Post-digital and networked photographic art | Brian Rope
ANOTHER/S/KIN | Maddie Hepner and Rory Gillen
Tributary Projects, Gorman Arts Centre | 20 October – 11 November 2022
Ever wondered what it would be like to inhabit another person’s life or skin? Or a step further, that person lives your life at the same time? It may not quite be that, but within ANOTHER/S/KIN Maddie Hepner and Rory Gillen undertook resided in each other’s internet lives. They exchanged their social media accounts and user data to explore how each other’s curated feeds influenced their online experiences, and how those feeds reacted to being hijacked.
In 2018, Rory Gillen completed a Bachelor of Visual Arts Photomedia Major at the ANU School of Art and Design, then in 2019, added Honours, Photomedia (First Class). In 2021, Maddie Hepner completed a Bachelor of Visual Arts (First Class Honours) Photography and Media Arts at the same ANU School. In 2021, both artists were recipients of PhotoAccess ANU EASS Residency Awards.
Gillen enjoys creativity and learning and figuring out how things work and then how to tinker with them. Hepner loved the overlapping of their collaboration but is not a technology nerd.
The artists describe their process as undertaking “a subjective analysis of a subjective network.” You may or may not know, leave alone understand, how the internet increasingly divides us algorithmically and ideologically. Having both worked within this area previously, these artists so certainly did know. Here, they aimed “to perform a radical act of transparency” – not being afraid to let each other see what they said or viewed on their social media accounts. They sought answers to the question “how does my feed inform what I know?”
This necessarily empathetic project also explored the nature of data collection and the voyeuristic exercise of witnessing. The coincidental recent hackings and releasing of personal data on the internet means many affected people are dealing with the question of how it feels to have strangers able to look directly at data about them. Does it feel any different having another artist directly looking at your data to having a corporation analysing or revealing your data? Does it make the collection more invasive? Does it make it more real? This show shares the results of the artists’ observations and collaboration.
The highly experimental artform they are practising is “post-digital and networked photographic art.” There are few practitioners of this artform in Canberra, some here and there elsewhere in Australia, but many in Europe and America. It is an extension of photography, videography and digital art. The artists consider the show to have become immediately dated since everything constantly changes on the Internet.
So, what is in the show? There is a joint audio work Persuasive Bargaining, inkjet prints, and “structures.”
Persuasive Bargaining – installation photo by Rory Gillen
Persuasive Bargaining ANOTHER/S/KIN – installation photo by Rory Gillen
GET-I (an experiment in withdrawal) detail – installation photo by Rory Gillen
There are also face casts of the artists, made together (with some friends assisting) in a very intimate experience, plus a broken merged piece. Uncannily alike, the face casts are positioned as silent viewers of Hepner’s video artworks.
ANOTHER/S/KIN 01 - photo by Rory Gillen
Epidermal Impact (imploded)(1) – installation photo by Rory Gillen
Those three video artworks are about topics that popped up repeatedly on Gillen’s social media account. Satisfying Scrapes (dirty carpet) is all about carpet cleaning - and somewhat hypnotic.
Satisfying scrapes (dirty carpet) – installation photo by Rory Gillen
Divulge and Devour is about the art of cake decorating on Reddit (a network of communities where people can dive into their interests, hobbies and passions) - with the video accompanied by audio of creepy stories.
Divulge and devour – installation photo by Rory Gillen
All Hustlers go to Hell is about the deeply misogynistic cigar smoking internet persona, Andrew Tate, who has been banned from several social media platforms.
All Hustlers go to Hell – installation photo by Rory Gillen
Weird right? But then what strange video material do you see on your own social media accounts? And do you understand why it is shown to you?
Gillen pulled out images from different things he saw on Hepner’s account and created abstractions from very small selections of pixels. What we see exhibited is Content - a multi-dimensional, ever-changing abstract on a screen re-purposed from his 2021 exhibition Uncalibrated Space.
Content – installation photo by Rory Gillen
This review is also available on the author's blog here.