PILL: Simple Protocol Art Diagram


We have

  • many confining social protocols
  • many contemporary artworks that disrupt confining social protocols to imagine alternatives.
    The artworks, however, are themselves tightly confined in the protocols of the established art system. Radical art happens only in 1% of our time, space, and people.

Take Marina Abramović’s famous performance The Artist is Present (2009) as an example. Although it is a public interactive artwork that radically re-imagines the protocols of our daily bodily interaction with other people

  • Existing protocols of authorship mean that only the genius artist or the professional artists (the cultural top 1%) own and do the artworks. The rest 99% only watch.
  • Existing protocols of art projects and institutions mean that only when the artists and curators all decide to do it can it happen. Art is confined to 1% of the time as bourgeois leisure for the weekends. In other words, the rest 99% of our time and space is confined to existing social protocols.


I want to make a series of diagrams and symbols that propose art neither as a mere temporary rupture in the social protocols, nor as merely subject to protocols of the art world, but as an extra-protocol/super-protocol of sorts (words can be very misleading here, there must be something visual), neither the red pill nor the blue pill, but art pill.

  1. Simple Net Art Diagram is great: it shows art not as an object, but as a social action of in-betweenness.
    Simple Net Art Diagram | Net Art Anthology

But I want to show art in an engineering diagram not just as a singular action, or a splash, but as a protocol in its own right, albeit a very special kind.

  1. The Creative Commons license icons & symbols system is great: it shows a clear set of protocols for art authorship.

But I want to propose a more radical reconfiguration of authorship – just like a protocol is not owned by an author, art can be dis-owned as well. And I want to show not just the end product of art as commons, but the process of art making as an open source process – just like open source software is not so much about just publishing the code as it is about the entire system of bringing together people from everywhere to write and re-write, to imagine and re-imagine, to talk about, rave about, and perhaps even dance about the code – made possible by protocols.

We need a set of icons and diagrams for something new: art as protocol & protocol as art. I hope to make a clear and simple design set like the two examples above to invite people to use it.

Past Work

I made a series of diagrams (From Socially Engaged Art to Socially Initiated Art) to illustrate step by step the protocols of contemporary practice and discourse of

  1. art
  2. socially engaged art
  3. socially initiated art (proposed)

More on my personal website