@burnedyourtweet, flaming the inflamer


When Trump Studies, as they inevitably will, become embedded in media/communications courses over the next year or two, one project most likely to be in the core curriculum is David Neeval’s “@burnedyourtweet.” He launched it anonymously in March this year, at the height of Trump’s twittering trumpeting, with a sweetly ironic aim of “giving Trump’s tweets the attention they deserve”; after two days his videos of robots printing out legible copies of the POTUS declamations then burning them in real-time went deservedly viral. It was swiftly followed by 20,000 people, and mainstream media outlets reported on the timeliness and runaway success of Neeval’s intervention. Neevel posted 175 tweets up to 30 April: the work now sits in a perfectly poised state at https://twitter.com/burnedyourtweet with 34k followers and an archive of the daily burnings still available for anyone who wishes to drink deep on the precision of its auto-destruction. It is also at this stage unclear whether the bot has decided it is all over. You can’t help feeling a warm wave of schadenfreude, flicking back through the postings, watching Trump’s shamelessly inflammatory words turned into ashes, to be followed by another and another. It is a perfectly judged example of turning the tools of aggression back on the destroyer. Neevel has made many earlier works that one might see as building up to this seminal intervention; some situate themselves within the tradition of ‘the maker’ – e.g. the work ‘Robot Hand’ (2016) that indulges in politically incorrect gestures; others like ‘Cloud Reports’ (2016) connects together evanescence of contemporary media experience with poetic depiction of transient skies in various locations. The timing of @burnmytweet’s activity came shortly after the deaths of two pioneering media art figures (both of who seemed to embody an activist lineage from the 1960s). Gustav Metzger, who died in March aged almost 91, was one of the first, through his acid on canvas actions in the early 1960s, the Destruction in Art symposium in 1966 and accompanying articles and manifestos throughout that experimental decade, to argue for artists to become critically engaged with the implications of automation and machines, rather than just playing games in a “new technological playground”. I heard him being interviewed in 2009 in London by Armin Medosch, as part of Armin’s research into the New Tendencies exhibitions of the 1960s. Armin, who was born at the time when Metzger first began his auto-destructive performances, stressed that he thought Metzger’s contribution to the art and technology critical lineage deserved further recognition. He passed away just a few days before Metzger despite seeming from another generation – of what was once ‘new’ rather than ‘old’ media. In the end, it all seems to be part of a continuum that is now in real danger of a loss of actual effect, outside memory within academia and within art history. I am sure that both would have found comfort in the damning flames so easily generated by Neevel’s activist robotic collaborators and in the velocity of the attention they grabbed for wilfully appropriating and trumping Trump’s own destructiveness. It’s a project by Neevel that deserves to be looked at carefully, to inform further penetrative actions by artists in social media; there are many other examples of his capacity for delicately pitched, subversive and/or humorous interventions at http://davidneevel.com. Take a look at Cube Game (2015) and Up Down Desk, (2017) for starters. Oh to try this last one on the psycho-President. Bronac Ferran