the changing face of the digital world!

Thank you AGM for the chat and intriguing questions, and thank you for presenting Tweetgarden in such a meaningful way.

Tweetgarden will be on view at the AGM until January 1, 2016. To participate, tweet with #Treeconfessions. Thanks everyone for participating!

To learn more about Faisal’s work and his upcoming projects, visit his website

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