An embroidered definition of the word "meme", a wall of tweets and a girl's room recreated solely from footage and images that she has put online. The connection? They are all installations at the newly opened Furtherfield Gallery.
The gallery is located in an old pavilion in the middle of North London's Finsbury Park, but the organisation behind it has been running since 1997. Marc Garrett is one of the co-founders of Furtherfield and is co-curator of the new space's first exhibition. He explains that the organisation was initially a reaction against Brit Art: "We founded the organisation because we didn't believe that our own culture could be mythologised and handed to us as a history of art that we didn't believe." It became, however, a hub for people to talk about social change and technology.
The first exhibition, Being Social, tackles everything from Sopa, privacy, data ownership and identity -- online and offline. For Angry Women, for example, Annie Abrahams asked women of a mixture of nationalities to come online and "express their anger". While the majority are artists, they do not know each other and yet are "trapped in a grid", as Abrahams describes it, listening to and being listened to by the others. Some rant and some listen while others read out prepared statements. The result is "a music piece that evolves over time", says the artist, but also plays to the notion that we present a selective view of ourselves online.
London-based Thomson and Craighead focused upon Twitter as a form of social engagement producing a new work in a series called London Wall. They searched for tweets about the postcode N4 (where the gallery is) for 10 days, chose those that they thought were of interest and created a wall of 100 fly posters of tweets for the opening of the gallery. Craighead, who is a senior researcher at the University of Westminster as well as a lecturer at Goldsmiths University, describes the result as a "collaborative poem with Finsbury Park". Thomson adds: "Twitter is an intersection between news, the social and the personal which makes it quite a compelling space. Some of the Tweets that we chose might seem quite banal on first glance but when they are viewed in an array alongside Tweets about things that were happening that week, they seem a lot more personal."
The duo have just returned from installing a work at the new Life Online gallery at the National Media Museum in Bradford, which is set to open on 29th March.
Essex-based artist Liz Sterry collated not only one form of online social engagements but all she could find about a Canadian blogger called Kay. Using everything from photographs to things Kay has mentioned in videos, blogs and posts on social networks, Sterry has recreated Kay's bedroom in the gallery. Speaking to Wired.co.uk, she says that many of the 350 visitors that passed through the exhibition on its opening day have been quite shocked at how much information she was able to gather in just seven months. It often prompts them to think about their own presence online.
This is one of the points of the exhibition, says Garrett, saying that he hopes that it will compel visitors to think in broad terms about how they interact online and what tools they are using to do it. He describes Facebook as the "McDonalds of the online world" stating it "tastes good but just makes you lazy". He explains: "You're feeding a corporation instead of making your own communities online and not critiquing why you're using this technology in the first place." Instead, he hopes to encourage people to be playful online, to explore but always be wary of what you're giving away. "There's a transaction going on, whatever that is… whether it's about copyright or whether it's about giving away information that you might not want to give away."
Being Social will run at the Furtherfield Gallery in Finsbury Park until 28 April. An audio tour will appear on this week's Wired.co.uk Podcast.