Jon Kessler’s new exhibit The Web immerses us in our own electronically obsessed culture. The installation surrounds you with cameras, television monitors, moving images, and lifelike mannequins on cell phones. It takes a moment to realize, but once you enter the space you are being surveilled, photographed, and projected onto the exhibition, a monument to selfies.
It draws you in, seeing yourself from different angles, playing to your vanity. At the same time, it’s repulsive because it makes you entirely aware of the need in today’s internet culture to be seen and virtualized. Yet I can’t help but Instagram the moment, and then I realize it’s more of a joke than I thought, especially considering the artist created an app to photograph the exhibit and instantly project those photos onto the installation’s screens.
The Web is conceptually overwhelming, a fractal mind warp, though the installation itself is somewhat ugly, like the inside of a computer. Cardboard boxes enclose old TVs, Facebook-blue tarp is strewn around, and the security cameras pester you like flies in a trash can. But the point isn’t to appreciate the aesthetic, it’s to capture and observe. Like the cult of technology we’ve become, it’s the ritual of clicking that is what’s important, not what we’re actually looking at.