The exhibition by Kai Rennes features two works, Andromeda and Molenbeek, that address the issue of social media. In both pieces, Rennes makes use of pictures uploaded to social media platforms; decontextualised, the pictures awaken questions about the way our self-image and personal encounters become altered in these media. Our behaviour is at once concealed and revealed and steered by desire, thus turning our self-image into a brand.
Andromeda consists of online images of men in front of a mirror. In the mirror images, their faces are obscured by the flash even when the rest of the body can be very exposed. Hung on a wall, the multitude of flashes creates a kind of star map in which individual ‘stars’ disappear into the mass. Molenbeek consists of captured stills from a social media service that allows real-time streaming. In the pictures, young people in Molenbeek-Saint-Jean, a municipality in the Brussels capital region, exhale clouds of smoke in front of their faces. The Molenbeek district loomed large in world press following the terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels.
The common denominators of the two works are not only the use of the internet for sourcing but also the hiding of identity through facial concealment. Eye contact and the face are vital elements for identity recognition, and when they are not present or are replaced by some other signs, such as smiley faces, the nature of the communication changes radically. Rennes’s works also highlight the possibility, enabled by social media, to be heard even while remaining anonymous or within a community that you feel is your own or within a community that is determined by other factors than mere geographical location.
A key issue explored in the exhibition is freedom. The freedom of speech and expression, even the freedom of culture or religion, is today constantly present in the discussions about social media. These freedoms are also closely allied with the artist’s freedom to employ material supplied by those very freedoms as a starting point of a work of art. Individual freedom and the formation of identity acquire new forms, while new modes of communication call for a form of self-censorship that is different than in face-to-face encounters.
Kai Rennes is a media artist living in Brussels, Belgium. He worked for several years in Sweden, both as an artist and on the Board of Gallery 54. His media are photography, video, painting and performance. Rennes’s goal in his artistic practice is to create works that are loaded with cultural content and history and that pose questions regarding the true nature of things. The scale of his works range across many levels, from microcosms to the universe. He has exhibited his work in the Nordic countries, as well as in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Cuba.
DISCUSSION on 6 August 2016 at 14.00
Social Media, Image and Identity
Professor, Vice Dean Teemu Leinonen (Aalto University) and artist Kai Rennes will talk, in the context of Rennes’s exhibition, about social media and the conflict between identity and anonymity that arises in online communication. The discussion will be in Finnish. Free entry. Welcome!
5 – 28 August 2016
Two Works about Social Media
PHOTOGRAPHIC GALLERY HIPPOLYTE
Yrjönkatu 8–10, courtyard, 00120 Helsinki, Finland
+358 9 612 33 44, www.hippolyte.fi
Tue–Fri 12–17, Sat–Sun 12–16
Image: Kai Rennes, Molenbeek (detail), 2016