In our modern society, governed by the latest technology and an increasingly appetite for perfect physical appeal, it is extremely satisfying to find those humans mostly preoccupied by hard core meaningful principles, such as transcendence. Using a basic dictionary explanation, the word transcendence describes an existence or experience beyond the normal or physical level. And, by all means, I am not referring here to the concept of throwing judgement upon an idea, a product or a company. How could I? You are reading this article on an ONLINE BLOG, I am using a semi-latest Iphone and like to regularly post on Instagram.
And if we are not condemning our nowadays society, how could we remind our fellow humans about the eminence of becoming a dystopic world? Are we truly living a life with no meaning or is it possible to transcend our online time? You know…the same way our ancestors have done with palpable things left behind as legacies.
Evan Desdemond Yee is a talented artist, who`s passion was introduced to the arts through representational painting, sculpture and symbols. Yee still claims he works representationally, but in the semiotics of popular visual culture, and symbols. About a year and half ago (being funded by the Parrish Art Museum to do an installation of his choosing in a location of his choice), he invested his energetic and phenomenological approach in creating THE APP STORE: several iterations of technological critique, changes in humans` behavior due to technology and a transcendence of Apple successful ideas into art. It started with a series of physical repetitions of phone apps: each of the apps would be its own artwork that Evan would create in editions/multiples of each. But he didn`t stop here: each time he installs the work, the show grows by a piece or two, snowballing more things that he could make in the same voice, or in other words: you didn`t see the exhibit until he`s done iterating! By his own words:
I wanted to do something that played on the desires, trends, and familiarities people have with contemporary culture. Technology seemed like the area to tackle because its often central in our daily lives, and is changing popular perspective on the future. To adapt it to today, I adopted older concepts of creating a commercial setting. So I opened a store. This is much like Claes Olderburg’s store in the 70s, or the project Prada Marfa.
Any type of store? Of course not. His choice was to create a fake Apple store. If it was not obviously enough the reason, Evan gave us a hint:
Apple knows how to captivate its audience…play with our desires.
APPLE DYSTOPIC STORE
And the world was introduced to THE APPLE DYSTOPIC STORE (a nickname adopted by this art exhibition due to its dystopic voice in describing technology and the future). Its 4th iteration is located at Fueled Soho headquarters, in New York City and it is open to the public. It is a rational and cleaver warning on our behavior in relation to what count most these days: the bigger, the better adage when choosing a phone, apps for every aspect of our lives and the mob mentality induced by successful companies.
One could expect to understand Evan`s work, by referencing the artist`s words:
My interest for creating this satire on technology was my interest in our new optimistic view of the future, along with rising fears and criticisms of our own habits with technology. More and more, the world of achieving utility and convenience has brought us closer to a Brave New World type of urban environment. In order to touch upon these, and many more, ideas about the future, technology and humanity, I decided to use iconic references and aesthetic of the tech world today.
Or one could use one`s own experience with technology. And one`s future. Three key subjects behind an apparent visual display about apps and moguls of technology. More precisely, Even Desdemond Yee is inviting us to question ourselves using technology; and he does it by using common tropes, aesthetics, visual advertising, etc. The viewer, is then made familiar with the work based on their own experience with their devices or with Apple. It is utterly mandatory to understand that underneath the objects and the store that imitate modern tech, one must discover concepts about humanity, mortality, desire.. and why we seem to be so optimistic, yet fearful for our near future. But what is it closer to the artist`s heart?
I think the future is key in this, because it’s something that we are seeing a reemergence of in popular culture. New sci-fi movies talking about singularity (The Hunger Games, The Giver, Divergent) all talk about a dystopian future. These of course are all very Hollywood examples of what the people are interested in seeing, however one could see them evidence of that at least.
As a designer, I was curious about the actual implementation of the exhibit. There some extremely interesting objects, which had to be made by someone. Evan enlightened me with his answer and proved me once again how much a committed artist would sacrifice for his vision:
As for how the exhibit is created physically, I actually make everything by hand myself. There were moments when I had to outsource parts… like water-jet cutting, glass work. However I do most of the welding, polishing, electronics, and fabrication myself. Because I want everything to be perfect, I even make the furniture for the store. The exhibit has cost quite a bit. I’ve dug into my savings a huge amount to create this. Haha.. though my interest in creating art is undying, and I know that these pieces will become valuable themselves one day.
With so many deep principles and perfect execution, which one could become your favorite? I`ve asked Evan about this topic:
My personal favorite is the Nocuous Rift. This is an appropriation from the well-known Oculus Rift. However, I made mine out of cardboard and duct tape (reference to the later released google cardboard), then cast the cardboard and duct tape model in solid aluminum. The result is an extremely heavy pair virtual reality goggles. Unlike the Oculus Rift, this VR uses two iPhones on camera mode, so that when you look through the lenses, you’re seeing a combination of 2 iPhone screens seeing in front of you. Much like an old stereoscope, the images merge and become 3D.
Some people’s favorite piece because of its elegance and conciseness is an hourglass shaped like an iPhone, but instead of sand, the hourglass is filled with ground up iPhones. The physical aesthetic of the piece is an appropriation from the iPhone 5, while the hourglass shape is a reference to time and mortality. Thus the piece becomes an urn for the outdated iPhone. The physical grinding of the iPhones is a reference to the popular internet videos advertising Blendtec called “Will it Blend?” where they blend iPhones to demonstrate the blenders power.
As far as how many locations will it be in… I’m not sure. So far it’s been at the Parrish Art Museum, Stephen Weiss Studio, Gallery 151, and Fueled. After this I’m definitely hoping for more. In between the installation of each location, I try and add more work. I want to take these concepts much farther in the future to encompass a wider critical eye on contemporary culture, trends, millennials.. Of course, the older, more outdated work will always exist, but I will keep on creating more apps and more works, that talk about current issues and topics. I think up next is for me to create something that talks about the trends of health and wellness… fit bits, yoga, spinning, juices and their alignment with some sort of american appropriation of spirituality. I also want to take a look at technology in rave and music culture.
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