I have a love-hate relationship with my phone and computer. Sometimes I find them very…
useful, enjoyable, adventurous and fantastic!
At other times I feel…
overwhelmed, claustrophobic and physically uncomfortable,
with the volume and intensity of information. I often just want to throw my phone into a black hole (and I’m not a huge user of social media).
There are many layers to the tension associated with our use of digital devices and information. Sometimes they enable fantastic things like sharing family moments despite geographical dis-location. On the other hand the (apparently) increasing tide of cyber crime has significant negative impacts to personal wellbeing and safety (not to mention financial security).
The header image of this post shows one of Antoine Geiger‘s photographs (2015). It illustrates the effect of smart phones on our interactions in, and relationships with, the context of our physical bodies. These digital devices often become agents of disembodiment. Great when you’re playing a video game; not so great when you’re driving a car, or on holiday visiting an art gallery; despicable when you’re on a ‘romantic’ date night.
This tense relationship with technology is not a new issue/concern. I’ve referred to the cover art of Black Sabbath’s Dehumanizer album before – made in 1992, it’s 26 years old now. I just love it!
And even though the era of smart phones might be short-lived (something else will replace smart phones eventually), the influence of digital machines on our everyday lives will remain an important topic. Maybe even more important if it becomes fashionable to wear Google glass type heads-up displays, or electronic contacts, which will be harder to ‘turn away’ from.
Exploring our relationship and interactions with the world through media art
Experimenta Make Sense is an exhibition that explores the above-mentioned issues through media art. (Media Art being “a broad genre of art that encompasses all art using technology including digital art, interactive art, internet art, robotics, moving image, video art, computer art, sound art and animation.” (p.3 of Experimenta Study Guide))
According to Jonathan Parsons, Artistic Director of Experimenta, “The exhibition expresses the disconcerting and delightful world of the digital age. Both playful and thought provoking, this exhibition asks audiences to immerse their senses into a ‘thinking’, ‘feeling’ and ‘doing’ contemplation of what it is to be human in an age of technological acceleration.” (p.4 of the Study Guide)
As part of the exhibition and national tour, Experimenta produced a Study Guide. In it they raised three fascinating questions (p.4):
The key questions explored by the artists featured in Experimenta Make Sense include:
- How do we make sense of the world around us?
Featuring artworks that engage with the complexities of day-to-day living through to those works that explore the unfathomable (whether of scale such as the nano or the immense, or of quantity and complexity such as big data and systems theories).
- How can we use our senses to make sense?
Artworks that explore whether different bodies make different sense and how the use of different senses can generate different understandings. How our senses, or indeed lack thereof, contribute to how we make meaning of and for ourselves.
- How do we make sense through making?
Artworks that are realised through hands-on participation by audiences. Artworks that reveal how our embodied experiences alter our understanding of the world.
Getting our faces back
I feel for all the good in digital devices, there’s a huge opportunity to improve the way these devices structure and shape our everyday interactions and lives. In fact, initiatives like Experimenta Make Sense would seem to be really important, and fun, ways to explore how we want to shape our lives through future digital devices.
Experimenta, based in Victoria, is “Australia’s pre-eminent media arts organisation”. I have no affiliation with Experimenta at the time of writing, other than letting my computer suck my face into their website.
The Make Sense exhibit is touring nationally in Australia until 2020.