The Art in the Age of Anxiety exhibition which has recently opened at the Sharjah Art Foundation, explores art in the age of the internet. It has been curated by Omar Khloeif, and ‘brings together a diverse, global group of contemporary artists who explore the ways every day devices, technologies and digital networks have altered our collective consciousness’. It includes all kinds of artwork such as sculpture, VR, prints and video by artists such as Simon Denny, Eva and Franco Mattes and Lawrence Abu Hamdan.
Hoor Al Qasimi, director of the Sharjah Art Foundation said ‘Art in the Age of Anxiety explores critical questions in contemporary art and society through the work of a diverse group of artists from around the world’.
Anxiety and the internet has shaped all aspects of creative life. Eva and Franco’s three pieces which are featured draw on internet memes and the theme of becoming ‘viral’. Their piece ‘Ceiling Cat’ is a taxidermy cat peeking through a hole in the ceiling, ‘always watching you’, Eva said of the piece, ‘it’s cute and scary at the same time, like the internet itself; a global surveillance system in a glossy glittery wrap’.
Simon Denny’s work has also been shaped by anxiety: ‘I make artwork to try and understand and communicate contradictions experientially’, he says, ‘I think if something makes me anxious, I wanna know why, and an anxious feeling can be a clue to finding compelling things to work through in artwork’.
The exhibition is being shown at a prominent time in terms of anxiety. The current pandemic, lockdowns and government regulations have been effecting everyone’s anxiety in different ways. Simon says ‘the way that technology informs and distorts communication and has had an impact on politics’ also interests him, and he tries to ‘distil some of these things into objects, images or experiences’.
There is no doubt that Art in the Age of Anxiety is thought provoking and explores critical questions in society. Eva and Franco have concluded that the ‘internet is made of people’ and they hope that the viewers ask themselves, ‘how am I being used by these technologies, how are they influencing me, how are they shaping my fears and desires, my memories and my sense of self? What is the price I’m paying for these ‘free’ services?’. Simon hopes that that his work also provokes questions about the use of the internet, ‘Who designs the technical and informational perimeters for communication today? Why do technologies function the way they do? How does power morph and change form given new technical systems?’. Even if you don’t get to visit the exhibition, these are critical questions which we can all ask ourselves if we are struggling in the role the internet and social media plays in our lives.
Art in the Age of Anxiety is open now at the Sharjah Art Foundation.