“The medium is the message.” - Marshall McLuhan
In the first part of the New Media Art series I mentioned Jean Baudrillard’s theory of hyperreality, according to which images have become more real than physical reality and its simulations of reality have replaced their originals. In Simulacra & Simulation Baudrillard discussed how postmodern society is driven by consumption, how our daily life has become an excess of media images, and how this has pushed society into the era of simulation. In the case of seeing artwork online, the reproduction of artwork online faces a troubling dilemma: the views have increased, but its value as original artwork decreases.
The exploration of New Media Art in the 1990s continued to evolve with the expansion of the Internet and the World Wide Web into the 2000s. The advancement of smartphone technology in the 2010s led to the exponential growth of niche applications, and some that have attracted the masses - like Instagram. Artists have become aware of the potential for their artworks to reach millions, but also critique them as a danger to the reproduction of their artworks becoming part of the excess use and sharing of images. In recent years, some artists continue to experiment with the Internet, in particular, social media as a virtual exhibition space.
The visual language of images and the effects they have on our perception of reality can be quite convincing, and it’s been a major factor in the consumer society.
Argentinian artist Amalia Ulman used her Instagram account as an opportunity to reach an international audience for a performance piece called Excellences & Perfections in which she created three online personas: cute girl, sugar baby, and life goddess. In April 2014 she moved to Los Angeles and started posting photos, used popular hashtags to describe her feelings and her daily life. Ulman introduced those personas in that order because they followed a ‘preferred narrative of how women are portrayed online.’ Her photos included before and after her apparent plastic surgeries, shopping, and selfies of her excessively luxurious lifestyle. In September of the same year, she announced at the end that it was actually an art project, that all the photos were staged, and most of them were digitally manipulated - like the photos of her apparent breast augmentation.
VIEW THE ONLINE EXHIBITION HERE.
British artist and tech futurist Thomas Webb is also a hacker, and in his latest exhibition World Wide Webb, in collaboration with the König Gallery, in Berlin, he explores society's growing reliance on technology and the inherent role that Artificial Intelligence plays in these technologies. Exercise in Hopeless Nostalgia is a series of interactive games that's part of the virtual exhibition. The game has an 80s gaming esthetic - it’s an interesting blend of nostalgic and futuristic experiences. The viewer - or the gamer - is able to interact and browse the virtual gallery entirely on their smartphone, interact with the curators, and view the artworks. This virtual experience is tailored to each user, you can choose your own avatar, and leave and come back into the game as you please. AI saves your information for the next visit unless you delete your browsing history. This raises even more questions about how these large corporations like FaceBook and Instagram use and share your data. You can still take part in this experience via the König Gallery application or through the website here.
Although very different in terms of concept and content, these projects have a similar theme underlined - our growing reliance and belief in what we see online. Whether it's sharing photos of our lives or sharing data, we have gotten used to doing it without a second thought. One billion of us are willingly sharing our daily lives online, some with private accounts and others in public, with strangers. The line between our private life and our public persona is diminished, and our data is stored in servers and saved to know us all - better than we might even know ourselves. Technology is moving too fast for the human race to adapt - virtual reality is quickly merging with the realm of hyperreality. I wonder if we have already gone too far, and are voluntarily moving from the real world to live in the Matrix.