For the kids of generations raised with little to no technological privacy or anonymity, that electronic communications are mined by tech corporations, and the data shared with national governments, is a given. At 24 years old, London-based artist Mark Farid sees himself as part of perhaps the last generation that can remember a more private wired world.
Farid explores this in his latest exhibition, Poisonous Antidote, an online gallery (Gazell.io) where he offers up his various online presences as 24-hour public portraits over the course of 31 days. The data from emails, text messages, phone calls, Skype conversations, and other platforms are then used as fodder for an abstract, ever-evolving 3D-printed sculpture made of four unique parts, each portraying a week of Farid’s life.
“I’m really interested in individual autonomy that I have and you have and what makes me, me, and you, you,” Farid tells The Creators Project. “Privacy and anonymity are very, very important rights we have over individual autonomy. I think they are arguably the most fundamental rights.”
Last October, Farid gave away all of the passwords to his digital accounts as part of his exhibition, Data Shadow. Farid says he didn’t want a digital footprint—he wanted to remove himself from everything, from social media to the government’s data mining practices. Farid stayed free of social media for 10 months, and only recently reentered various social media platforms for Poisonous Antidote.
This time around, Farid is very much focused on the editorial side of social media. That is, social media users’ careful life curation practices, where social media stardom is pursued and self-validation ideally secured.
“Being more of an outside observer, I’m seeing my friends doing it more,” Farid says. “They look like they’re having more fun than I am having... [and] this is why I think a discussion over whether social media is good or bad needs to be had, because really I think people are happier as a whole because of social media validation people are getting from each other.”
“But I think there are definite negatives,” he adds. “I think the culture is starting to be down-pinned a little bit. I see less goths, emos, townies and whatever—culture seems to be flattening, but then it’s unifying people... it’s globalizing culture.”
With Poisonous Antidote, Farid takes the over-sharing to an extreme, calling it a “news feed of my life.” Any type of electronic communication is posted to the online gallery within 15 seconds, and phone calls are uploaded as soon as they are finished, with a five-second delay just in case something sensitive is said to Farid.
“I’m interested to see how I self-censor and how I change my actions because everything is being broadcast live,” says Farid. “Will I stop saying certain things to certain people? Will I try to look more interesting and fun, so will I go on different websites?”
“I’m a Leicester fan and [the team] won the Premiere League last season,” he adds. “I’ve had a season ticket my whole life, I was born there—that’s my team and it was the greatest story in the history of the world. So all I ever read about is Leicester football club, and I know that that will be very boring, and I don’t want people to see that that is what I do, so I probably won’t do that as much, and I’ll do more interesting things maybe.”
On the right-hand side of the website, the gallery’s visitors can see the ads that are being blasted at Farid at any given moment. Because he had to make new social media accounts, the advertising will become more and more granular and targeted.
“Advertising at first will be very standardized and really generic, but as it starts to get more data about me you will see the adverts slowly tailoring to me,” Farid explains. “I’m interested to see when that happens, because the way [the site] is designed it’s aligned with the timing of stuff.”
While this data in and of itself would intriguing enough, Farid wanted to see how it could be made physical. To create this evolving sculpture of the digital self, Farid is collaborating Vicente Gascó, an artist, product designer, and 3D fabricator. Gascó wrote an algorithm that 3D prints Farid’s daily data. So those who visit Dover Street Gallery will be able to see the 3D printer fabricating Farid’s data portraits over the entire course of the exhibition.
“Because of the variable in the data [since] each day can be so different, we’re trying to bring consistency to be able to make them join together so it can get bigger,” Farid explains. “It’s kind of abstract but not abstract. We don’t want it to look like a normal sculpture of data. We want it to be different.”
“I really see it as poisonous antidotes—I’m not a huge fan of the title, but I like it in summary of what my opinion of it is,” he adds. “To take a line from Dave Eggers’ The Circle, I do really see the internet as this thing that is tearing this hole inside of you but only the internet can paper over the cracks of it, and it just gets bigger and bigger. I kind of feel that that is what it is.”
Click here to see more of Mark Farid’s work.