Karl Kaisel - Art&Science - Task 2
The COVID-19 experience exhibiton
The exhibition takes place online because the pandemic affected most people across the globe. The Internet is something that the widest audience has access to. A location specific exhibition is reserved for a few who are in the area or can afford to travel to the location, therefore an online exhibition is the most appropriate for handling topics that had an effect on people around the world. We are getting used to online exhibitions, and considering the lack of effort from people to deal with climate change and destruction of the environment, the future is likely to continue with pandemics, therefore the future will be with exhibitions that can be experienced from home. This has given more people access to art and to a level lessened the exclusivity of galleries, making it possible for people across the world to take part in them.
The online exhibition is also very characteristic to our current era. Everything happens online starting from exhibitions, entrance exams, graduations to gathering with friends, Christmas parties. To give the viewer an accurate experience of the era it makes sense to put the viewer in a similar situation.
History is in general remembered by the deeds of the significant people. From the past there aren't many records of average people’s lives. Nowadays we have the Internet and social media which gives a glimpse into the lives of everyday people who necessarily don't have their names in history books, yet their lives are recorded by themselves. Meanwhile during a pandemic everyone’s actions have more weight than in normal situations. The hero of today is somebody who follows safety regulations and makes sure they do their best to avoid spreading the virus to others.
In the future, one can read about the facts and data of the COVID-19 but the actual experience of living through these times is going to be missing. During this pandemic there have been pictures online of safety methods during other pandemics of the past. These give us some idea how life was in the past and a little hope that humanity can deal with it once again. These photos feel much more real than pure facts about how many people died in the past pandemics.
The virus has affected people on every hierarchical level but it has been far from being an equalizer. The people who are hit the hardest are the poorest and the working class. These people don’t have too much of a voice although protests are becoming more and more widespread in current times. The voice of people can be found on the internet through memes. The financial and sociological background is not defining the success of memes. They are chosen in democratic process by the people by gaining popularity based on the humour and/or relatability. Memes are a reflection of our times, made by the left and by the right and everyone between. They are more commonly used by younger generations but as the time passes these people will be old but memes are likely to stay around in some format and therefore still exist in the future.
Memes are a form of art that reflect on many aspects of life. These can grasp the feelings and situations that are not considered significant by historians' standpoint but to understand history the best it’s crucial to not only know the dates but to also understand the mindset of the people who were living and dealing with the situation. This can make history more understandable and give it a context so future generations can learn from it and make their judgments more accurately.
As the pandemic confines people into their homes, spending time online as a way to escape and engage with the world is more relevant than before. Many people have spent countless hours looking at memes since there aren't too many options to be outside and the quarantine can kill motivation for being productive, therefore retreating to the comfort of memes. Memes are more than a funny image that we scroll through. They show what is on the minds of people, what causes frustrations, what causes happiness. There is a lot happening in the world and it’s difficult to find a medium that could somehow summarise the themes and situations of a particular era. What kind of topics matter and what is more irrelevant for a person of an era? Memes that become popular are an indicator of topics that have relevance, therefore they shouldn’t be underestimated and disregarded as just entertainment of younger generations.
Memes can be used as a political tool by evoking strong emotions or they can be used to make fun of political views. Politicisation of memes is the trend of today and in the future they can give insight into the minds of people behind the memes.
The aim of the exhibition is to give people the experience of everyday life in the global crisis. Not what happened with politicians, rich people, the economy, but a day of an average person. This time is unique due to the fact that life has moved online and there is more data available of the era than ever before, especially data from common people. This amount of data can be overwhelming and therefore it’s good to choose a topic that can cover the experience as a whole from many aspects, directly from the people. The medium like that is memes.
The exhibition itself is an online escape room. It can be either experienced through VR headset or through a computer screen. Considering the development of technologies there is a high chance that the Internet in some format will still be here 100 years from now and as VR is developing quickly it’s likely to be a more common household item that it is right now.
The escape room itself is a normal living room. It has various items in this room, some that are significant to the COVID-19 crisis. For example masks, hand sanitizers, delivery food boxes etc. The participant of the exhibition can interact with these items and as they click or touch them in VR they reveal memes reflecting on the era. This exhibition gives the viewer an opportunity to feel how it was to spend time in lockdown and experience the outside world only through screen and form of memes. Through memes one can see the frustration with the surrounding world, unhappiness with the regulations or the lack of restrictions, anger with others around us, the polarization of politics.
The premise of the exhibition is that it’s an escape room but the reality is that one can’t find a way out of the room. Only option is to experience what is happening outside through the objects that are around them.