Molly Soda at Annka Kultys Gallery, Hackney Road, East London, May 2018 – So what to make of American web-cam performance artist Molly Soda’s latest exhibition at the Annka Kultys Gallery space as she takes on the world of YouTube and social media in general. I guess the show throws out all kind of questions about art, about social media about how we interact with each other, about how we interact with art, with art in a gallery? Do we need this to be happening in a gallery? Who needs an art gallery? Shouldn’t this be happening on line, isn’t this a contraction too far? And what is she saying on those gallery walls and video screens anyway? Opening night and people seem as interested in their own phones as they do with the very colourful very busy exhibition, is it an exhibition? An installation? A statement? A challenge? A challenge to who? Who is she talking to? Who is she addressing?
The first encounter with the web-cam performance artist Molly Soda’s work will probably not occur in a traditional gallery or museum setting, and may not even occur within a typical art context at all. Instead Soda has generated a significant online following, sharing her web-based performances across social media platforms including Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter. Through opening up and expressing her vulnerability online, via the private space of her bedroom, Soda explores the technological mediation of self-identity, contemporary feminism, culture and perversion.
There’s balloons, there’s lots of colour, such “pretty” colours, electric colour, digital colour, you need to stand there and watch, you need to treat those screens properly, you need to pick up the headphones that are dotted around, you need to engage rather than just glance in that way you do in a traditional art gallery. And what are we to make of the images of women dotted around, Me and My Gurls? Why are they there? Who are they? Does it need to be in a gallery? This is her third show for Annka Kultys Gallery but does taking it to a gallery defeat the object? The show consists of a series of aluminium and acrylic prints, some very colourful videos on several TV screens and iPads, printed balloons and a physical archive from a YouTube video’s comment section. Do we take those prints and screens as free standing pieces of art? Of course we do, they’re on a gallery wall aren’t they? Should they be? Of course they should, but how do we read them? How do we want to read them? Can we be bothered? The gallery is full of people, not many of them watching the screens.
Soda was born Amalia Soto in 1989 in San Juan, Puerto Rico and currently lives and works in New York. Soda gained repute through participating in Paddles On!, the first ever digital art auction and gallery show held at Phillips auction house, New York, in 2013. There, she sold her piece Inbox Full (2013), an eight-hour webcam video of Soda reading all of the messages in her Tumblr inbox. Since 2015 her work has been represented by Annka Kultys Gallery. The artist has had three gallery solo exhibitions, including the current show Me and My Gurls, Comfort Zone in 2016 and From My Bedroom to Yours in 2015 which was her ﬁrst ever presentation and was accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with three original essays. She has participated in several group shows internationally, including Net [ ] Work: 24 hours of Contemporary Video Art, Los Angles, Your Digital Self Hates You, Stadt Bern (2016) in Bern, Switzerland; Doubly So in Detroit; The Wrong Digital Art Biennale (2015) in Seoul; Like 2 B Liked in Kopenhagen, Denmark. She remains active on Tumblr and Twitter, and regularly publishes on NewHive.
I’m watching the people watching (or not watching) the screens as much as watching the screens, the questions are interesting, of course they are, surely they’re points (or arguments) you can see any day of the week via your own social media feed if you engage with the people who posts these kind of things, of course by bringing the arguments or statements into a formal “traditional” art gallery we’re changing the nature of the argument a little, and yes, as a viewer I’m bring challenged both in terms of the imagery and the way a gallery is treated,,as a person I’m challenged, as a male I’m maybe being challenged a little, as someone who probably visits too many galleries shows on a weekly basis I’m probably being challenged, but am I really? Am I really being challenged? Would all this have far more impact if it was presented as a formal art show by a gallery as an on-line exhibition that more than this small crowd of semi-interested people could see? And surely if I wanted one of her images as a print, I could just screen grab off YouTube it and print it off? I don’t need to buy one off the gallery so I? Or would that not be a “proper” piece of art? Would that not be a “proper” print, an actual piece of art? Besides observing, there’s no real way to interact here, is observing enough? Maybe the only point here really is to just expose the very obvious faults of Social Media, all those hateful commenters? Is this exhibition just about trolling the trolls? A basic make up tutorial draws out all kinds of tedious insults about appearance, about how she needs to ‘fix’, there’s also the comments from those who try to shut down the negative trolls and yes It is the comments section on Youtube so is anyone really that bothered? Those comments sections are not exactly alive with intelligent debate with arguments breaking out. Who bothers with commenting on these things anyway? Who bothers? Most people seem to be treating the opening night as a social gathering, a place to chat with their (fellow art student) friends, to hang out, to suck down the free bottles of Budweiser on offer, where’s the computer keyboard for the viewer to leave a comment? Am I really that challenged? Engaged? She has a pedigree, clearly the art establishment are engaged, her CV would please them, (it does so often seem to be more about the CV than anything) But am I really that bothered? is anyone in here tonight? Shall I bother with a second bottle of warm Bud or shall I go home and check my social media feeds instead? Nah, not really bothered either way really, leave a comment if you want… (sw)
Annka Kultys Gallery, is at Unit 3, 1st Floor, 472 Hackney Road, London, E2 9EQ. The exhibition will run until the 6th of June. Viewing Hours Wednesday to Saturday, 12 – 6pm. By the bus stop at the Cambridge Heath Station end, red door, above the shop, ring the bell and give them time to come running down to let you in…
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