All words: Rachel Pafe — All photos: Laura Turner
“After , my dick is looking a lot longer than usual – the corn for first time in a while. ” This eloquent statement was one of the many #overshare tweets I found amidst ruminations about bowel movements and minute play-by-plays of depressing sexual escapades. The issue of oversharing due to technological developments has been widely discussed, but why does it still occur in such frequency? The W3FI exhibition at Artisphere, on display from Thursday, December 6 to Sunday January 20th, delves into this issue and others. Created by artists Chris Coleman and Laleh Mehran, the immersive, interactive experience uses real-time information gathered from visitors and regional tweets to question the level of separation between the virtual and the real.
The artists state that, “we have to take control of and responsibility for how others see and relate to us in the digital world.” Their solution? W3FI, a philosophy for informing online interactions. W3FI, a combination of “Wifi”, “we” and the slang use of “3”, is meant to evoke a new awareness of just how interconnected we are online. It urges the viewer to reevaluate their standards of what is acceptable to post, share and reveal.
Visually, this is created using a stunning combination of projections, light boxes and interactive technology. White, glowing cube seats line the middle of the dark room, connected by dark wires. One cube faces a shimmering donut that takes your picture without any warning and transfers it to a pool of bouncing spheres projected onto one of the walls. Below this is a constantly updated list of considerations, such as “there is no longer any anonymity” and “everything is recorded and saved”. It goes on to list the many ways our daily actions are tracked beyond obvious twitter communication: ATM transactions, cell phone calls, electric bills. The adjacent wall is composed of the black outlines of the Washington, DC cityscape wired to little bubbles encircled by live, local tweets and mobile data statistics.
The artists describe their work as a balance between criticism and positive forward motion. Instead of just offering condemnations, they actively strive to create work that poses ideas to improve both virtual and real life interactions. Each time they exhibit W3FI, they adapt it to the local context. Last month, when invited to display in Argentina, they presented the entire show in Spanish, created an Argentinian cityscape and sourced local tweets and data. The meticulous nature of their work, evident in the crisp paintings, careful layout and thoughtful attention to space allows the viewer to not be distracted by inconsistent aesthetic presentation at the expense of the underlying concept.
It’s pretty clear that next time you feel like shaving your genitals and opening up the topic for public debate, you should probably think twice, but what about more insidious uses of technology? What about the security cameras in your office building? What about the recent admission by New York police that they were actively tracking and recording the actions of Muslim students? Maybe it’s time to rethink the definition of privacy.