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“I Was Raised on the Internet”
MCA Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Recommendation by Robin Dluzen

Sophia Al-Maria, "Black Friday," installation view at Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Jul 26–Oct 31, 2016. Photo: Ronald Amstutz

Continuing through October 14, 2018

Entering the galleries of “I Was Raised on the Internet” feels like plunging oneself into the universe within our screens. A darkened gallery is filled with screens and projections, the cacophony of the videos’ audio ever distracting and compelling us towards the next. The more than 100 works are made for, about and because of the internet, the entirety abounding with the extraordinary characteristics of the web: human connection, unfiltered self-expression, novel invention. But there is the other side of that equation, which contributes to the specific anxieties of our age: trolling, surveillance, over-stimulation and encountering by chance disturbing things that one can’t unsee.

The exhibit includes works that utilize the more passive viewing experience we’re used to in a museum, like paintings, sculptures and photographs. However, the pieces that are the most impactful are those that hinge upon our direct interaction. The best examples are Jon Rafman’s “Transdimensional Serpent,” in which we must don virtual reality headsets; and Thomson and Craighead’s karaoke installation, “More Songs of Innocence and of Experience.”

Other works, while not explicitly interactive, resonate deeply, like Bogosi Sekhukhuni’s “Consciousness Engine 2: absentblackfatherbot,” in which a pair of screens with floating, animated heads reenact Facebook chats between the artist and the father he never knew. Sekhukhuni’s piece illustrates some of the profound components of our shared contemporary experience, of mediated emotions, of the mingling of personal and public. The psychological impact of these works en masse makes the exhibit quite taxing to fully engage. Many of these works speak to truths that we can’t help but internalize.

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago | MCA Chicago

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