A connection is made

With the advent of social media, its rapid technological development has altered the way we view our world and changed our ways of experiencing time and space. We are now able to be everywhere without actually being anywhere physically. In other words, social media has allowed our presence and activity to be seen in different times and spaces of which we do  not occupy. The exhibition at The Pace Gallery & Pace/MacGill Gallery presented with the MFA Photography, Video and Related Media Department at the School of Visual Arts named social Media examined the impact of this omnipresent technology of modern communication on our lives.

Christopher Baker, Murmur Study, 2009

Christopher Baker, Murmur Study, 2009

For this exhibition, the attempts to describe or convey the technology itself through art was not as important as the attempts to position this new technology in the context of our social landscape and to critique its relationship to us. Here are images of the work by Christopher Baker called Murmur Study, 2009. To produce this piece, Baker designed a software to pull live status updates from Twitter. Most of the Tweets consisted of information only relevant to the individuals who posted them and to those that the person tried to communicate. The posts varied from their emotional responses to certain situations and scandalous gossip about the people they knew.  Yet to any strangers the information read like irrelevant and meaningless expressions. While the updates were incessantly coming through and reaching a wide audience but it only seemed to convey the individual's desire to gain a sense of self-importance or a self-assuring public recognition. Furthermore, these updates provided a window of opportunity for voyeurism. In looking at this, the piece reminded me of Hans Haacke's News that was made in 1969-2008 utilizing RSS newsfeeds, paper and a printer. With that piece, Haacke was critiquing the ephemeral nature of news breaking. Also, addressing that the shock value of breaking headlines had limited time spans and were only pertinent within a specific time frame. By this comparison, it brought forth an interesting idea of the potential for the internet to democratize the consumption and sharing of media.  
Christopher Baker, Murmur Study, 2009

This work by Penelope Umbrico named Sunset Portraits from 9,623,557 Flickr Sunset Pictures on 8/22/11, 2011, presented the ability of social media to transport anonymous individual's intimate experience to just about everywhere during any given moment of time. This piece addressed the issue of voyeurism as well as revealed the increasingly blurred boundary of what is public versus private. Umbrico collected these sunset photographs from Flickr, a popular photograph-sharing platform often used to share special moments among friends or among any other curious individuals. Contrary to the initial romantic intentions behind these photographs, the mood of these images were diluted to such an extent that they looked tacky and cliché. Here what was once a precious moment to the individual has been made visually banal and even mawkish when viewed collectively.  In the context of a gallery exhibition, these images became objectified as a pantomime of collective extraneous sentiments that felt almost absurd.

Penelope Umbrico, Sunset Portraits from 9,623,557 Flickr Sunset Pictures on 8/22/11, 2011

Penelope Umbrico, Sunset Portraits from 9,623,557 Flickr Sunset Pictures on 8/22/11, 2011

The rapid development of digital technology has made it increasingly difficult to identify whether the interactions we have are with real people or with machine-programmed fictional beings. The works by Aram Bartholl addressed this concern with two separate bodies of works, both of which suggested the interconnections of men versus machine technology. In the series called Google Portrait, 2001, they were hand-drawn QR-codes that smart-phones could pick up and then link the users to profiles of the person via Google. The irony was that these digital codes were hand-drawn with a high degree of technological accuracy but at the same time still retained the imprecise tactile quality of hand-drawings. When looked closely, the Google portrait of the artist was actually made with series of his own thumbprints.   For the Google portrait of Ai Wei Wei, there was meticulously and strategically placed cross-hatching. The other interesting aspect of the work was that they also could be viewed as abstract drawings esthetically. 

Aram Bartholl, Google Portrait (Aram Bartholl), 2011

Aram Bartholl, Google Portrait (Aram Bartholl), 2011 (detail)

Aram Bartholl, Google Portrait (Ai Weiwei), 2011

Aram Bartholl, Google Portrait (Ai Weiwei), 2011 (detail)

To further explore the interconnections between men versus machines, Bartholl made this series of work called Are You Human? 2011. They were made of anodized aluminum and in shapes of CAPTCHA, a computing technology that was design to ensure the response generated was by a person not a machine. While displaying together Are You Human? with Google portraits, it brought to mind the interesting debate of just how smart is a machine versus its creator. With the hand-draw QR-codes that would have worked just as well as a digitally generated one, just how reliable is CAPTCHA for identifying responses generated from a person versus one from another machine?

Aram Bartholl, Are You Human? (Kz5L), (dMdlrr), (rVGT4p), (LuFe), 2011

Modern technology might have brought us convenience but it has the potential to render unnecessary services that eventually could cause the atrophy of one's ability to perform basic daily functions. David Byrne's Apps series from 2011 brought some much-appreciated humor to this exhibition. Taking inspiration from the proliferation of Apps that suddenly flooded onto the market since the advent of iphones, Byrne has made a few of his own. Rather than taking care of serious business, these were tools for mischief and to satisfy anyone's sheer desire for laziness.  Be warned, if anyone who fancies an all-in-one device, there will be adverse consequences. This exhibition runs until October 15.

David Byrne, Bigamist, 2011

David Byrne, Coverup, 2011

David Byrne, Buzzclip, 2011


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