THE WRONG BIENNALE:
Humanity is now more connected than ever. The whole world can be perceived as a single historical, economic and cultural unit. But connectivity doesn’t necessarily mean harmony and individuals are becoming more disconnected from their selves than ever before.
The technological advance, from big data and face recognition systems to biometric machines, machine learning and AI, makes able the programming of our desires and expectations, the way we think and understand our own existence.
What does it mean to remain human in the digital age? How do we connect, communicate and understand the world around us, when the 18th century concept of free will – “what I feel and choose come from my own thoughts and decisions” – is being challenged?
External forces, by taking advantage of our social instinct, to wanting to know what others think of us and if we are likable or not, can now manipulate the way we see the world and ourselves in it, shifting our attention towards a culture dominated by a vanity of likes.
Everyday we are integrating more and more with the digital world, blurring the line between what is virtual and what is real. This integration with technology has allowed us to find new ways to augment ourselves, express our opinions and communicate with others, giving new potential to what we can achieve.
How do we construct our image in the Internet era? According to his book “The pussy – past and present”, writer Gianfranco Sanguinetti explains the importance of the social control over sexuality in general, since not only is a means of communication and as such it must be controlled, but also this repression feeds the means of consumption and production, as it creates people with less stimulated sense of free will. Therefore, the notion of our liberty, our sexuality, our body image and self-awareness and self-value is being criticized whether it is a product of manipulation and control or not.
As we experience massive technological advances, we are able to realize and reflect what it means to be human and at the core of humanity is empathy, communication and connection. From cave paintings to selfie culture and the new alphabet, the emojis, we were always reading and communicating in images. It is a way of processing information, of understanding the world, of feeling it and interacting with it.
It is true, that an image can evoke emotions. The deeper something is etched into our consciousness, the fewer details we need to have an emotional reaction. It is also true, that humans, when it comes to their image, have always been vulnerable to flattery. Even if we know it is not real, flattery still feels good.
From the ancient Greek concept of hysterophemia to Andy Warhol’s pop portraits and today’s selfie culture, we produce, curate and consume images – of ourselves and of others – like never before.
What is the image? In the Hysterophimia Pavilion for The Wrong, Digital Art Biennale 2019 – 2020, the concept of the image as we perceive it today is explored from different perspectives and challenged.
The image of ourselves >
In this section, the exhibition examines our relation with our self, our self-awareness and our need to leave behind us a legacy, our hysterophimia.
As a result we have the rise of selfie culture and the over production & consumption of images.
Though hysterophimia used to be a heroic and noble thing to aspire and pursue, does it matter today, where everything is recorded, monitored and stored in Big Data without our control and consent?
The rapid technological changes also form a norm that supports our constant sharing of our image through online platforms. Our image needs to be constantly evolving, in order to be relatable and updated to these fast changing social norms. Frequency is important, because it creates a sense of urgency that may lead to social anxiety and trauma.
The Dorian Grey effect >
The importance on appearance that is highly promoted from contemporary societies has resulted in the making of a society of image. Starting from Democritus’ point that “A man is what (s)he eats” to the Instagram user who feeds on images, our current society has become a society that consists of images of men and women. It is true that our online presence may differ than our offline reality. We seem to curate and feed our online persona, our avatar, more than we do for ourselves in the real world, resulting in an uneven development of our virtual and physical presence.
The image collected from the data to profile us >
Surveillance, cctv cameras, breach of privacy, big data.
We have become hackable, predictable and manipulatable. Data is the new form of control and power. Therefore, politics becomes the struggle to control the flows of data and surveillance mechanisms become the valence of secrecy and centralized data repository, where one entity – big corporations, the government etc, is the custodian of the data collected.
Currently, too much data are being concentrated in the hands of this small elite. Most people don’t know where our data is being used, for what purpose and who benefits from that. Big Data is important because it offers a service, where we are being portrayed more precisely that a camera would create our image.
As the web evolves, how can we maximize its benefits for all and mitigate the obvious damage? It all comes back to control. Having control over who has our data and how it’s being used.
The images read and produced by the computer >
AI deep learning. What will happen when AI claims their place on the social agenda? How will their Hysterophimia be manifested?
Technology today makes us all immortal, one way or the other. Our bodies die but our online footprint is forever there. A good thing or a bad thing?
*Hysterophemia (tr. posthumous fame): Fame arising, occurring, or continuing after one’s death. Hysterophemia is written here with an –i- to focus on the importance of self-awareness in the digital age.
Charlotte Eifler, Kyriaki Goni, For Cancel, Margarita Athanasiou, Jonas Lund, Erica Lapadat-Jazen, Maria Judova and Constantine Nisidis, Yorgos Papafigos, Shinseungback Kimyonghun, Spyros Aggelopoulos, Gertruda Gilyte and Kailum Graves.