It was my sister that first pointed out to me that images of ourselves online are constructed and edited to create an ideal of the person we want people to see us as. I was going through a blog phase, obsessively reading posts everyday by people with seemingly beautiful lives. I would watch their stunning photos appear on my screen, I knew what days they would be posting, what sort of thing they'd post each day and I was so envious.
I even tried to blog myself a number of times, before I clocked onto the reality of the situation...that none of it was real. My posts seemed depressing in comparison, my photos were dull, unedited and badly framed. I didn't realise that the whole social media game was set up and real life was embellished by filters and well written words. They only wrote about days which were exciting and kept their bad days to themselves. I was destressed that my profile didn't match theirs, convinced that my days were less fun, which is why noone was reading my posts.
My sister made me realise the blog posts I was reading were constructed and that I shouldn't compare my life to theirs. I wasn't getting an insight into their lives, I was getting a view of what they wanted their lives to look like to everyone else. This was 6 years ago, and I don’t know how my 18 year old self would have coped with the digital world we now live in. Phones constantly in hand, people taking photos of each meal they eat, every.single.moment. documented, uploaded to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook.
Don't get me wrong, I live among it; I still continue to read the blogs, those that have kept going, and I "Pin" constantly. I have a Tumblr and I post photos on it and I accompany those photos with words, and I choose exactly what I put on there and what not to put on there. The rise in social media, now more than ever, has created the perfect stage for FACT's Follow exhibition to take place. In no other time would an exhibition like this put into context the world we currently live in, a world that exists on a screen, of constructed realities and a new search for what's truth. We are living within social media.
Follow presents artists who deconstruct how we make meaning from social media, exploring how we create an identity through our online profiles, how we view and how we connect to the celebrity, the micro-celebrity and how we question authenticity.
The absurdity of online culture and commodification is emphasised and to a large extent ridiculed through works such as Cécile B Evans' Commericials (It's not possible, it's real) which uses marketing imagery and rhetoric to create an emotional context for mundane, everyday products. Constant Dullaart explores how we judge the success of ourselves and others through the amount of online likes we receive.
For his piece High Retention, Slow Delivery he purchased 2.5 million fake Instagram followers, distributing them online amongst the art world to ensure each person within his selection had 100,000 followers, questioning the validity of how we can measure this type of success when it isn't real. There is a dissonance between online reality and offline reality, the question of what the word "real" even means and of course, our perception of "celebrity".
Certain aspects of the exhibition play upon the viewer, their experience and interaction with the works. Ant Hamlyn's installation encourages viewers to follow, like or tag #theboostproject, the giant orb displayed abive the FACT café inflating accordingly with the amount of attention it receives - surely reflecting the absurdity of what these "likes" and "follows" really mean, and their temporary significance.
LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner performed their piece #TOUCHMYSOUL during the exhibition's opening weekend, which relied on the certainty that the audience would call, attend and live tweet the event, largely due to the celebrity presence involved in the collective. If you missed the live performance, checl out the documentation in the gallery, where you can listen to the conversations had and view the live stream broadcast at the time - a social media phenonenon in itself.
The exhibition also features work by other artists, and continues until 21 February so shut down your screen for an hour or two, and see for yourselves.
Follow is open Tuesday - Sunday, 11am - 6pm and entry is FREE! With the support of the Culture Programme of the European Union