During an introductory talk, FACT director Mike Stubbs made mention of the utopian promise that was once inferred by technology that we now take for granted. Global communication, the democratization of information and a framework that made external censorship impractical and ineffective were concepts that have been brought to fruition by the Internet and its incorporation into our daily lives.
And yet. Rather than an enlightened global society populated by the interconnected and well informed, we have come across something rather less fulfilling. Social media and file sharing have become synonymous with the Internet and while there are benefits, it can seem at times between the vacuous posturing and content saturation that whatever potential there is to effect positive change is being divided by the lowest common denominator, venturing sometimes towards the truly disturbing, as in the crudely named 'Fappening' a high profile network hack that resulted in nude photos of dozens of prominent female celebrities being leaked online.
Follow, then, is a FACT exhibition attempting in some small way to examine, to discuss the current climate of celebrity, microcelebrity and the finer points of the blurring between self expression and crude autobranding that has proliferated throughout our lives and in the way that people choose to present themselves, ceaselessly.
In a bizarre and thoroughly contemporary genre of expression wherein the audience and the creator are one and the same, this is a collection of works that strive, somehow, to view the whole phenomenon from the outside. Tonally, there is a definite and intentional lean towards the absurd throughout which feels perfectly in keeping with the subject matter at hand - at this point, how can any of us be expected to take this all seriously?
The exhibition is probably best encapsulated by the phrase 'Can a mayonnaise have reflexes?', taken from the excellent video installation from Cécile B. Evans, work that manages to highlight both the use of marketing and branding techniques that have found and devoured willing and effective new channels and the offbeat comedy that pervades contemporary society.
Elsewhere, Debora Delmar Corp.'s contribution is another excellent summation of the current condition; having taken on a corporate moniker as a comment on 21st century life, Delmar developed a logo for the distribution of her work that supermodels Cara Delevigne and Jourdan Dunn had unwittingly tattooed on their hips. While this complete unawareness of the origins of their new 'brand' fits perfectly within the sphere of the influence behind Delmar's work, what is almost as interesting is the video footage accompanying her project, showing Delevigne and Dunn choosing their new tattoo. All vapid expressions and cringe inducing affectations, they are both polished and refined products of the system and as such, probably couldn't have been better placed to unwittingly take part in the discourse.
LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner's installation succeeded in raising some pertinent questions about the attraction of celebrity, including as it did an internationally recognized celebrity in Shia LeBeouf. LeBeouf's personal critique of celebrity culture has taken place very much in the public eye, with various high profile appearances and works of art intended to separate himself from the public's view of his celebrity.
As a practising artist that is more than a little familiar with the inner workings of international fame, his perspective is perhaps unique and the collective's laying bare the draw of celebrity culture, obvious from the enthusiasm of people waiting to have a brief and ultimately meaningless interaction, is illuminating. It would be remiss, in the light of this exhibition, to go without touching upon Marshall McLuhan's famous assertion that 'the medium is the message'. This, then, is surely the distillation of such ideas, a form of communication and creation that is both the means and the end, the cause and the effect.
A collection of deep, entertaining and thought-provoking work inspired by the hollow, gleaming shell of a society that humoured Kim Kardashian's production of a book full of vaguely annotated photos of herself. An astonishing show that runs the spectrum from amusing to unsettling.
Find out more and plan your visit to see Follow here, open Tuesday - Sunday, 11am - 6pm, FREE entry.