Brendon Erasmus_ ( ‘VIRAL’ , 2017)
The premise of VIRAL revolves around subjectively formulated questions and conjectures regarding new technology and social media. These questions presented a challenge in that, despite particular views, the speculation thereof could be no less ignorant than the assumption that I take no part in the vast web of online meccas.
Although I don’t necessarily sell my work online, I wilfully sell my ideas in the name of art, which inevitably ends up online. Individuals sell ideas in the name of human rights organisations, while many others prefer the ‘carefree’ vanity route for an audience of (and quite possibly the most congested of the information super-highways) – effortless voyeurism. I suspect that it’s all about wilfully and aggressively selling ourselves, which leads to my first serious question: Does the escalation of online movements influence the commodification of individuals and groups through social and mass media, advertising, and art? In other words, can the advent of the digital age make it easier to direct ‘human traffic’ for financial gain? I believe this depends largely on investigating whether social media is generating a neo-colonial map of the world? In summary, I question, does cyber slavery exist?
It is at this point that I need to reflect on my own state of being: as an artist, as a vehicle for an alternative mode of thinking, living, and interacting. Is my mode of being a continuous process of looking inward or outward, staying in or going out, utilising social media or not, loving something and discarding another? Am I better off for it, richer or poorer? Should I care? I have some paintings for sale, would you like one?
Any and all attempts to downplay my self-promotion as an artist has in some way culminated at the point I find myself in now: the opening of my debut solo exhibition. It needs to be said that due to my lack of interest and pessimism towards technology, I often identify with the ‘have-nots’ – or the new poor in society. In response to this, I often create work that appears to have a sense of homelessness to it, or as though it seems to have been created by someone affected by homelessness: a violently yet intricately abused inflatable mattress may be recycled into a painting – ‘sophisticated’ homelessness, or ‘refined’ poverty if you will.
I struggle to find joy in promoting my art. It often feels like a cruel joke (however, I do not see poverty as a joke). I acknowledge however, that the technology is available to me and may not be available to the muted have-nots. If it were, would they have a voice? Would I ‘like’ a homeless man or woman’s Facebook page if they posted their requests for me to help meet their basic needs?
My interest lies in the notion that the more progressive technology becomes, the more we seem to become like the Neanderthals we once were, and the more unsuspecting people get left behind. Is technology moving too fast? Has it made us insensitive, or stupid? At the very least, technology seems to have made it clear that we live in ignorant times.
People ask Google a lot of things. According to Predictive Search and Autofill, these are some questions often asked of Google lately:
Is there a god?
Does size matter?
Does he love me?
Do albinos die?
For the near future – where technology will no longer be separate from us, but integrated into our lives and homes in the same way poverty and pollution is an inevitable part of our communities – I ask just one more tiresome question: If the future affords us the choice, would we buy our lives back? Although it is easy to think you’re anonymous behind a glass wall, trolling online spaces as a kind of simulacrum of yourself: You say what you want, and you become whatever you want others to believe you are, when the reality is you are on the ‘map’ like everyone else.
VIRAL consequently explores the paradoxes relating to the use of new technology and the perceived modern epidemic stemming from our interconnectedness (or perceived connectedness): our dependence on social media and the internet, our anonymity, our privacy, our self-gratification, and the voluntary acceptance of disinformation.