Selfie interested

Venturing out for some culture on Sunday afternoon, my partner and I found ourselves at the Nick Cave (artist, not singer) exhibition, ‘Until’, currently being staged at Carriage Works in Everly, Sydney. A fine example of immersive work that raises questions, peaks emotions and disturbs sensibilities.

More disturbing than the artwork however was the intrusion of the mobile phone. We couldn’t walk more than a few steps without running into someone trying to take a selfie, without seeing a tourist tilting head forward, shoulder back with hand on hip or a young couple capturing their happiness to the artistic backdrop.

The exhibition has four different immersive experiences and many patrons seemed to be missing the point by trying to insert themselves into the surroundings, smiling and posting on social media.

Not only was it increasingly frustrating to walk through having to avoid being an accidental photo bomber while people persistently set about recording themselves, but I started to get annoyed on behalf of the artist, his work was, after all, being reduced to a mere backdrop. The point of the exhibition is lost on the vain creatures who fail to observe and are preoccupied with their own image. Ironic given the dark undertones of the exhibition that explores racism and cultural misappropriation. If felt to me that work is being misunderstood and misappropriated as a tool for self-promotion. I guess the benefit to the artist is the inadvertent promotion but is that a fair trade? Is it a given for any artwork to be used in this way if publicly displayed?

One section of the exhibition is a room with multiple projections. The floor an ocean of waves moving over rocks, the walls change from large all-seeing eyes to a questioning of historically inappropriate racial symbols. Yet one young woman seemed to think this was a good place to take sexy videos, contorting her body as best she could with arm reaching out at full extension, faithful camera phone in hand. No shame in the fact that others were in the room wanting to appreciate the artwork, it was suddenly her private backdrop to an array of lurid poses. I’m no prude. I don’t mind a little lurid pose every now and then, but it felt a little yuck seeing an artwork used out of context. 

I walked away muttering a deep discontent for fellow visitors and a little broken hearted for the artist and the organisers of the exhibition, disturbed by the fundamental selfishness of the selfie. I was angry at my fellow humans for their shallowness and lack of consideration, collectively displaying an inability to act with regard for others, not just the artist but other patrons like myself that actually wanted to appreciate the art work and not feel like it’s an intrusion on a photoshoot.

The mobile phone has brought many advantages, but it’s hard not to judge it as a major culprit in the degradation of manners and appropriate social behavior. Perhaps I’m just a cranky middle-aged man looking for things to get annoyed with, but frankly, I wonder if the mobile phone should be prohibited in certain situations where their presence is an intrusion or where my fellow humans are unable to regulate their use.

What do you think? Am I just a cranky misanthrope or do I have a valid point?

Evan Shapiro
Author – Road to Nowhere

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dannybloom
Guest

Valid point

dannybloom
Guest

I agree 10000 percent, Evan. In a venue like this, the organizers of the show should set out table or a room where all mobile phones are collected with names of patrons and then haNdedcback to them when they leave. Just making a sign “pleSe contactable selfish inside the show” wouldn’t work. Nobody would pay attention to that polite request, even if signed by the artist. What do you think?