The bastard lovechild of Thomas Hirschhorn and Tracey Emin

 

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Over the past year I created an extensive number of digital collages that I am transforming into a large-scale installation entitled Insanely Great; The bastard lovechild of Thomas Hirschhorn and Tracey Emin. Presently, this project consists of a ten-foot high, thirty-foot long wall constructed from sheet cardboard and colourful duct tape, that is a support for large-scale absurd digital collages in the form of vinyl stickers, spray painted text/critiques and poems printed in vinyl lettering. The installation contains shifting imagery, materials and texts to form a critical dialogue on how identity is generated when social websites interface with the media and law. I am interested in how the temporary walls can function as physical manifestations of division, reflecting the divisive indicators of the Internet, law and culture on the body and self.

The digital collages are heavily coded with image fragments found online to create incongruous narratives and virtual representations of contemporary corporeal experience. A queer, feminist and anti-capitalist critique of the decontextualized virtual image in this work highlight current processes that ahistorisize political struggles and social movements.

This past year reproductive rights were challenged, HIV disclosure laws enforced, rape stories went viral on social media sites, and criminalization itself was publically critiqued (Guantanamo hunger strikes, Pussy riot’s trial, Uganda’s homosexuality bill, the Maple Spring[1] and more). This followed the previous year’s Arab spring and Occupy movement, which linked for the first time the social movements in the streets with online activists such as Anonymous. The large-scale protests grew momentum from images and their online presence. Yet some protests started feeling like photo-ops, people taking selfies against a backdrop of revolution. This was in direct contrast to other types of protests where anonymity, and even covering one’s face completely is a tactic.  Recently Apple was created an app so the police can disconnect protestors via their phones/internet.

This differentiation between anonymity and verifiable identity within Internet culture is significant.  As social relations are commodified, personas become brands and we voluntarily replace privacy with the normalization of constant consumerism. The Internet has become an autonomous tool against (cultural) hegemony while simultaneously being the location and methodology of the wealthiest and most powerful corporations, and therefore central to global capitalism. These contrasting objectives are ever present in social media where the masses identify with personas so as to reinforce the status quo. How events are or are not represented, identified with and shared, and by whom, also reflect a new hierarchy of cultural capital and political style. Some argue the reduction of political oppression to an identity signifier, a like or share button, may neutralize the underpinnings of actual struggle and protest[2] (while collecting data for advertising and the government).

Processes of identification within media are represented in my work as a colorful spectacle of idols, a flattened landscape of pop culture, avatars and law. In my collages the Facebook ‘like’ button is pictured alongside figures of a gesturing Steve Jobs action figure, an unexpressive Lana del Rey avatar, Beyonce smiling with her ass exposed, an 18th century medical Venus and a sexless buff naked avatar-man, the human forms are all pointedly counterfeits and underscore their own construction.  This illustrates a neoliberal context that produces a certain fetishism and desolation within online identity affirmation. With this project I attempt to represent this reduction of struggle/intention into spectacle, while also seeking to simultaneously undermine this neutralization.

On these simulated screens/cardboard walls language exists as fragments, sound bites, status updates, poems and graffiti, all in competing and overlapping dialogue, pointing to spaces where the individual merges with society through participation or force. My cardboard construction is also mobile and shifting, messy and raw, a social body, a living body; it is able to react to the urgency of the contemporary.

Referencing the aesthetics of subculture[3], revolution, DIY and punk, these cardboard walls speak to attempts at resistance, a pushing against, an articulation of what the screens are doing to us. This work aims to contextualize resistance within a globalized culture that embraces the celebration of the individual and consumerism.

 


[3] Also Thomas Hirschhorn and Tracey Emin, referencing ideas of art stardom.

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related subjects : 2013, activism, animals, anti-capitalist, criminalization, digital, feminism, HIV, installation, institutional critique, internet, intimacy, mental health, painting, pop culture, queer, sexual assault, social media, surreal, text, Uncategorized, writing