Niched in the first floor of a hard to find, common building, the exhibition’s preamble is a rosey atmospheric light emanating from the top of steep stairs.
At the top of the stairs is a girly pink neon-lit room and walls covered with screens and prints, within which we recognize from afar the blue Facebook logo.
The artworks are unconventional. We have entered a digital sphere which Soda translates into videos and prints. At first, it feels strange to look at her printed screenshots. I am tempted to take my phone out, follow Soda, and visualize on the screen that everything printed here has happened IRL.
It is difficult to focus on what’s going on. In an open suitcase, a plethora of “kawaii” items, probably used by teenage girls, are displayed. Then, there is a video. It’s easy to understand that at first Soda presented herself to her followers as a genuine person, using the internet to express her ideas and share her feelings to the world. But telling by the comments printed on the walls, they gradually start questioning her sincerity and asking if this is a scam. Is Soda an artist using her followers as the audience for her performances? This rapidly leads to a blend of insults, admiration and love.
Soda is also a girl who lets the hair of her armpits grow and who breaks down and cries live via social media. The majority of her followers seem to like and support her but some of them really hate her dramatics. Haters ‘comments are posted on the gallery wall.
Soda is not the only artist to have used the internet as a means of living. Amalia Ulman uses Instagram to perform and play roles. She provokes the interest of her followers, to which gallery owners, art critics and fellow artists have taken part in. Artists take risks when using social media as a platform to showcase their work. Why don’t they show their art in a confined and palpable space? Is social media a means of expression, like paintbrushes, or is it the final destination of an art piece?
When facing a painting, our emotions are held into our body. In the case of Facebook or Instagram, there is no shield and the emotions can come right through the screen and into the comments section. Once they are on there, they cannot be hidden, altered or erased. Through this chain of thoughts, I am now beginning to understand Soda’s process. It’s a slow and ephemeral exercise as she ends up being recognized as an artist. She can no longer “trick” her followers into thinking that she is a relatable person. How does that changes people’s view of her? Does this change of scenario shut down their inner introspection, now they know that she is not who she appeared to be in the first place?
We come across the emails of a man who writes to Soda at least once each day. What had started as a declaration of his admiration for the girl he watches on his screen has become an obsessive one-way interactive relationship. This is reminiscent of Spike Lee’s “Her” starring Joaquin Phoenix who has Scarlett Johannsson as a virtual girlfriend. He is real, she is not. He goes on living his life with a pretend girlfriend for whom he “thinks” he has feelings for. At the time, this movie was futuristic. Soda, through this show, proves otherwise and goes further as she questions the future of the digital era we are living in.
Will we be living our lives with people that don’t exist? Will voices, smells and interactive conversations be invented, to fill our lives with something we will no longer feel the need to look for physically? In the end will it be possible to wholly satisfy ourselves with just the existence of synthesized words? Have we explored our imagination so far that we have reached the point of no return? Is isolation and satisfaction with anything virtual the consequence of our constant quest for exile within our own minds? The feeling is the one of safety, in a rosey bubble made of cute products and reassuring objects. In all her research and performances, Soda doesn’t give her opinion. She shrewdly and smartly lays the evidence of the crime.
It is a crime, because it feels dangerous and unrepairable.
Where will find answers to this issue? One thing is for certain, not on our screens. Perhaps in reality, that is, if we dare to take a second away from our phones.
Molly Soda at Annka Kultys (14 October – 12 November 2016)