Furtherfield’s “Are We All Addicts Now?” explores networked life
Finsbury Park-based gallery space and arts organisation Furtherfield is currently home to exhibition and research space Are We All Addicts Now? until 12 November 2017.
‘Stressing the physicality of digital life’¹, Are We All Addicts Now? uncovers the glooming appeal of online spaces and criticises the digital world for subconsciously influencing our lives through neuro-marketing and highly-addictive visual and auditory stimuli. Artworks on display are the result of extensive research on this subject by artist Katriona Beales and co-curator & contributor Fiona MacDonald. Their work is a direct reflection of their experience with technology and a research for the physicality of actions and networks within the both the digital and “natural” world.
As visitors walk into the gallery a video installation ‘displays a drum of hypnotically spinning images whose rotation is triggered by people’s movement’¹. While perhaps the least controversial, Entering The Machine Zone is be an highly addictive artwork. Its flat screen flashing hyper-saturated colours, the sound mimicking old instant messaging notifications, and its interactive component, all combine in an aesthetically and conceptually strong work.
A beaded curtain gives visitors access to a darkened room where a velvet sunken bed becomes meditation space for all senses. Here, through the curves of a glass sculpture an embedded screen displays moths in constant movement. By wearing headphones people can listen to what Beales describes as her most intimate work so far. She illustrates the audio part of Networked Bed to art magazine Studio International:
“There’s a whispered audio based on a recording I made at 3am one night as I scrolled through my Twitter timeline, reading a few words of each tweet. It’s like a concrete poem. It’s a snapshot of who I follow and their thoughts, anxieties and politics. Because it’s unlikely anyone follows exactly the same configuration of people as me, it’s also strangely intimate — a kind of algorithmic self-portrait.”
In the meanwhile, the other dark side of the gallery is lit by a table-fitted screen displaying a video made up of a series of digital-age-related short loops. Shifting the attention to the ceiling, visitors can appreciate scattering visualisations of eye-tracking data “harvested live” by a computer set alongside. From here people can access a selection of html artworks and pdf files. Eyes movement are tracked from this station and then processed to display the resulting points of focus on the computer screen to the projection on the ceiling.
Working Together (2017) is a mini animation showing the numbers of people who have liked, retweeted and commented a Donald Trump tweet over a timespan of 15 minutes. It is designed to make visitors reflect on the now accredited role of social media in gaining and retaining relevance.
On platforms such as Twitter, the higher the number of ‘nodes of connectedness”² that originate from a tweet, the stronger the “network power” of an entity. No matter how much support or disagreement a tweet can receive, every interaction with this contributes to building up the popularity of the person who tweeted it.
An alternative approach to envisioning forms of “networked life” is taken by Fiona MacDonald with her sound work Mycorrhizal Meditation (available here). Curator, writer and artist as Feral Practice, she investigates the “beyond-human network” of fungi and plant tissue that lie under the soil.
The mycorrhizal network “acts both as a woodland’s food store and communication centre”³ foreshadowing now seemingly modern communication networks. The work was created combining the artist’s voice with contact and ambient microphone recordings of wooden soundscapes. It is meant to be listened to in Finsbury Park, but can accessed from anywhere.
People become addicted to substances or activities, but it’s impossible to become addicted to a medium. You can be no more addicted to the internet than you can to language or radio waves. (@vaughanbell, MindHacks, 2007)
1. Furtherfield. (2017). Are We All Addicts Now? — Furtherfield. [online] Available at: http://www.furtherfield.org/events/are-we-all-addicts-now/.
2. Broome, H. (2017). Katriona Beales: ‘It’s not the internet that is malevolent, but the way behavioural psychology is employed to coerce compulsive use’. [online] Studio International. Available at: http://www.studiointernational.com/index.php/katriona-beales-interview-are-we-all-addicts-now .
3 Furtherfield. (2017). Mycorrhizal Meditation — Furtherfield. [online] Available at: http://www.furtherfield.org/mm/.
Francesco Imola is a London-based musician, multimedia artist, and current Sound Design student at the University of Greenwich.