The visuals for metaverse, Mark Zuckerberg’s conception of a future, virtual online space, were launched last October to near-unanimous ridicule. But within that mockery was an edge of panic. When viewers watched The Jetsons in the 1960s, they were charmed and excited about the future of technology. Watching Zuckerberg talk to cartoon simulations of the future on YouTube— we’re worried. We’ve seen what the internet can do and we’re not sure we want to live there anymore.
Curator Patrice Sharkey has been programming exhibitions about the internet for years, and her latest, Metaverse, invites viewers to stoke some scepticism about the corporations that control our online world. Sharkey says that this exhibition was inspired by how the internet challenges nation-states, encourages the commodification of self, and seems to “harden some part of our identity”.
Sharkey’s Metaverse has been created around two installations by Giselle Stanborough and Roy Ananda. Stanborough is presenting a new version of her Cinopticon (previously seen at Carriageworks in Sydney and The Lock-Up Art Space, Newcastle), which seeks to analogise the moment when your online attachments–your Apple watch, your phone GPS, your browser cookies— coalesce in a system of surveillance.
The hand-drawn aesthetic of Stanborough’s wall-work is contrasted with Ananda’s piece, which features a digital data spray arranged in a huge, isometric map. The information in this diagram is drawn from 400 online personality quizzes taken by the artist–from the quasi-scientific Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to those time-killing questionaries that ask, ‘Which Disney Princess Are You?’
Ananda’s attempt to locate himself via the triangulation of this metadata will be arranged in an immersive tunnel space. Sharkey hopes that by dragging the internet into a physical space we can appreciate Big Tech’s “utopian to dystopian” projections that seek to change our offline life forever. The metaverse might not be our future, precisely, but there’s no turning off the internet now.
This article was originally published in the March/April 2022 print edition of Art Guide Australia.