Artist uses Phil Collins, Skype to construct online personae /

Credit: Screenshot, Vimeo (from Jill Pangallo's "The Artist")

Credit: Screenshot, Vimeo (from Jill Pangallo’s “The Artist”)

“In the name of ‘progress,’ our official culture is striving to force the new media to do the work of the old,” writes Marshall McLuhan in his zine/manifesto The Medium Is the Massage. When considered in relation to social networked identities, it’s necessary to think about the way personhoods/personas on social media are forced to do the work of getting to “build relationships with others,” a task that was previously done through less hi-tech and more in-person means. We are ourselves, but we are also meta-selves and performances of our own perception of identities online. In considering the social media “celebrity” or just the social networked persona, this lesser-known McLuhan quote better captures the tongue-in-cheek nature of artist Jill Pangallo, whose work interrogates social networked identities and personas: “The stars so big, The Earth is so small, Stay as you are.”

I wasn’t at Pangallo’s latest performance Unfollow at Austin’s MASS Gallery as part of her residency at Hotbox, but it doesn’t matter. I experienced it online, and the internet is the medium, which is the message and the massage, rubbing your brain into your body and into the internet worlds beyond. Oddly, it actually makes more sense that I experience the spoofy online dating videos and weird Skyping with mom moments and multiple social media personas from the comfort of my home, online, in front of a laptop and monitor. I hate Jill Pangallo and I want to unfollow her, but like Marina Abramović, one of the artists she spoofs, or her latest protégé, Lady Gaga, I just. Can’t. Stop. Watching.

The actual performance, as Pangallo explains to me via email, was part reading, then screening an accompanying video interspersed with conversations about process. It sounds far more mundane in execution than it appeared to me yesterday, online, in a flurry of emailed Vimeo links and oversized JPGs. Real-life is but a slow moving cat meowing loudly at its owners’ back door, at least in comparison to the rapid-speed pace of conversations online.

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This story originally ran on Hyperallergic: