Conversion: Art Installation (The New Religion of Social Media)

Artist: Recycle Group; Title: Conversion (2015); Collateral Event at the Venice Biennale. Photo by artjouer / longzijun
Recycle Group; Conversion (2015, installation); Collateral Event at the Venice Biennale

In this interesting art installation, the iconography of the social media age takes over the interior of a 17th-century Venetian church, Sant’Antonin. A large sculpture of Facebook’s ‘f’ logo stands cross-like in front of the altar. Overhead, large bas-reliefs created from plastic mesh show neo-apostles erecting a satellite dishes and huddling around an iPad. On the floor, weathered fragments of wood, presented as if relics of Noah’s Ark, display familiar social media symbols like the ‘mail’ icon and Twitter logo.

Conversion: Photo Gallery

Click on any of the below images and the image will open in gallery view.

About the Art Installation

The installation, entitled Conversion, was created by the Recycle Group, a pair of Russian artists (Andrey Blokhin and Georgy Kuznetsov) based in Krasnodar, and was curated by James Putnam for the Venice Biennale in the summer of 2015. In my opinion, the playful irreverence of the installation contrasted wonderfully with the solemn sacredness of the church setting, creating tension between the old and the new (and the new which had been treated to look old!)

One theme of the installation is that as people are becoming less spiritual, the rituals and iconography of the internet age are usurping those of religion in general and Catholicism in particular. However, in this installation, the trappings of Christianity are not being abandoned; the religious artwork, relics and structures are still there, but the new social media iconography is superimposed over top of them. Hasn’t society always been this way, with the new laid over top of the old? When today’s monotheistic religions first took root, didn’t they also adopt or cover over some of the existing pagan rituals and symbols?

Rituals and symbols have long been there. People find comfort in daily rituals—to pray before going to bed or to log-in to a social media site immediately after coming home. They find purpose in participating in shared experiences—going to mass or joining an online forum. They find solace in familiar symbols and sounds—the clacking of prayer beads or the beep of a message notification. Although the rituals, experiences and symbols may change, our basic human need for ritual remains.

Mini-bio: Recycle Group’s first exhibition was in 2008. Andrey Blokhin was born in Krasnodar, Russia in 1987 and studied at the Academy of Industrial Art in Krasnodar. Georgy Kuznetov was born in Stavropol, Russia in 1985 and studied at Stavropol Art College and the Academy of Industrial Art. Both men now live and work in France and Russia. The pair of artists are known for their installations and multimedia work.

Video
Recycle Group. Conversion. Teaser video by Konstantin Bobovik (This is an interesting video that shows how many of the parts of the installation were created).


Go Further

This section includes links to online photo galleries and websites, discussion questions and an art challenge.

Online Galleries

Higher resolution images (e.g. 2048 x 1365) can be viewed online at:

Websites

  1. Visit recycle Group’s webpage on the exhibition (there are a lot of great photos there): recycleartgroup.com/exhibitions/conversion
  2. Read an introduction by the Moscow Museum of Modern Art: www.mmoma.ru/en/exhibitions/special/recycle_group_conversion

Three Questions

  1. How do you feel about the juxtaposition of religions and social media icons in this art installation?
  2. To what extent do you think social media is affecting religion?
  3. To what extent do you think social media is affecting spirituality?

Art Challenge

Come up with an idea for new social media site or app. Create a name and logo for the site/app and explain your choices.


~ text and photos by longzijun

artjouer

Return to Artjouer’s Gallery of Artists

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