Since the 1990s Eva & Franco Mattes have kept a close eye on the Internet and its IRL entanglements, establishing a provocative body of work that runs the gamut from VR to sculpture. In a long-overdue homecoming, the pair stage their first Italian solo exhibition at FMAV Fondazione Modena Arti Visive. Most to Least Viewed presents a spectrum of works from their recent oeuvre, selected by a mysterious algorithm. The exhibition is curated by Nadim Samman.
Internet culture is conditioned by processes that take place out of sight. The attention economy metric of likes and views obscures our alienation from the inner workings of the platform, and its IRL entanglements: User Experience Design proposes a simplified relation to the system, establishing a liminal zone where reality, fantasy, and power intersect. Additionally, a flux of content represses context—the conditions which underpin image creation, factors influencing the visibily of such images, systems of circulation, and more. Most to Least Viewed probes this tension, taking up the relation between what is put on display and that which remains hidden.
Laid out in sequence from “most to least viewed”, the exhibition’s content mirrors the valence of the artists’ oeuvre across social media and web in the last twelve months. What works have done well is clear, but why this has happened is veiled in shadow. Why was a piece even in a position to be liked or viewed in the first place? In foregrounding the impossibility of answering this question, while presenting the results of an obscure technical process, the artists allude to the role of alien curatorial forces at play of the broader sweep of our lives.
Beyond the exhibition’s selection criteria, the works in Eva & Franco Mattes: Most to Least Viewed also express the artist’s longstanding interest in degrees of informational opacity, and the strange panorama of online culture. In the featured works, Eva & Franco Mattes elucidate the political interior of surface effects, examining censorship operations in social media; distortions of “natural” life engendered by digital tools, privileged access to secure domains, and increasingly untenable desires to disconnect. Throughout, the pair pay close attention to the possibility that the absurdiy of Internet culture may be a ‘feature’ and not a bug. Always, within the pair’s art, which holds up a mirror to information society, things are more than meets the eye.