Technology

These digital art installations ask uncomfortable questions about technology and its effect on society

What has technology really done to society? Are emoticons replacing real emotions? These installations at Palladium Chennai try to address such concerns

‘I document, therefore I am; I selfie, therefore I am’, reads a poster, next to which are multiple circular mirrors. Within the same section, is another mirror with lights along the frame — inviting one to introspect. The packed corridors of Palladium in the holiday season lead to a sudden diversion. Look closer and you can make out partitions in the dark: here is where this exhibit, among others, stands. Outside, sandwiched between a swanky Nykaa outlet and Starbucks, is another installation with panels that ask one to slow down, breathe, and walk in the direction it points at. It almost works as an echo chamber amidst the crowded, ever-so-active mall. These are a few of the many works that are spread across Palladium in Phoenix MarketCity, done by millennial (Generation Y) artists from across India. Each of these marries art and technology and further looks at the snares technology could lead to, in addition to its obvious advantages.

The curation documents digital art that expresses the millennial experience of nine up-and-coming artists and their engagement with technology. The 11 installations placed in different locations of the mall, some latent and others intrusive, invite the walk-in crowd to interact with the works. The interactive element appears easy enough for anyone who is curious to participate. While some are innovative, some fail to impress. Curated by Mumbai-based art historian Arshiya Lokhandwala, the entire display makes use of different media: sometimes an iPad, sometimes a television screen, projector, hologram, or even a VR experience.

These digital art installations ask uncomfortable questions about technology and its effect on society

“The exhibition was originally conceptualised for Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation in Mumbai. The idea was to get millennial artists to speak about the future with technology. We put out an open call and artists from across the country wrote to us. Finally, I vetted out the best of the lot,” says Arshiya, about the inception of the display which has been in the works for a year. Artists created a project based on their specific response to technology. Since they belong to a generation which witnessed the coming-of-age influence of technology on the country, their interaction with the medium covers different aspects.

For instance, Emotimash, Emote by Azra Bhagat, an interactive installation which invites the viewer to create a combination of two disparate emoticons, questions whether these are replacing actual emotions, and talks about how emoticons are the modern way of celebrating and sharing our feelings. It also addresses the other side of these little images, which sometimes are just false pretexts. Invasive Apparatuses by Ayesha Singh uses a VR experience to question our understanding of domestic environments through systems that are no longer limited to immediate interactions. Others take on a meditative state by making viewers do some “mindful walking” through the markers on the floor, while reading poems pertaining to technology.

These digital art installations ask uncomfortable questions about technology and its effect on society

“Each work looks at how technology has replaced something in our life and what it means. We should also stop to ask ourselves this. Sure, there is a fun side to it, but we also need to explore how this change affects us,” says Arshiya, adding that the display addresses both sides of the coin. She has also ensured the location of the installation resonates with the issue. Besides, a public space has its own perks. “On a day, there are more than two lakh people visiting the mall. Many of them will interact with the pieces that come in their way, and they become more accessible. This is what happens when a mall doubles up as a museum,” concludes Arshiya.

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Printable version | Feb 19, 2020 3:33:40 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/these-digital-art-installations-ask-uncomfortable-questions-about-technology-and-its-effect-on-society/article30410466.ece

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