TikTok can often route viewers down set paths; where one person might see a sound used for dances, another might hear it played over small business videos. This has been the case for user @mars_is_great and their cover of “Remember Me” from the popular animated series “Adventure Time.” While the sound from this particular TikTok has made its way into a variety of subjects, some users are employing it to shed light on their favorite art pieces in TikToks of their own.
The TikTok videos differ on the medium of art that is appreciated, but most seem to deal with pieces that embody melancholic ruminations on life.
One user has a video with over a million likes about Sun Yuan and Peng Yu’s art piece “Can’t Help Myself.” The piece contains a huge robotic arm frantically sweeping up blood-like liquid, and the actual exhibit contains accompanying screeching noises that are covered in user @poetrybutimbad’s video by music. While this style of craft may be common to discuss in art circles, it’s not one that many would be familiar with, as most K-12 art classes cover limited ground and generally stray from discussing performance-influenced modern art.
Another TikTok user, @phroggyman, takes the trend to literature, featuring a screenshot of “The Two-Headed Calf,” a short story by Laura Gilpin. While “The Two-Headed Calf” may have more traction in America than “Can’t Help Myself,” it would also be left out of many basic English classes because of its nature as a short poetry piece. The pained, red-eyed face that @phroggyman dons in their video brought home the emotional impact of the short story and is a rare instance of a staged video using compelling facial expressions.
@ireallyh8brusselsprouts brings the trend into performed poetry with “OCD” by Neil Hilborn. They make the choice to cut the music and allow viewers to listen to Hilborn’s own performance of his piece, which he does in the style of slam poetry.
Similar to the video using Sun Yuan and Peng Yu’s work, @gomillar brings the trend back to more conceptual-based art with Marina Abramović’s meeting with Ulay in “The Artist is Present,” a conceptual piece that featured Abramović sitting stationary and silent for 736 hours and 30 minutes as museumgoers were invited to sit alongside her. The couple’s reunion has been circulated in many conceptual art videos and is impactful because of the work they had previously done together, which changed the conceptual art world forever. One example is their piece “Rest Energy,” which features Ulay holding an arrow and Abramović holding the bow that it is notched on.
TikToker @littlegremlinbrain highlights an aspect of Keith Haring’s work that most casual fans might not be aware of: his struggle and eventual death from AIDS and its appearance in his pieces. She elects to show an image of his “Unfinished Painting,” which is purposefully left incomplete as a monument to AIDS victims. The bright colors and whimsical shapes of Haring’s work have unfortunately been commercialized, so it’s exciting to see young people exposed to its true meaning.
@thedannicorn also explores queer art with by Emma Hunsinger’s “How To Draw A Horse”. The piece is a comic and explores the main character’s growing affection for a girl in her class and how she conceals her feelings by drawing horses for the girl. The ending, as the girls’ faces near one other and are scribbled over with horses, makes the piece a fitting participant in the trend, even if it is less conventional than other entries.
Finally, there are the TikToks that feature the art of Félix González-Torres. @ratvintage highlights González-Torres’ work “Untitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.),” a piece famous in both art and queer circles for its intense emotional impact. González-Torres replicated the weight of his partner, Ross Laycock, in candy at the time of his AIDS diagnosis. The piece begins at 175 pounds and viewers are encouraged to take candy from the pile that represents Laycock’s body. Laycock himself passed the same year as his diagnosis in 1988 and González-Torres passed a few years later in 1996.
A year prior to his death, González-Torres gave a heart-shattering interview where he references Laycock: “When people ask me, ‘Who is your public?’ I say honestly, without skipping a beat, ‘Ross.’ The public was Ross. The rest of the people just come to the work.”
TikTok user @littlegremlinbrain participates again with González-Torres’ work, this time with “Untitled (Perfect Lovers),” another conceptual piece where viewers watch as two clocks, initially set in perfect unison, slowly fall out of sync until one breaks or stops. González-Torres’ works could honestly populate the trend exclusively, and readers should explore his pieces themselves if they have the time.
TikTok trends like “Remember Me” bring exciting art to new audiences and are a perfect example of the arbitrary lines between what is considered high and low brow. While the trend may have already seen its largest boom, there’s no reason not to add your favorite work to the list as well — after all, you never know who might need to see it.