In her latest exhibition to open the 1st of July, Charlotte Colbert examines our relationship to the emoji. Now if your only exposure to emojis is through texting, we won’t blame you if you don’t take them all that seriously. But you’ll find out that there’s, in fact, a lot we can learn about identity, culture and technology with those cartoonish figures. Trust us, the exhibition is worth it.
Black and white film photographs adorn the Gazelli Art House’s walls on a warm Friday evening. We are greeted with a choice of beer, gin tonic or Prosecco on the exhibition’s opening night… Nice start to a Friday night. But let’s go back to the main attraction: the art.
Double exposure film photographs represent mostly female nudes wearing disproportionate emoticon masks. The images were shot in a now-abandoned, former lesbian commune in east London, which gives a gloomy feel to the artworks. Some images are layered with circuit boards, artificial intelligence and electronic waste which makes it clear that technology is at the centre of these staged photographs.
In one image three naked women are standing in a fierce and powerful way. One is wearing the sunglasses emoji mask, the other the sad emoji mask and the last one the monkey face emoji mask. It feels almost unsettling… While their faces were hidden behind emoticons, their bodies were proudly displayed. Perhaps a critique of our contemporary relationship on social media?
Actually, the questions meant to arouse in the visitor’s mind are clearly written on the walls. “How does co-existing in different worlds, the 3D physical world and the ‘other’ virtual world, affect our sense of self? Where do our bodies begin and end? What new senses are available to a human who is such a concentrated blend of matter and media? In what space does the ‘the other’ exist? In their physical presence or in the ‘nowhere’ space? As the fabric of our material and virtual worlds continue to blur – how is our own physicality going to be redefined?”
So the exhibition is about our identities in the digital age. The staggering juxtaposition of the old and new – the old being the run-down setting, the new being the emojis and technology, rises the question of the trace we will leave in history.
Charlotte Colbert explained that she started thinking of civilisation in the developed world as parodies of emojis families, she says, “There’s something wonderful about technology but something very dark. We’re coming back to a symbolic way of writing but it’s someone else’s interpretation.”
But our personal highlight from the show remains The Silent Man, a short film (screening on the 1st floor of the gallery) scripted and directed by Colbert starring Sophie Kennedy Clark (Philomena, Nymphomaniac), Simon Amstell (Nevermind the Buzzcocks, Black Pond), Cillian Murphy (Sunshine, Inception) and Ben Miller (Jonny English).
We won’t spoil it for you but let us just say that the the black and white 15 min film involves a psychotic women who can’t move on from her past love, a young stalker who is obsessed with the aforementioned lady and, the high point, Cillian Murphy as a human sex doll.