In This Is Presence, the Institute for New Feeling presents a digital voyage through their fabricated SEO (search engine optimization) marketing campaign, a web of interconnected sites populated with training modules, news articles, facility tours, clickbait, and social networking platforms, all linking back to the Institute. Over the course of this labyrinthine journey, the viewer is enveloped in a web of information, the experience of which is simultaneously soothing and jarring—a tension that produces a feeling of unease. The cinematography also playfully disrupts any casual viewing of the work, as close-up shots of different images pan outward, revealing their true nature. Expectations are upended, and a sense of the uncanny takes over. The manipulation of the viewer through different filmic strategies, and the use of familiar online interfaces, mirrors the ways in which our networked experiences of the world are being tracked and converted into marketing campaigns tailored to our perceived tastes and interests—a perverse reading of individuality through the lens of our online behaviors.
Speaking of their larger project, the artists explain: “The Institute for New Feeling is a collective founded by Scott Andrew, Agnes Bolt, and Nina Sarnelle, committed to the development of new ways of feeling, and ways of feeling new. As a group we assume the authoritative voice of the Institution, borrowing from the language of corporate branding as well as that of mainstream medicine, therapy, health, and beauty. Our work takes the form of treatments, therapies, retreats, and wellness products. We are interested in the wellness industry as a shifting, slippery intersection of capitalism, technological innovation, and the body.”
In a time of embedded lives and networked culture, where the screen acts as a mediator between the self and perceived reality, technology has ostensibly become an extension of the body, changing our relationship to space, ourselves, and others. Digital Bodies is a one-year program that features videos by artists who use and manipulate digital technologies-mainly computer-generated images, signs, and systems sourced from digital platforms-to reflect on how these technologies have impacted our everyday lives and changed the ways we relate to the world. Given our current state of constant digital expansion and acceleration, these works express the pervasiveness and indispensability of digital culture in shaping our daily interactions.
Digital Bodies is organized by the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University and curated by Carla Acevedo-Yates and Steven L. Bridges, Associate Curators. Support for this exhibition is provided by the Alan and Rebecca Ross endowed exhibitions fund.