Shotgun Reviews are an open forum where we invite the international art community to contribute timely, short-format responses to an exhibition or event. If you are interested in submitting a Shotgun Review, please click this link for more information. In this Shotgun Review, Nicole Lane reviews Jillian Mayer: Touchers at Aspect/Ratio in Chicago.
Jillian Mayer’s first solo exhibition in Chicago, Touchers, features two photographic works and a video installation that satirically probe the loss of identity in the digital age. Social media has informed, for most of us, our daily routines as well as our identities. By recognizing—and often succumbing to—the desires of being something we aren’t, or something slightly refined, Mayer playfully analyzes certain notions of human vs. machine within technology.
As a viewer, I’m familiar with the stylistic artifice in Mayer’s previous works, including 400 Nudes (2015), #Postmodem (2013), Scenic Jogging (2010), and How My Best Friend Died (2011). Her interest in questioning and exploring verisimilitude and physicality are themes continued in the two thermochromic transfers: 34.11° N, -118.26° W at 53’ Inches (2015) on fabric, and 25.84° N, -80.17° W at 65’ Inches (2015) on plexiglass. Created by a change in surface temperature caused by contact with the material, the thermochromic images retain a vague semblance of human form—the artist’s handprint. However, the multistage, mechanized fabrication process required to transfer these images onto another substrate adds higher orders of complexity and produces a dissociative effect aimed to distance the viewer from the human component of the work.
A monitor located in the adjacent gallery space depicts Mayer lip-syncing a pop song. A single chair is positioned in front of the monitor for an individual viewing experience. The light from a multicolored LED party strobe situated above the monitor cascades across the screen and highlights Mayer’s face as she sings to her digital audience. The work, analogous to the exhibition, is entitled Touchers (2015). On the left side of the screen, Mayer is present by webcam, and to the right of the screen, a chat-room dialogue with messages in blue text, both from anonymous and registered users. The comments (“I love you”; “Take it off”) appear desperate, often humorous, and collectively absurd. While the chat-room messages are sent from real people, their identities are abstract and their true selves are lost in translation.
The Miami artist’s oeuvre engages with the problematic topic of the digital age by lauding its connectedness and questioning its morality. The exhibition is conclusively a discussion about the determinacy of one’s identity in digital culture, and provokes thoughts of legitimacy and authenticity. It also spans the spectrum of Mayer’s ontology and specifically the boundaries of mechanization that currently challenge connotations of self-identity and human vs. machine interaction. The body of work adds to the discourse surrounding the human condition existing in conjunction with the current and emerging technological trends. Mayer seeks to rectify general humanistic inquiries that are embossed in the perpetuity of modernity.
Touchers is on view at Aspect/Ratio in Chicago through July 11, 2015.
S. Nicole Lane is an artist and writer living in Chicago.