My Friends consists of a series of paintings of profile photos sourced through Mieke Gerritzen’s social media accounts. Each of us is able to maintain a maximum of 150 friendships – our brains lack the capacity to interact with more than 150 people at a time. Yet Facebook has set the limit at 5,000.

My Friends consists of a series of paintings of profile photos sourced through Mieke Gerritzen’s social media accounts. Gerritzen has more than 800 Facebook friends. She studied the list and selected a group of real friends – people who are truly part of her social network. Each of us is able to maintain a maximum of 150 friendships, yet Facebook has set the limit at 5,000 “friends” per person. According to an Oxford University study, our brains lack the capacity to manage relationships with more than 150 people at a time. However social we may be, the part of the brain that stores active thoughts limits the number of social contacts. The researchers defined friends as people we care about and see at least once a year and whose relationship to our other friends is known to us.

My Friends gives the ephemeral digital network forged through social media a permanent quality. In a bid to anchor virtual reality, the project materialises part of unbounded digital space and therefore delimits it. The collection of paintings symbolises the age of the network society. The profile photos are rendered in a unique way, magnifying their digital origins. Gerritzen has made paintings from 150 Social Media profile photos.

BACKGROUND
The days when an original work of art was exclusive are definitively behind us. In the 20th century, art became reproducible. Art can be digital; concepts can be sold; art can be quoted, downloaded and uploaded. Today, art is just another commodity, complete with a market value. Democratisation is a key subject of debate in the art world. The My Friends series is an installation of 150 paintings, each measuring 30x30cm. In the early days of the personal computer, large pixels and bright colours defined the look of the digital world. Nowadays, however, digital images have escaped the screen, and the nostalgic computer aesthetic can be seen primarily in the physical world. Contemporary image makers draw on the digital universe to create a world of tangible objects, materials and environments. My Friends adopts this practice, combining the craftsmanship of the hand-painted portrait with a computer aesthetic. The images refer to the De Stijl movement, which heralded a period of standardisation and mechanisation and celebrates its centenary this year. De Stijl fostered an interest in seriality. After the Second World War, experimentation deepened, and binary thinking begin to manifest itself. The 1970s saw experiments with computer-enabled visual effects, and the screen became a symbol of the new virtual world. Pop art led the way in illuminating consumerism and the contemporary culture of abundance. With serial art, a mechanical way of looking at the world, image makers anticipated the digital world of the future. In addition to My Friends, Gerritzen makes paintings based on iconic photographs with online origins.

The exhibition at MU Eindhoven 2017: October 6 - November 12

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