Hashtags Unplugged: A new art pop-up is showcasing hashtags IRL

WGSN #100happydays - Robyn Alatorre - 100 Happy Days

“100 Happy Days” by Robyn Alatorre (representing #100HappyDays)

Fact: hashtags are a new language form. They dominate social media feeds, they are the shorthand for their political time and the new, digital way to see, remember and chart impactful major cultural moments, everything from: #LoveWins, to #BlackLivesMatter, #BreakTheInternet.

Hashtags capture and define our memory of the world around us. Not only do hashtags inspire dialogue, initiate change and raise awareness but they also connect us to millions of people across the globe. Yet hashtags would not exist without Chris Messina, who tweeted the first hashtag on August 23, 2007.

Currently there is a new pop-up exhibit bringing memorable and impactful hasthags to life through the work of 25 artists.

WGSN #BlackLivesMatter - Black Brain - Lost Dreamers.png

Black Brain by Lost Dreamers (representing #BlackLivesMatter)

Organised by creative studio Bourn, Hashtags Unplugged is happening now through May 14 at Caelum Gallery in Chelsea, New York. How did this integrated exhibit come about? Its origins dates back to 2014 when Bourn created Hshtags, a social media search engine powered by hashtags. Bourn’s founder, Kim Goulbourne, was inspired to contact artists for visual reflections on the year’s biggest hashtags, resulting in an online exhibition, This Year in Hashtags. Following a well-received online exhibit, Goulbourne decided to bring this concept to life with a larger group of artists through an offline exhibition. She also reached out to hashtag inventor Chris Messina, bringing him on as an event partner.

WGSN #NotOneMore - Andrew Herzog - The Necessity Of Which

“The Necessity of Which” by Andrew Herzog (representing #NotOneMore)

Leading up to the Hashtag Unpluggeds opening night, a story on each of the hashtags was published online through a well-designed content series, giving context to the art exhibited. At the physical space, artwork by 25 creatives is on display capturing significant hashtags including #GenderEquality, #TheDress and #NotOneMore. Some of this artwork includes a two-toned canvas with gold and blue glitter illustrating #TheDress by Brit Schmid, a plaster and acrylic birthday cake by Alina Rayas representing #BLackLivesMatter, and a real gun sliced in half expressing #NotOneMore by Andrew Herzog.


“An American Birthday” by Alina Rayas (representing #BlackLivesMatter)

Ultimately, the artwork showcased allows us to experience culturally significant and trending topics for the first time, offline and in real time. While the pop-up succeeds in making hashtags an actual reality, we wonder if Bourn can do it bigger next time with multidisciplinary artworks and installations that completely immerse the viewer? Perhaps a brand partnership with Twitter could propel it to even bigger, global scale.

It will be interesting to see how hashtags continue to infiltrate and influence our lives IRL moving forward.

WGSN #TheDress - Brit Schmid - Chasm

“Chasm” by Brit Schmid (representing #TheDress)

This exhibit is on display now through May 14 at Caelum Gallery at 508 W 26th St #315, Chelsea, NYC 10001 — Tickets to Hashtags Unplugged can be purchased here.

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