Monday, March 4, 2019

Social Media As a Means of Discovery

My feelings towards social media are ambivalent at best, especially towards Instagram. For one, I dislike when people constantly whip out their phones to record a moment or snap a photo of the food that has just been set down in front of them. I dislike how necessary it has become to share your life on your Instagram or Snapchat stories, rather than sharing experiences with the people who are with you. I dislike how visual my generation has become, on how focused we are on pursuing what is visually appealing rather than what is good. On the other hand, oversharing from other people has also put new restaurants and experiences on my radar. One such experiences was an art exhibition by teamLab.
In 2016, I returned home from my first year at Duke excited to see my friends and family, but also to see the teamLab exhibition at Pace Gallery, in Menlo Park, CA. Despite being on the other coast for the majority of the past year, I had known about this digital art installation for months... because it was all over Instagram. All of my high school peers who had stayed in the area after graduation were suddenly posting photos of themselves in a stunning display of lights and colors.

The installation looked beautiful, and clearly photographed well. Luckily for me, Instagram also has the option to tag where photos were taken. I had to go. I wonder sometimes, however, whether it was because I wanted to see this installation with my own eyes, or if I wanted a photo for Instagram too. A friend I went with was definitely the latter, but I am not so sure about myself.
This digital exhibition was the first of Pace Gallery's Pace + Technology series, and featured the interdisciplinary collective known as teamLab. Founded in 2001 and based in Tokyo, the group seeks to "navigate the confluence of art, science, technology, design and the natural world." By using technology to break down the boundaries "between humans and nature, and between oneself and the world," teamLab creates immersive installations for viewers to view and become a part of.
I went to the gallery and loved the experience. It was my first time experiencing art in this manner, and in the past year I've visited similar installations (one of Gustav Klimt's work at L'Atelier des Lumières in Paris, and Yayoi Kusama's "Gleaming Lights of the Souls" at Louisiana MoMA in Denmark). But I wonder whether I would have ever known about this type of contemporary art installations, if it were not for Instagram and social media.

Needless to say, I did take quite a few pictures at the teamLab exhibition, and I certainly did post a photo to my own Instagram account. But beyond just the photos, I had been able to become one with the art in a concrete, physical way. I was able to see the artists' work projected onto my legs and dance across my arm. I was able to sit quietly and watch as the art moved along the walls, changing so organically I was never sure when or if the projections recycled themselves. I felt at peace surrounded by art that seemed almost alive. The art was not bound by rigid frames, nor was my experience interrupted by blank wall. This style of immersive digital installations has become my favorite way to experience art.


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