Adding a friend. Joining a group. Becoming a fan. They’re all mundane, digital actions we take of no real consequence. But what if someone took all of these Facebook activities very seriously—as if the weight of these clicks and mouse overs were worthy of our deepest artistic contemplation?
That’s pretty much exactly what artist Nicolas Ritter has done with his photography series, The Social Network, which reinterprets Facebook as some sort of experimental theater collective. “I do use Facebook myself and it just amused me to read what is on my ‘wall’ sometimes,” Ritter tells Co.Design. “Things like: ‘somebody just invited you to play Farmville with him.’ Things we already take for granted and know what they mean in the social network content, but become very odd when considering them apart of the online world.”
Imagine if your grandma invited you to join the mafia in real life, vs Mafia Wars on Facebook. Through intense actors, meticulously staged absurdity and plenty of Facebook-blue paint, Ritter reminds us how ridiculous our day to day virtual lives have become. And by using a real, but relatively detail-less stage, his setting can become a generic, universal space that’s equally cutting to all of us.
But when you look a bit closer at Ritter’s work, you’ll notice another pattern. It’s almost impossible to make out anyone’s eyes. No really one looks at anyone else, and hats block eyelines. That obfuscation isn’t just an aesthetic, it’s actually a visual metaphor. “The protagonists turn into actors and transform to a designed image,” Ritter explains, “just as their profile on Facebook is nothing but a designed image lacking the possibility to look each other in the eye. ”
Indeed—we’re all looking at one another on Facebook, but not a single one of us is making eye contact. And when you see that idea play out on stage…well…it seems like we’re all starring in our own way-off-Broadway production. Yes, even your grandma, who is surprisingly open-minded about the nude stuff, but would prefer your character cursed less.
[Hat tip: the creators project]