This group show brings together a group of contemporary artists who explore how our identities are constructed in the age of the information superhighway.
Of the many incredible things the internet has given us – cat memes, transcontinental instantaneous video communication, limitless porn – maybe the most revolutionary is the ability to redefine ourselves. Between Facebook, Twitter, online gaming and countless other websites, you can basically be whatever the hell you want to be. It doesn’t matter who you are in real life – online, you can be anything.
It’s no surprise that a lot of contemporary art is obsessed with this idea, so this show of work from around the world acts as a neat self-portrait of a generation of (mostly) digital natives.
It opens with a series of recreations of Kim Dotcom’s seized possessions in an installation by New Zealand’s Simon Denny. Internet entrepreneur Dotcom is sort of the poster boy of this exhibition: a chubby German kid with a troubled background, he used the internet to change his name, move around the globe, become a celebrity, make his fortune and create his own downfall. It’s the ultimate internet transformation. A full-length portrait of Dotcom by Scottish artist Michael Fullerton hangs on an adjacent wall: the internet nerd as monarch.
Identity can be a struggle. Art world wunderkind Korakrit Arunanondchai’s video installation finds the artist trying to make sense of a world where tradition meets modern life. It’s basically a long, glitzy music video with tons of drones and denim, but it’s a fun watch.
In the rear gallery, English artist Ed Fornieles’s hectic video/interactive sculpture installation puts the viewer in the position of a debauched, angry frat bro, sat at his computer flicking through photo albums of toga parties. American net artist Ann Hirsch’s nearby sculpture traces the artist’s adolescent online relationship with an older man through teenage notebooks and suspended computer monitors. Suddenly, the show’s mess of identity and self-definition takes on a harder, creepier, funnier edge. It’s a star of the show.
There’s other good work here. David Blandy’s video meditation on collective guilt is powerful stuff, and Daniel Keller’s tanks of bubbling algae make a neat point about technological progress. Guan Xiao’s sculptures combining fake artefacts with surveillance equipment are probably the best composed pieces of art here. And Pierre Huyghe’s dark animated video about a manga character that he bought the rights to (with fellow French superstar Philippe Parreno) and then allowed to vanish is worth trekking to Camden for alone.
Be warned: there’s some shit art here, too. Some of the video pieces are way too long and just aren’t worth your time. But as a whole, the show works. It really works. It’s all so messy and hard to define that it’s a perfect response to its hugely relatable topic. The works here all just reflect the complicated struggle of trying to figure yourself out in a difficult world. If art’s meant to hold a mirror up to life, maybe it’s just hard to like everything we see in it.