It’s a clear image and, due to its repetition, its likelihood contains multitudes:
The art museum visitor stands in front of a canvas, staring longingly. At the last second, they turn around. Click! Their friend captures a picture, ensuring the inquisitive expression is still in place.
"Oops, you caught me enjoying fine art!"
Now ... what if this image — or something like it — became the art? A true-to-size iPhone screenshot hanging on a gallery wall. Or a blown-up mirror selfie, perhaps?
The Walker Art Center’s newest exhibition, “The Body Electric,” plays with this idea. Having opened Saturday, the exhibit “explores themes of the real and virtual, the organic and artificial, moving from the physical world to the screen and back again,” according to a press release.
Simply, it’s about technology and its relationship to the body (or vice versa). Physical versus digital … or maybe both together.
With pieces spanning the last 50 years, the exhibit features touches of virtual reality, case studies in performative identity and — yes — a giant blown-up mirror selfie and a line of iPhone screenshots.
Walk through the exhibit’s rooms and you’ll find sculptures, videos, photographs, stationary bikes and television screens. Technology and self is a broad topic, you see — beautifully curated here yet impossible to fully encapsulate.
Divided into five sections: “Beyond the Frame,” “Performing for the Camera,” “Extending the Self,” “The Power of Images” and “The Malleable Body,” commentary differs not just from room to room, but from piece to piece.
In “Extending the Self,” visitors are treated to both Simone Forti’s delightful '70s hologram dance pieces (walk slowly around them for the full effect!) and Aneta Grzeszykowska’s dismembered body part “Selfie” sculpture and photo series.
Some of "The Body Electric" is scary, some of it’s goofy and some of it might be both — depending on your relationship with humanoid digital avatars.
Because there's a lot to think about, much of the enjoyment here is that you can always move on to the next piece. Change the channel (again: there are plenty of televisions!), change the ideology.
Want to bask in the strangeness of captured and repeated gestures? You can. Want to think about how you, personally, perform for the camera? You can do that, too.
But be warned: when we begin to think of our Instagrams as public art pieces, the ease of social media scrolling may diminish. How do we relate to technology? How does technology relate to us? This is a good place to start thinking about it.
Photography is permitted in the exhibit, so feel free to snap away. Then leave the exhibit, go home and choose what shot to post. There’s nothing to say besides it’s meta, baby. Meta meta meta.
What: “The Body Electric”
When: Now - July 21, 2019
Where: The Walker Art Center, 725 Vineland Pl., Minneapolis
How much: $15 general admission, $10 for students, free for all on Thursday nights