Age of You, a haunting new art exhibition, hits the Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto for the fall and winter seasons.
The exhibition holds a mirror to the audience figuratively, and literally as it guides you through a series of art work that reflects on individuality in a digital age.
The exhibition curated by Shumon Basar, Douglas Coupland, and Hans Ulrich Obrist is a preview to the book they are releasing titled, The Extreme Self, which will tackle the same issue of the self being interwoven with data we constantly create.
Over 70 artists, photographers, designers, filmmakers, musicians, and performers collaborated to make the exhibition diverse and impactful.
Since the exhibit is rooted in an upcoming book release, the exhibition is divvied up into thirteen separate chapters.
In each chapter, a short series of artwork suspends from the ceiling which explores how technology affects the self, intimacy, democracy, spirituality, and the future of lived experience.
Some panels offer deep insights and background information, not unlike reading a book, but most shake you with piercing graphics paired with a few words that get to the emotional root of the problem.
All the while the room fills with the deepened and distorted voice of Chinese actress, Bai Ling. Sophia Al-Maria’s Mirror Cookie (2018) morphs positive affirmations from Bai Ling’s Instagram to reflect the “struggle of upholding self-love in the midst of a toxic environment.”
This is not the only eerie element in Age of You.
As you take in all the imagery and messaging, there is the constant feeling of being watched by the art from Yuri Pattison.
Pattison’s commissioned piece consists of different eye emojis. He formed one line of eyes himself, and let an artificial intelligence create the rest using predictive software.
The Orwellian piece adds to the text in a subtle way. It emphasizes that even if you’re not constantly aware of it, you are always being watched.
To walk through Age of You is to be educated and confronted by the drastic nature of the changes we’ve normalized as a society.
Basar, Coupland, and Obrist discuss the ways we volunteer and fear giving our data freely, the ways we are manipulated into outrage culture, and the inability to separate ourselves from the masses that are in constant connection with one another.
A running theme through the show is, “Are you really built for so much change so quickly?”
To which I wonder, does it even matter what we’re built for if the self doesn’t exist to be part of the physical body, but rather to be extracted by corporations, rebuilt into a concept, and sold to?
Does it matter what we’re built for if we are reduced to a set of numbers? Patterns? Behaviours? Meta-data?
Quassim, a viewer of the Age of You exhibit, said, “I was interested by the digitization of the personality and how the previous century was all about how we consume, but now it’s about how we are consumed.”
Another attendee Freya Kyrstein said, “With technology taking over, we’re losing ourselves. So much of social media is presenting a cover of who we are. We’re losing touch.”
The show explores all these topics and begs for even more reflection.
The Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto hosted the program and will continue to host events in relation to Age of You including talks, artist tours, digital justice workshops, and drop-in activities until January 5, 2020.