My mom and I are great friends, but we don't agree on anything when it comes to sharing private information online. When we attended the exhibit Virtual Identities at the Strozzina as a mother-daughter team, we thought we'd each react very differently to the works and concepts presented. Much to our surprise, we had similar reactions to the installations.
The exhibit aims to heighten the public's awareness of the meaning, consequence, and potential of our digital actions and the traces they leave. Rather than imposing a strong, unifying thesis, the artwork causes the viewer to consider what it means to be an individual in the digital world. The show raises some issues that resonate with our own experiences; posed as questions, they inspire debate.
So you wanna be famous?
In the video installation Mass Ornament by Natalie Bookchin, the artist assembles hundreds of YouTube videos of people dancing alone in their rooms. Produced individually by people who think they're being creative, together they form a choreography of repeated dance moves, demonstrating a lack of originality. User-generated content can give anyone ‘15 minutes of fame,' convincing people to believe that they are important. Perhaps this is why we narcissistically Google ourselves-a habit that is encouraged in the interactive installation by MIT's Sociable Media Group that unites viewers' physical and virtual selves in the museum space.
Whose identity is it, anyway?
Many computer users, especially older ones, are worried about the security of online data. We were surprised to find this issue presented in a rather apocalyptic manner even by young artists. A Lucchese duo made headlines in 2009 by encouraging Facebook users to commit digital seppukoo, Japanese ritual suicide. Their work highlights issues like the commercial exploitation and monopolistic control of personal information by Facebook and other large corporations. For their efforts, they, and the word seppukoo, were banned from Facebook.
Do we really know anything anymore?
Christoper Baker's assemblage of talking heads, How I Learned to Stop Listening and Love the Noise, suggests that the sheer volume of online material means that nobody's voice is heard. Even if these videos contain brilliant ideas, fast-moving media discourages introspection. Antonio Glessi, a professor of communication technology, writes in the catalogue: ‘Interiorized knowledge acquired through study or experience appears to lose importance in favor of contextual information.' We are used to consuming and sharing sound bytes without digesting any knowledge. This exhibit offers a rare opportunity to take part in this debate and reflect, through the works of these artists, programmers, and thinkers, on our modern digital lives.
Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina
Until July 17, 2011
For more information, see http://www.strozzina.org/identitavirtuali