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This Sharjah Exhibition Captures the Prevalence of Anxiety in the Internet Age

Even before coronavirus

After months of coronavirus-related postponements, the Sharjah Art foundation is back in full swing. Their latest exhibition, which is entitled ‘Art in the Age of Anxiety’, is especially relevant right now. And not least, it’s perhaps the most ambitious exhibition in the region to date. 

The show, which is the first to be put together by the foundation’s senior curator Omar Kholeif, brings together 30 major artists from across the world in a bid to unravel the ways in which technology and social media has impacted the collective human consciousness.

The exhibition couldn’t come at a better time. With the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc across the world for the better part of a year, its implications on the collective psyche have been front and centre—all of which largely manifested itself online. 

Instagram, alongside other social media platforms became points of meaningful connections for people during lockdowns. Social media was also used to share information on the virus, and for some, it became a coping method. 

And as lockdowns continued and social distancing measures were put in place, the internet also became home to formerly-physical events. Museums and galleries around the globe closed. Music festivals were cancelled, along with a slew of other cultural events, thus, digital events became the norm, with organizers and attendees left to navigate the newly formed digital spaces, and adapt to them. 

‘Art in the Age of Anxiety’ explores this exact phenomenon. The exhibition captures the anxieties that came with living in the digital age even before becoming amplified (and thus more visible) due to coronavirus

With 60 different works on display, spanning sculptures, prints, videos, virtual reality, robotics and even algorithmic programs, the exhibition looks into the influx of “information, misinformation emotion, deception and secrecy that invades online and offline life in the age of digital technology,” as its organizers described it. 

In it, you’ll have a look at Trevor Paglen’s iconic cloud photographs, alongside portraits of historical figures whose faces have been run through Facebook’s facial recognition system. Canadian artist Jon Rafman’s piece ‘Transdimentional Serpent’ is on display as well. The piece is a virtual reality commentary on technlogy’s all-consuming nature. Chinese multimedia artist Cao Fei will also present his ‘RMB City’, a virtual city designed on the online virtual world Second Life.

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