When I scroll on NewHive at 2am, with white, bright pixels glaring at me in that over-stimulating way the internet does to tired eyes, distracting me from sleep, I encounter art that uses the internet to combine the bedroom with emotion.
When I interviewed Rania Matar for last week’s column, she told me that most refugee camps have computers in the spaces where they sleep, so being online is clearly a defining part of private spaces around the world. There is a strange contradiction of bedrooms being a place to both find solidarity and feel solitude online.
The artist collective cybertwee encapsulates this very nuance – echoing also a need to inject emotion back into politics and art on the web. Their online manifesto that pulses with red love hearts in the form of a GIF reads “romantic is not weak. feminine is not weak. cute is not weak. we are fragmented and multifaceted bbs.” They are reuniting concepts that are often placed in binary opposites – technology and tenderness.
I think we can learn from cybertwee’s statement. The Internet is a platform where the bedrooms’ associations – vulnerability, loneliness, romance and femininity – are everywhere, but perhaps these things need to be reinstated as a strength and as powerful.
Perhaps the bedroom has the power to redefine and challenge this differentiation. It shows and shares with people the most personal moments, the most intimate place where we sleep, where we are unconscious and at our most vulnerable. Artists in Japan last year organised ‘internet sleepovers’ where participants were encouraged to sleep with a live webcam facing them – the website has a list of instructions, including “Set the camera towards you. Please put on a dim light towards you if possible… Let’s hangout in your dream.” The idea sprang from the fact that the internet never sleeps – and so needs an injection of the unconscious.
“there is a strange contradiction of bedrooms being a place to both find solidarity and feel solitude online”
Maybe, as viewers, we need to see this – to see this vulnerability on screen. But there is also something disturbing about the surveillance implicit in having your webcam switched on throughout the night. Any sense of privacy is stripped away, but also that isolation of sleeping alone in bed is eradicated – so are we more connected by this concept or simply violated in some way?
I think this paradox is one that so many people feel about living in ‘the age of the internet’. Taking this into account, I feel like there is a feeling of powerlessness in what is happening around us, at the speed of technology and the hyper-presence of cameras, so sharing willingly and exposing ourselves is a way of taking control and freeing ourselves from those restraints. This is what Molly Soda’s ‘Should I Send This?’ project seems to echo, publishing her own nudes as a means of empowerment and freedom from the limitations that are placed so heavily on women’s bodies.
There is definitely a gendered element to the relationship with space and the internet – and I think that digital platforms has allowed for an entirely new sphere of art to emerge, where the elitism in conventional and tradition artist circles has been limiting.
Art on the internet is not just there to critique it – it is also a really helpful platform to show and publicise artworks. NewHive is an online start up that showcases digital art – mostly taking on the form of mixed media – video, moving image, and animation. It exists among other platforms are Tumblr or Curioos, but it feels more experimental and reflective of the path that digital art is taking – built “by artists, for artists”.
“there is definitely a gendered element to relationship with space and the internet”
When I showed it to my mother who is an old-school painter and collage artist, she said it was overstimulating – too many colours and noises and movements. But for our generation, who are used to having screens and news constantly plugged in, it seems to be a form of contemporary art that fits in with our desire to access culture from our bedrooms, libraries and cafes. It has brought the exhibition to us – freed itself from the material gallery and the costs implicit in one.
One of my favourite digital artworks published on NewHive is by one of cybertwee’s members, May Waver, whose piece ‘Embedded Lullabies’ shows duvets rolling away from the camera, encapsulating the internet’s ability to share intimacy but also, through the folded fabric and concealing nature of the bed covers, it echoes a reluctance to fully show. The covers appear like natural landscapes and sunsets so that the bedroom is transient and pulled out of its natural habitat into an ethereal dreamscape.
The art historian, Cadence Kinsey, writes in a Mute interview that “with the ever-growing profile of what has been called ‘post-internet’ art, in which artists are questioning, problematising and redefining our relationship to this technology, it feels as though we are in the middle of some sort of moment of critical reflection.”
Perhaps the bedroom is emblematic of this critical reflection – a symbolic and spatial entity where we can explore the complicated and paradoxical relationship between exposing ourselves and feeling adverse to the forced scrutiny of ourselves in intimate, vulnerable spaces. Despite its un-human and technological make up, more than anything we should choose to use online space as a means to humanise, connect and create
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