The exhibition and research project Are We All Addicts Now? explores the seductive and addictive qualities of the digital. Artist Katriona Beales’ work addresses the sensual and tactile conditions of her life lived online: the saturated colour and meditative allure of glowing screens, the addictive potential of infinite scroll and notification streams. Her new body of work for Are We All Addicts Now? re-imagines the private spaces in which we play out our digital existence.
The exhibition includes glass sculptures containing embedded screens, moving image works and digitally printed textiles. Beales’ work is complemented by a new sound-art work by artist and curator Fiona MacDonald: Feral Practice. Beales celebrates the sensuality and appeal of online spaces, but criticises how our interactions get channeled through platforms designed to be addictive – how corporations use various ‘gamification’ and ‘neuromarketing’ techniques to keep the ‘user’ on-device, to drive endless circulation, and monetise our every click.
She suggests that in succumbing to online behavioural norms we emerge as ‘perfect capitalist subjects’. For Furtherfield, Beales has constructed a sunken ‘bed’ into which visitors are invited to climb, where a glowing glass orb flutters with virtual moths repeatedly bashing the edges of an embedded screen.
A video installation, reminiscent of a fruit machine, displays a drum of hypnotically spinning images whose rotation is triggered by the movement of gallery visitors. Beales recreates the peculiar, sometimes disquieting, image clashes experienced during her insomniac journeys through endless online picture streams – beauty products lining up with death; naked cats with armed police.
Glass-topped tables support the amorphous curves of heavy glass sculptures, which refract the multi-coloured light of tiny screens hidden inside. Visualisations of eyetracking data (harvested live from gallery visitors) scatter across the ceiling. On the exterior wall of the gallery, an LED scrolling sign displays text Beales’ has compiled, based on comments from online forums about internet addiction.
Where Beales addresses the near-inescapability of machine-driven connection, Feral Practice draws us into the networks in nature. Mycorrhizal Meditation is a sound-art work for free download, accessed via posters in Furtherfield Gallery and across Finsbury Park. MM takes the form of a guided meditation, journeying through the human body and down into the ‘underworld’ of living soil, with its mycorrhizal network formed of plant roots and fungal threads.
It combines spoken word and sound recordings of movement and rhythm made in wooded places. Feral Practice complicates the idea of nature as ‘ultimate digital detox’, and alerts us to the startling interconnectivity of beyond-human nature, the ‘wood-wide-web’ that predates our digital connectivity by millennia.
Are We All Addicts Now? has been developed in collaboration with artist-curator Fiona MacDonald, clinical psychiatrist Dr Henrietta BowdenJones, and curator Vanessa Bartlett. Accompanying the exhibition, a book designed by Stefan Schafer and edited by Vanessa Bartlett and Henrietta Bowden-Jones, brings together Beales’ and MacDonald’s artwork and writing with essays from contributors in the fields of anthropology, digital culture, psychology and philosophy.
This book is the first interdisciplinary study of the emerging field of internet addiction. Contributors will discuss their essays at a symposium convened by Vanessa Bartlett at Central Saint Martins in November 2017. Advanced copies of the book are on sale at the Liverpool University.
Beales’ work Entering the Machine Zone has been co-commissioned with Science Gallery London, part of King’s College London. An iteration of the work will be presented as part of HOOKED, the opening season of the new Science Gallery London, curated by Hannah Redler. In the run up to the exhibition, artists Charlotte Webb and Connor Rigby have been commissioned to produce a series of gifs and tweets to stimulate debate around the designed-for-addiction nature of digital devices, and the ethics and politics that surround this. Join the conversation @furtherfield on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #addictsnow.
Katriona Beales is an artist who makes digital artefacts, moving image and installation, stressing the physicality of digital life. Are We All Addicts Now? develops Beales’ 2015 work White Matter (a FACT commission for Group Therapy: Mental Distress in a Digital Age) which is showing at the University of New South Wales, Sydney as part of Anxiety Festival (Sept 2017). Beales’ received an MA from Chelsea College of Arts and has an artist profile on rhizome.org.
Fiona MacDonald is an artist, curator and writer specializing in human-nonhuman relationship. As Feral Practice, she works in co-production with a collective of human and nonhuman persons. Current projects include Foxing, (see PEErLondon, 2017) Ant-ic Actions (see Ethical Entanglements, Bloomsbury Press, forthcoming) Homo Mycelium, and Wood to World (London, Kent, Aberdeen 2015-17).
Vanessa Bartlett is a researcher and curator based between Australia and the UK. She studies and teaches at UNSW Art & Design, Sydney where her research investigates connections between digital technologies and mental health through reflective curatorial practice. Her recent exhibition Group Therapy: Mental Distress in a Digital Age showed at FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology) UK in 2015 and opens at UNSW Galleries Sydney in September 2017.
Dr. Charlotte Webb is an artist and deviant academic. She speaks and exhibits internationally, focusing on the web as a medium for creative practice, critical thinking and collective action.
Furtherfield Gallery is located in the middle of Finsbury Park attracting large numbers of diverse visitors reflecting the Gallery’s unusual location. Jenny Judova of Fad magazine picked Furtherfield Gallery as one of the top five galleries in London that show new media art and ArtSlant featured Furtherfield Gallery in “The Best Non-Profit Art Spaces in London”.
Furtherfield is an internationally renowned arts organisation specialising in labs, exhibitions and debate for increased, diverse participation with emerging technologies. At Furtherfield Gallery and Furtherfield Lab in London’s Finsbury Park, we engage more people with digital creativity, reaching across barriers through unique collaborations with international networks of artists, researchers and partners.
Through art Furtherfield seeks new imaginative responses as digital culture changes the world and the way we live. “There is no other gallery like Furtherfield. Situated in the middle of Finsbury Park they attract people from all walks of life and focus on contemporary technology and how it affects the lives of people and the world we live in.” (Liliane Lijn, artist)