Located in the quaint, bland, sandy, industrial-like plot of land south of Sterling Rd. and Bloor St. West lies MOCA -- the Museum of Contemporary Art. Curated by Shumon Basar, Douglas Coupland, and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Age of You is an exhibit about you, for you, created by others like us. Our relationship with technology may seem so mundane to many of us, yet we’re constantly so enamoured and consumed by it.
How many times do you open Instagram in a day? In an hour? In a minute? How long are you on it for? Many of us might have our “daily usage” timer on, but what do you do when you see it pop up on your screen?
One of the many things this exhibit demonstrated is how, even with such easy access to almost any kind of information online now, technological culture as a whole is just so complex - and probably consists of facets we aren’t even aware of - that we wouldn’t even be able to piece it together comprehensively at this point. It’s difficult to say for certain if any aspect of the technological culture we live in today is good or bad, but we sometimes go days, months, years without giving some things like this thought.
This art exhibit asked for a lot of contemplation and speculation of its viewers by literally asking questions without explicitly providing answers, but by also obliging us to face some harsh or assertive perspectives. Judging by how we engage with things like Instagram today, it shouldn’t have asked for anything less.
Age of You was an exhibit that needs to be talked about; not just me or you alone, but by all of us religious tech users. Here’s a review of Age of You, and an attempt to start a discourse within the Ryerson community, and/or contribute to the overall discourse about your relationship with technology, its relationship to your expression of identity, what that identity really is… If you’re someone who contemplates or is passionate about the intense presence and influence of technology on our lives today, this is the review for you. Using specific features from the exhibit, you - the reader - get to see some of what you may have missed if you didn’t attend the exhibit and then some.
“The opposite of [this] is no longer [that],” then what is? Assertions like these were made throughout the entire exhibit without giving any explicit context or further information. If the opposite of the self if no longer the crowd, and the opposite of man is no longer nature, then what is? Was it ever the crowd, or ever nature?
Some may say our true selves are disconnected from our “presented” selves now more than ever. Do you agree with this? Do you ever compare your real life identity to your online identity? Do you ever do the same to others? “History no longer applies to you” One may think this is a false claim in the realm of the internet. For example, unless we take our social accounts down ourselves or someone has access to do so, things we share and post online tend to stay online indefinitely. That could be “history still applying.” Or perhaps it no longer applies to us because our shared content online can be wiped in an instant. Lots of room for interpretation here.
Another aspect of the gallery that was interesting to see was this perpetual and constant appearance of social media post “comments” (as seen on the bottom left of the image to the right). Some may have pertained to the work it’s printed on, some may have not. In an interesting and ironic way, they sort of bring the viewer back to reality in the way that, while we’re looking at all of the artwork in their large-sized formats being hung from the ceiling, we’re encountered by a sense of familiarity from these “comments”; little captions formatted as comments we may see on our own apps on our own time. They’re relatable.
Pieces like this one in the exhibit really make us think about our perception of good vs bad. Most people would say stalking and attacking are for sure bad (and maybe you’re thinking, “most??!” I’m just not trying to generalize). Bragging? It’s interesting to think that that’s what many of us do now; on our stories, on our posts, everywhere. We’re desensitized to it. Many times we brag without even saying anything; the simple sharing of an image could imply it. Sometimes we brag about the weirdest things.
Ever saw someone’s post about their [ insert something you find completely disinteresting but see posted EVERYWHERE ] and thought, “wow. who cares?” This kind of culture has also made us a bit more hostile towards others, no? Meanwhile, we’re the ones who subscribe to these posts. We chose to follow them. You can also choose not to.
Someone may be stubborn and try not to accept this while attempting to figure out a way to escape this; the fact that the online world has now completely replaced the real world. Is it possible? To escape this new reality? Can we really change?
Some of us may have grown up being taught that we can’t always have what we want. And as you’ve grown older, you may have been taught that you must earn your rewards. In this day and age, we’re spoiled with attention. Spoiled with giving it. Attention has never been so easy to exchange and we all love it. But even still, some may say they’ve never felt more lonely.
Another great part of the exhibit was its questioning of what exists beyond just the users of social media. Aside from ourselves, who else has access to our data? What can they do with it? There’s this whole other realm of the digital culture we’re so immersed in that most of us know nothing about, yet is still just as prominent in the world of technology. Who’s really behind all of this?
It’s scary to think about but, are we too far gone to make a change? Do we even need a change? Technology now affects every single person across the globe. It is integrated in almost every possible activity we do, and many people are comfortable within this intensity -- perhaps you’re one of them. But whether one is ignorant or not about these issues, that’s just the thing: technology and the digital world are so deeply infused in the blood of its users – it’s like a cancer. Whether you choose to ignore or pursue it, it’ll still be there, possibly getting worse, and we’re caught in the middle. Ignorant or not, you’ve made it this far already.
Platforms like Instagram are almost like the “parallel universe” so many people have contemplated for years; only thing is we can observe both worlds. Some people act differently on it, present themselves differently, or perceive things differently; of course in different extents but it really is some kind of parallel universe to the “real world” or whatever you would call life outside of the digital realm.
Of course, this is merely one perspective from one person who attended this exhibit; it’s up to you to decide how to consider all these perspectives and manage your interpretations. That’s one of the main themes of the entire exhibit anyway; your own individuality. Something that this exhibit really made clear for me is, even though you may think you know about your relationship with social media and your identity on social media, some things really need to be spelled out for us and smacked in our faces for us to understand what’s really going on.
Do you have any friends, or know anyone who attended Age of You or cares about this kind of stuff? Start conversations. Share perspectives. Everybody may use social media for similar reasons, but bottom line, everyone has different ways of perceiving information, sharing information, expressing themselves, etc. Everybody may actually have different reasons for using social media. These are things that are left unknown until you make them known. All change starts with a thought.
Further reading: INTERVIEW: SHUMON BASAR TALKS “AGE OF YOU” EXHIBITION AND THE EXTREME SELF https://pinupmagazine.org/articles/interview-shumon-basar-the-age-of-you-moca-toronto-extreme-self-eva-munz
Official Exhibit Programme: https://museumofcontemporaryart.ca/age-of-you-programmes-2019/
Images taken by Mia Yaguchi-Chow, but all captured artwork belongs to the artists and curators of Age of You. Specific image credits can be found on the bottom left or right corners of their pieces.