When we talk about something user friendly, we mean something simple, tolerant, easy to navigate, free from problems. Today’s new forms of communication, those we use to talk to machines, have used this concept to bring the friendly closer to something more akin to pleasure. But has this really anything to do with friendship?
A User Friendly Exhibition is the first solo show in Spain by the Swedish artist Jonas Lund. His artistic practice involves creating systems and setting parameters that often require viewer’s own participation. This results in game-like works where tasks are executed according to a series of algorithms, or sets of rules. Through his works, Lund investigates issues relating to the increasing digitisation of contemporary society through the means of intellectual property, participation, and authority. In this exhibition, created specifically for The RYDER Madrid, Lund presents an installation that analyses the way in which power structures are introduced into our everyday life through the appropriation of its semantics in order to co-opt them. Lund points out the way in which these place us at the mercy of a system that turns our bodies into data, thus becoming beholden users and clients, but not friends.
Accompanying this installation is a new series of the artist’s networked paintings. Each work in the series evaluates its own performance and likability, quantifying data through in-depth network analysis. This information can then be accessed by near-field communication, offering the viewer meta-data on the painting and some additional abstracted information through a popup window appearing on his/her phone when approaching the painting. Through this technology, the viewer is provided with an alternative narrative to the works, bestowing a presence that exists beyond our own physical world. The formalisation of these painting’s aesthetics is also the result of this data analysis, with each tablet a mosaic of artworks that have experienced success at auction. From such, Lund presents landscapes that are expressionist and vibrant, where visual information is remixed and juxtaposed to such a degree that only small traces of the previous lives it once lived are visible.
A User Friendly Exhibition asks us to confront a disturbing reality where human fields of affection have steadily been conquered by machines. The algorithms that once accompanied us have stopped functioning solely as numbers – instead infiltrating our daily decision making and interactions. Right now, your best friend is in your pocket, it knows where you are, where you will go, give you advice on your next date and even help determine what you like and dislike, who you love and hate. As long as you are a user and a consumer, you will never be short of these friends.