Photo: Jana Judisch

Lick Your Phone and Your Skin Will Glow

The ParisXBerlin 2019 artist residency culminated in a multidisciplinary exhibition that took an artistic approach to F.O.M.O.


by Evdokia Prassa

“I am fearless.” “I can look for a solution, and if I can’t find one, I can let it go.”

At the backyard leading to Kunstraum Potsdamer Straße, a former underground car park morphed into an art space, these positive affirmations acquire the form of literal signs mounted on metal sign posts: They are the first thing that spectators of the art exhibition with the intriguing title “Lick Your Phone and Your Skin Will Glow” encounter.

The exhibition marks the conclusion of the artist residency awarded to the winners of this year’s ParisXBerlin art competition. It is the closing event of a week-long, full-time multidisciplinary art collaboration between art students from Paris and Berlin, under the mentorship of artist Dominique Hurth.

The theme of ParisXBerlin 2019 is F.O.M.O., the notorious Fear Of Missing Out that unsurprisingly goes hand in hand with the frenzied pace of the digital age, as the title of the exhibition suggests. The extensive array of art formats deployed for this artistic cooperation, ranging from performance and light art to found objects and music, are actually the constituent parts of a single, dynamic installation. – One that is consciously designed by its makers to require the viewers’ active participation in order for it to crystallize into an art piece. By including the audience in the artistic process, the resulting artwork is transparent about creative production and resists its own commodification through its elusive quality: It is an artwork-in-the-making that exists only as long as someone is engaging with it.

The massive, colour-shifting tableaus on which vibrant colours are projected are perhaps the most prominent part of the installation. One of the artists moves behind a tableau, which now has a bright yellowish colour, casting her shadow on it. She is taking selfies. Subsequently, more people start engaging with the tableaus. They are striking poses, dancing, sipping their drinks. Whether they are part of the audience or they are the artists themselves is not easy to discern. – The inconspicuous presence of the artists, not standing out from the rest of the crowd, seems to have been a deliberate move. This way, viewers feel more encouraged to be playful with the art on display, seeing that others are interacting with it. At the same time, this creative approach allows for the barrier between cultural producers and consumers to break down.

The notion that the fear of missing out is somehow connected to the contemporary obsession with social media, like Instagram and Facebook, might sound contradictory at first. Aren’t we effectively missing out by choosing to spend our time curating our virtual image? For Théophile Brient, one of the participating artists, F.O.M.O. cannot be separated from the never-ending quest for self-optimisation. This is what the affirmative mantras at the entrance of the exhibition symbolise. And there’s more of them, this time in the form of post-it notes, decorating the walls of the staircase that leads to the eerie underground art space, as well as at various points within the exhibition itself: “I am capable, I can do this, and I am equipped.” “I have responsibility for myself, not for anyone else.” “I am powerful. I can do anything, but not everything.”

Considering, however, the fast-paced rhythm of the hectic urban lifestyle, optimal self-improvement is an unattainable goal, as it is based on a desire that is doomed to remain unfulfilled. That is, efficient time management to the point of never missing out.

The colours projected onto the tableaus gradate from bright yellow to blue, and subsequently, to pink and purple hues. They represent the different phases of the day, from sunrise to sunset and dusk. As Brient points out, the installation has been purposely curated to foreground the futility of F.O.M.O.

The exhibition features various performances taking place in parallel at different corners within the art space: Individual artists narrating daily life stories in languages as diverse as French, Russian, and Korean; a bit further away, seated, Dominique Hurth reads out a list of why/how questions that are popular in Google Search. She is surrounded by several empty chairs, placed for the spectators, who soon join to watch her performance. The fact that all these micro-performances have been scheduled to take place at the same time makes it intentionally impossible for the viewer to experience them all. They will miss out, and they will eventually have to accept it and move on.

Photo: Jana Judisch

Photo: Jana Judisch

Photo: Jana Judisch

Photo: Jana Judisch

#Kultur & Freizeit