Technology is the signifier of our times, with people checking smartphones every 12 minutes. The question remains: how does this impact our daily lives? Artists shortlisted for the 2018 Aesthetica Art Prize, whose works are currently on display at York Art Gallery (until 30 September), explore the wider effects of the digital age, reflecting on over-consumption, media stimulation and emotional disconnection through a range of techniques.
Examples include Emerging Prize winner Electra Lyhne-Gold, whose video work Lost in Translation investigates advertising culture through mimicry and imitation. Inhabiting various personas and characters, the artist uses humour to usurp capitalism, offering surreal narratives taken out of their original, television-based context. Lisa Chang Lee’s interactive Laughter Project further questions the supremacy of an entertainment culture in the age of anxiety. The interactive sound device captures and recreates the viewer’s laughter, looking at its complex social and psychological effects.
Further investigating society’s dependence on new technologies, Peter Davis’ Cardboard Reality explores the emergence of VR and the relationship it bears to the real world. Reinventing the time-honoured technique of painting for the digital age, the pieces suggest a sense of isolation and separation from lived experience. In a similar way, photographer Shauna Frischkorn creates an ironic yet historical dialogue between the subjects and Renaissance portraiture. The series McWorkers captures Fast food industry employees who work day in and day out, whilst wearing conspicuous corporate uniforms. The body of work reflects on perceived notions of conformity and anonymity associated with job roles.
Offering wider political commentary, Main Prize winner David Birkin addresses themes of spectacle and loss, reflecting on the representation of contemporary conflict. Profiles includes includes photographic transparencies generated from identification numbers of civilian causalities from the Iraq War, questioning the values placed upon humanity. Noémi Varga’s The Happiest Barrack, applies the tools of cinematic storytelling to consider life in Soviet Hungary, whilst Fabio Lattanzi Antinori incorporates coded surfaces and data-informed structures in order to investigate information systems and the stock exchange.
Looking to environmental themes, Jiayu Liu interrogates the relationships between humans and nature. Ocean Wave offers an alternative approach to real-time interaction and a way to rethink traditional artistic creation, replicating the earth’s natural cycles through new media. Further exploring this relationship, Reginald Van de Velde’s photography captures abandoned structures reclaimed by their environment.
The Aesthetica Art Prize is open for entries until 31 August. Find out more here.
1. The 2018 Aesthetica Art Prize Exhibition, York Art Gallery.
2. Images courtesy of the artists.