Friend or Follow was Lauren McCarthy's first Solo Exhibition, a site specific installation of pplkpr turning the gallery into a fake startup that contained a retrospective of McCarthy's works dealing with follower and surveillance culture in tech.
I want to follow you. I request to be your friend. I worry that an algorithm could better predict the consequences of my social decisions than I do myself.
I start with the social situations that feel most confusing for me, and I create glitches meant to reveal and question underlying expectations, assumptions, and systems of control. I hope in these moments of breakdown we may find new ways of relating to each other.
This exhibition brings together a series of works in software that examine follower culture, surveillance, automation, and the optimization of relationships, bringing to bear the political tension between security and privacy in a society mediated by technology. So often when presented with new technologies we either have knee-jerk reactions, or we blindly follow along without questioning. The works in this gallery are meant to provide a space to ponder, engage with the inherent tensions, and determine your own way of interacting.— Lauren McCarthy For Friend or Follow, 2016
OPEN is pleased to present Lauren McCarthy’s first solo exhibition, Friend or Follow. McCarthy has built a body of work in software that examine follower culture, surveillance, automation, and the optimization of relationships, bringing to bear the political tension between security and privacy in a society mediated by technology. The show also features two pieces created with frequent collaborator, Kyle McDonald.
In Friend or Follow, McCarthy installs five of her performance-based and sculptural works that simultaneously offer a celebration of the calmness of technology and critiques the decay of technology ethics: Follower (2016); the app that lets you call a follower for a day, pplkpr (2015); the app that unfollows people who stress you out—developed in collaboration with Kyle McDonald, Conversacube (2015); the box that helps people know what to talk about in groups, LOVEINT (2014); the surveilled domestic partnership—between McCarthy and her collaborator McDonald, and Friend Crawl (2014); which consumes social media activity of 1,000 people for 5 minutes each, 10 hours per day.
McCarthy’s work speculates on the future complications created by technical solutions to today’s civic anxieties. Each of the works in Friend or Follow explores the edges of our societal frameworks for technology with performances that carry a near future premise to its full and uncanny conclusion. Shown together, we are transported to a familiar moment of relief and fear. Are our collective desires--to be followed, to be seen, and to experience managed social calm--in themselves expressions of bad faith? This existential catch-22 is McCarthy’s medium, as she paints a thin veil of indulgence and critique over the technical solutions we manufacture to “solve” our problems today.
By augmenting our quotidian technology-mediated interactions with people and groups several steps forward, McCarthy is able to accelerate outcomes which might have felt normal if it were introduced incrementally through the lean machinations of a contemporary tech product cycle. The effect is surprise. McCarthy’s speculations make us wonder--Who will design the algorithm that manages my favorite friends? What will it mean to expose the computational bias of an artificial intelligence? What does it mean to be seen in the network? By my friends? My lover? Who owns the data created between two people? How will we transcend the oppression of the existential crowd in the age of its technological reproducibility?
Lauren McCarthy (b. 1987) received her BS Art and Computer Science from MIT and her MFA in Design and Media Arts from UCLA. Lauren’s work has been shown at the Ars Electronica Center, Conflux Festival, SIGGRAPH, LACMA, the Japan Media Arts Festival, Share Festival, File Festival, and the WIRED Store. She has worked on installations for the London Eye, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, IBM, US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Thomas Jefferson’s home at Monticello. Lauren is an Assistant Professor at UCLA, and recently a researcher at NYU ITP and a resident at CMU STUDIO for Creative Inquiry and Eyebeam.