"If we do not purposefully carve out spaces for thoughtful inquiry regarding our cultural tools, our minds run the risk of becoming mere supplements to digital experience and ideological conflict."
Believe the Hype: Propaganda, The Internet and New Activisms was a group art exhibition and program series that I curated at B4BEL4B Gallery in summer 2017. Inspired by the media crisis that precipitated and attends Trump's presidency, Believe the Hype featured artworks in a range of media that confronted the fractured cyberscape of truth-telling in the contemporary political climate. The art exhibition was paralleled by an expansive program series, including: a journalist panel featuring Susie Cagle, Joe Viex and Kashmir Hill; film screenings; a panel discussion by Tech Against Trump activists with Logic Magazine; a dance performance by Sin Adjetivo; a critical data mining workshop; and a Poetics of Propaganda event hosted by Poets Reading the News.
What is the essence of propaganda in the internet age? How do we discern truth from untruth or real news from fake news? How do we cross the echo chambers of our social media streams to make independent discoveries? Have we somehow abandoned cross-cultural dialogue - and if so to what end?
We are in the midst of a global misinformation crisis. The US president—whose very electoral victory confounds millions— decries “fake news” while rejecting recorded and documented events with his idealized version of them. The paradigm of objective journalism that might correct such assertions is rapidly dissolving into a fractured cybersphere. Post-truth is a concept that has gained traction in describing how every event produces multiple narratives that encase starkly oppositional value systems and future visions. In this acidified sea of data, something so pure and fabled as truth retreats into the depths.
Social media platforms afford humans the novel ability to radically homogenize the political content of our feeds and friendships. Blocking detractors is a customary reaction to encountering disagreement. And at the center of these systems of interaction are issues of unqualified urgency to our society and planet. And yet, if neutral information has disappeared, where can we point to as neutral ground for the sort of discussions that are necessary to proceed?
Our methods of digital communication have been rapidly developed to create efficiency, brevity and global accessibility — but those same qualities may be separating us from critical approaches to information technology. If we do not purposefully carve out spaces for thoughtful inquiry regarding our cultural tools, our minds run the risk of becoming mere supplements to digital experience and ideological conflict.
This exhibition’s work is unsettling and non-hypothetical. It explores the consequences and implications of our cultural choices. Here, artists have bravely taken on the media beast by traveling deeply into territories that are often concealed behind cultural firewalls.
Believe the Hype seeks to hack those systems of concealment and to begin the serious work of knowledge-gathering, critical reflection, dialectical parsing, and fearless surrender - to step beyond the incredulity of our present matrix in order to establish an open space of appraisal and future visions.