WHY AREN'T I THERE (draft)
by Kimmo Modig
26 Aug 2015
It's been a year since I closed down my Facebook account. Before that, I had already killed my Instagram and Twitter. The latter I still use, in Finnish, through a shared handle (@SUCHHELSINKI) to promote a gallery. And I use Soundcloud, too.
All in all, I've made it harder for anyone to be aware of what I'm doing. Either you see my work there, where it was meant to be seen, or you don't see it at all. It's useful to point out that "where it was meant to be seen" can be online, as well. For example, Applied Art was a work I made together with PWR and Jenna Sutela for online use (though, regrettably, without a set audience or on context in mind). I made "6 Minutes", an audio piece, for a group show in Iran (two shows, actually, in Teheran and Shiraz), where all the works were made for an app. Note: more concised version of that work was exhibited at Babycastles, New York, in 2015, under the title "2 mins of Northern European .wavs".
Locality doesn't merely equal physical spaces. When I show or perform at a given space, I'm communicating with people who are are connected to that place. I'm not particularly interested in some general idea of audience, since how could I talk to them?
My reluctance to use social media differs very little from my position on art institutions. In both cases, I go by the same maxim: If I can't reach the people who run the show, I don't wanna work there. Sometimes, I've done projects in museums or galleries, where I feel like I'm a nuisance they have to tolerate. Likewise, I don't want to showcase art in social media where I'm simply a content-creator for the owners of a company, with no control or chance for dialogue over the conditions of labour, so to speak. There might well be exceptions to this, such as newhive.com and to.be, though I haven't really looked at them thoroughly. At some point, I was really into artstack.com, but I haven't logged in for eternities.
Another reason for my disappearance from social media was my becoming disillusioned with the idea of public discussion. I felt public talk in Facebook consisted of little more than showcasing opinions, with no regard whatsoever given to listening to other people. I say this about myself, most of all. My existence in Facebook was a sorry performance fueled by hubris and depression, in equal parts. Lastly, my semi-addiction with social media gave extra boost to get rid of constantly looking at my phone, thinking what to post next.
I grew up with p2p networks and chatrooms. Soulseek, Napster, mIRC, weird browsed-based chatrooms, and, later on, Myspace, Yahoo! groups, specialized forums. IRC was my favourite. It didn't try to do anything besides allowing people talk with each other. Even today, I frequent chatrooms, especially for therapeutic reasons. I log in to rooms for people suffering from depression, for example. I enjoy anonymity and how it lets people be what they want, not what other people forces them to be. The other thing that's become more important to me is privacy. Not the my-life-is-on-Xkeyscore sort of privacy, but just talking in non-public places online. Video chats with no logs. Gchat with the selected few. These discussions are not about being an artist, but about peer support.
And here's another thing: Everything an artist does publicly, can potentially be art. Recording one of those aforementioned video chats could pass for a work. Tweets are being published as books. Every other press release seems to be a transcript/screen grab of the artists talking about whatever. Since that's the case, I don't wanna put out work that's merely there for algorithms to sharpen their claws. I see no point in creating works that hover around without an achor or coordinates.
Sure, this is a more complex issue, one which I can't or won't even try to wrap up here. What I'm saying here is 1. I want to work in spaces where me and my colleagues are more than just cogs in a system, 2. spaces that have character and integrity, that communicate and engage with their audience and artists, are amazing, 3. when listening & empathy seem to be lacking, get out. 4. everything can be art, so I wanna be careful of the "everything" I create and perform.
All of this being said, it's clear I'm speaking from a privileged position. I have the means to curate my digital existence. I've made friends online already and I'm content with the ones I have. And lastly, I can make friends and express myself IRL. So if it wasnt' clear to begin with, this text is about me, and I don't expect any of this to make sense in your life. I wrote this, because, as self-indulgent as it may seem, some of my dear friends kept asking me why I "left".
As you can imagine, my outlook affects the sort of works I do as an artist. They've lately been increasingly about the place, understood as broadly as possible, they are situated in. A performance I did at Baltic Circle theatre festival in 2014, titled Court of Helberg, was very much about the festival, both as an event in Helsinki/Europe and as an instrument for showcasing artists. In all honesty, the performance would've been much better had I concentrated more on the context, and less on my own shit.
The same goes for two group shows I've had the pleasure to participate in during 2015. First in February, at Space, in London, a show curated by Harry Burke and Oscar Khan who run (ran) Life Gallery. We talked over e-mail about a lot of things -mostly about the conditions of labour-, both with the artists only, and then with Harry. I wrote a poem and Harry wrote it to the gallery wall.
In June, I took part in my dear friend Georges Jacotey's show "Learning From Georges", at Fokidos gallery, which is located in artist Sofia Stevi's apartment, in Athens. I designed a coffee mug with the slogan "FETA IS NOT VISA", sprung from our constant jokes with Georges about the everyday intolerance I picked up in Finland towards Greek people during the EU/Euro crisis.
I didn't go to Athens, either, for the show. Still, both of these exhibitions meant a lot to me, and I felt a real connection. In both cases, I learned about their respective scenes, their localities and realities. The works were made for the show, for the people partaking in it, and hopefully channeled with love to the audience by the curators and staff (ok this is getting a tad rich).
I crave for connections and discourse, of course. I just don't want do it through channels that exist mainly to create statistical data for advertisers. Surely, I haven't thought this through well enough, but this is where I am currently with my thinking, "flawed and human” as Roxane Gay would have it.
If you're in Helsinki, call me up. My number is +358 44 363o 64o and my e-mail is money a t kimmomodig . c o m.
"f u for coming here for help" (2015), SPACE/Life Gallery, London. pic: Plastiques Photography