As anyone who has chanced across a piece of street art can attest to, there’s a big difference between that experience and being told, “Go down two blocks and turn left because you’ll see that Banksy stencil I showed you a photo of last week.” While that, or looking at street art online or coming across a cool piece of organic viral art through your friend on Facebook, can still be a great experience, there’s nothing quite like the completely unexpected imposition or discovery of art in your life. That’s where invasive viral art comes in.
When you start to think about the internet as a street, or a place with eyeballs, possibilities open up that might not be so obvious if you just think of the internet as storage space or a media outlet. Organic viral art happens when artists think of the internet as a place where they can reach eyeballs, but invasive viral art goes a step further and the artists really treat websites like walls on a street, ready to be taken over. Whereas organic viral art is stumbled upon or searched out or nudged in the direction of a viewer by a friend, invasive viral art is imposed upon the viewer much more like chance discoveries of illegal street art or graffiti (although invasive viral art is not necessarily illegal). There is invasive viral art by street artists and graffiti writers, but artists with no or little history of working outdoors are making invasive viral art too. Invasive viral art is truly street art for the 21st century. It’s the unmediated distribution of art and ideas across the internet to unsuspecting people around the world. Invasive viral art defies expectations, much like how an ad takeover puts art or some sort of unsanctioned message in place of a traditional advertisement. You may be expecting one thing, but you get something else.
I have to acknowledge that invasive viral art may not always meet the definition of “viral” in that it often cannot be shared or is unlikely to be shared except in the form of documentation. But the work is at least viral-y and documentation of invasive viral art is often very potent organic viral art. Because some invasive viral art is sharable in the traditional viral sense, it can so easily morph into organic viral art through documentation and, even it its original state, it is such a close cousin of organic viral art, I’ve chosen to keep the word viral in the name.
So what does invasive viral art look like?