Artist Jonah King explores the warmth of a simple human gesture as it exists within a digital realm.
“All My Friends Are In The Cloud” features King’s latest work. It’s on exhibition now through Oct. 13 at University Galleries in Uptown Normal. The ongoing project digs into the pleasures and contradictions of a hyper-connected world as it draws from a constantly expanding archive of digital materials showing people embracing. The images appear at the bottom of a column of monitors, then slowly rise, twisting and slowing disintegrating into a collection of fragments.
“I was thinking about photographs and why we take photographs,” said King of his latest work. “And the way we try to hold moments outside of our experience of time. And that photographs represent a demarking of a moment, in an attempt at immortality, and how technology alludes to a promise of an experience of time beyond our own biology.”
The curator of “All My Friends Are In The Cloud” is Zach Buckley, an arts technology candidate in the College of Fine Arts at Illinois State University. There is an interactive component to the exhibition, said Buckley.
“We’ve built this structure that is really halfway between a photo booth and an airport security checkpoint.”
Gallery visitors can enter the structure, embrace, and have their photo scanned in 3-D into the archive for “All My Friends Are In The Cloud” and join the reoccurring loop of other embraces in the project. The installation is technologically complicated and required several support staff to help build it in the gallery. “We’re creating something new here,” explained King. “We’re inventing. We’ve created a completely new device. I hope it lives on past this show and continues to accumulate more people embracing.”
“We’re dealing with this moment of capture with the photo booth," Buckley said. "But then also there’s this sense of security and passage and, on some level, a sense of surveillance that comes with these airport security check points.”
Those two components highlight the two-sided coin that technology has become.
“The same technology, in principal, that brings you joy in a photo booth is largely the same technology that creates these airport security scanners. It centers on this conversation about Utopia and technology and is it this thing that lives on one end of the spectrum or the other. Or is it something more fluid and malleable, depending on how you use it.”
The exhibition offers the opportunity to consider the many iterations of love, and love as a kind of radical agent, said King.
“But it also looks at the way we give up our data, the way that we are collectively surrendering so much to somethings, creating this large, incredible mass of stuff. And that’s a complicated thing to have to face.”
There is a bittersweet aspect to the project.
“With a photograph or an image, there’s a distance. A memory is a moment in time that continues in your head, but a photograph stands outside of time. It’s something that arrests time. And every time you look at a photograph, there’s this abyss between you and the time that that photograph was taken. And with someone you love, especially someone you’ve lost, that abyss become immediately apparent when you see the photograph.”
“I think there’s a weird kind of sadness in seeing those moments over and over and over on a continuous loop, frozen in one moment. There’s people who have already been involved in the project who are maybe not together anymore and it might be painful for them to see. And that’s just the nature of the work.”
“All My Friends Are In The Cloud” continues through Oct. 13 at University Galleries.
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