Looking at ourselves through a digital mirror

Looking at ourselves through a digital mirror

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Wed 01 Jun 2011 12:00 AM

 

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.

 

VIRTUAL
IDENTITIES

Palazzo
Strozzi

Centro
di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina

 

Until
July 17, 2011

 

For
more information, see http://www.strozzina.org/identitavirtuali

 

 

 

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