Virtual Virality, Online Intimacy & Digital Detox

Virtual Virality, Online Intimacy & Digital Detox

in times of the pandemic

Expo

13:00 - 19:00

Please note: this event has already taken place

Virtual Virality, Online Intimacy & Digital Detox

in times of the pandemic

Virtual Virality, Online Intimacy & Digital Detox is an exhibition at Melkweg Expo curated by Stein van der Ziel (1994, NL), resulting from his chosen entry for our 'Open Call for Curators'. The participating artists are Ali Eslami (IRN) and Mamali Shafahi (IRN), Diana Gheorghiu (ROU), Marge Monko (EST), Jun Ortega Sanchez (ESP), Ralph Pritchard (ENG) and Valentino Russo (ITA). Virtual Virality, Online Intimacy & Digital Detox is on view from 15 January to 27 February 2022, as both an online presentation and a physical exhibition.

We live in a world driven by dual virality. Or a dual world rather. Two sides more and more intertwined and integrated into one another. Both are under more and more pressure by their own two viralities dictating the ways in which we interact and connect. Leaving imprints on our ideals and beliefs, impacting our habits, self-image, and mental and physical health. 

The 31st of December will mark the two year anniversary of the first reported cases of SARS-CoV-2 by Chinese health authorities to the WHO. After almost two years of pandemic reality, as we are facing a fourth wave and consequent lockdown, the coronavirus still dominates most of our daily lives. From wearing facemasks to elbow-bumps, zoom classes to self-tests, we have developed a new set of activities and habits that quickly became natural. The “new normal”. 

These hand washing habits, however, are born from uncertainty and fear, rather than comfort. With every new variant, we are reminded that the physical virality of COVID-19 is scary, dangerous, to be avoided. Just like our immune system reacts to the threat of the virus when infected, so do we change our behaviour and interaction with others as precaution or self-defense against contagion. 

Most of the changes in our behaviour are meant to be limiting risks of exposure via social distancing and self-isolation. As weeks of quarantine became months of lockdown, we increasingly turned to the digital realm for connection and intimacy. The virtual world, however, is dominated by its own virality as well. Viral videos, trending hashtags, and TikTok dances rise to fame and replace each other on an almost daily basis.

Unlike in the real world, this virality isn’t scary, it’s desired. This desirability shapes the algorithms underneath the social media we use more than ever before. And the more we use these digital spaces, the more they become embedded into our lives. The more Covid forces us to go online, the harder it becomes to stay out of its grasp. And although some may present these newfound ways of online interaction and intimacy as a “cure” for the forced physical distance, feelings of loneliness and emptiness or even depression still set in.

Like the pandemic, online virality spreads exponentially. New trends, platforms and ways of communication have infected all our lives over the past 10 years with the long term consequences still mostly unknown. And as whistleblowers inform the world of how Facebook, or Meta, knew of the negative impact of Instagram on teenage girls, the need for a more conscious awareness of the online becomes clear. What does ever deeper digital immersion do to our bodies? What impact do isolation and online dating have on our ideas of relationships and intimacy? How do Instagram aesthetics impact our body standards? What immunological responses do we have when impacted by the virality of the digital space?

Visit the online exhibition: virtualvirality.melkwegexpo.online
Website design: Peter van Langen.
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