Intimacy and spectacle in the age of social media

 

On numerous occasions art has sought to dissolve itself in everyday (revolutionary) praxis, to become one with life, to find its application in various fields of human activity, putting an end to passive posing in museums and galleries. This transformation, envisioned by thinkers from Hegel to Guy Debord, has indeed found expression in creative forms which found their manifestation not in galleries and museums but in the public sphere, in the realm of the political, of design or commerce. Yet even there, stepping outside the frontiers and concepts of art, art was still created by artists and identical with the artist. It remained art.

 

But what happens when politics, commerce and the public sphere imitate art? When performance and installation serve a purpose different than that of art?

 

After artists declared themselves free to use all means human experience has to offer, representatives of business and politics were quick to make use of the opportunities for manipulative representation, developed by art. Nowadays we are witnessing numerous symbolic and performative gestures in public and political life we hitherto thought characteristic only of the artistic realm.

 

Are there really boundaries between art and life we would like to keep? The “Intimacy and spectacle in the age of social media” project aims to study those liminal situations, frameworks and platforms where parallel and diverging representations of art and the public sphere are possible. They could be accessories, supplements to art – parerga, but they could also be means to various propaganda aims (commercial or political).

 

To this end we turned our attention towards existing structures in public space – window shops in the urban space and social platforms on the internet.

 

Window shops reflect and multiply the value of objects presented in them. In science and medicine, glass covers were introduced to preserve samples or specimen for research and observation. In religion exceptional and rare objects are displayed behind glass. Museums introduced glass cases for the same purpose – that of displaying precious and rare exhibits, but they also play their role in the principle of their classification. Glass display cases do display but they also make the object displayed inaccessible to touch. Window shops play with all these elements and present artefacts as an object of desire – inaccessible, shiny, removed from the banality of the everyday. Nowadays this representative function of the window shop is ever more replaced by the screen of the television or computer, in the online space.

 

Window shops are related both to the object’s value, and to the perception of transience – the dead Snow White is laid to rest in a glass coffin atop a mountain peak. The pandemic has emptied many of the shop windows but erected transparent barriers, putting us humans behind glass, separated from one another.

Paradoxically the transience expressed by glass covers is today present in our everyday lives, in communication and in the most trivial situations.

 

The Largo in the heart of the capital Sofia is an institutional node of power of the contemporary state. Its surface is a scene from which power sends its messages but also a scene of protest and public discontent. Yet under the surface the Largo has been transformed into a museum display case of sorts. It preserves the remains of the ancient city of Serdica, offers tourist information and souvenirs but is also a meeting point and place of spontaneous expression for youths.

 

Between 10 and 20 June several Bulgarian and international artists will present art installations, performances and screenings at Serdika's Decumanus Maximus and online, reflecting on the current dynamic situation where private space and spectacle are constantly exchanging places. The motto "presentation is everything", produced by window shops and the rise of consumer objects almost a century ago, has nowadays pervaded all spheres of life. Presenting the image can now substitute the event, object or work itself to an extent where we could organise this exhibition even as a simple succession of images in mediatic space....