Tatjana Pieters


30 May - 05 Jul 2020

Michael Pybus, What looks good tomorrow may not look good today, 2019, acrylic and coloured pencil on canvas, 135 x 120 cm, unique
“For a few years now I’ve been actively engaging with social media, testing the boundaries of what I’m ‘permitted’ to think & say within the confines of the art world. I was getting an uneasy feeling observing the aggressive nature of the interactions around me as we substituted physical communication for the weak filtered modes of smartphone apps. This paradigm shift to the digital is in its infancy yet is already having far reaching unexpected effects. As an artist I’m an agitator not a decorator. With this in mind I went forward with an open urgency to explore this space.

Counter cultural by nature, I aired my concerns, alternative views/politics/sources in my feeds as a means to short circuit the algorithms to diversify the intellectual homogeny that was enveloping my day to day media consumption & communication. I was immediately hit with vitriol, unfriending (from actual friends), had my work removed from an exhibition, had an artist refuse to participate in a show I was in & even had an artist higher up on the art world ladder contact this gallery insisting Tatjana ceases working with me all because the positions & imagery I explore did not align with their idealogical preferences. Whilst this totalitarian behaviour has continued in public an unsettling misalignment ran parallel in private, made evident by the many messages of support I received from people who asked that their support remained silent for fear of the silicon mob & negative repercussions on their own careers in the art industry. I found myself operating in two distinct worlds, one publicly championing intellectual diversity whilst actively reversing it & the other privately championing intellectual diversity whilst passively allowing it to be annihilated by remaining silent. It was as if everyone was wearing masks.

A pressure for the artist to behave in a way which disincentives their true voice has grown exponentially. The culture industries should be one of the most truly liberal, free areas to operate in, yet they have transformed into a corporate hive mind, high on reductive dogma. Driven by
a delusional ‘moral’ self righteousness that sees a militant faction nominate themselves as judge, jury & executioner when it comes to who is ‘valid’ & thus gets to speak, be heard & have a career.

This body of work is a cumulation of my personal experiences navigating the digital disengaged matrix. A meditation on the suffocating implications for society, expression & cultural space as we continue to sequester ourselves in the virtual realm. It feels apocalyptically appropriate that this exhibition had been postponed due to a global pandemic that’s forced us into isolation from one another, dependent on social media, in that the works here all explore to one degree or another the mental & behavioural repercussions born out of confined communication.

I’m very grateful that there is still space for me to exist & earn a living as an artist but this is not a given for me or anyone else. As we go forward we all have to make the choice of whether we are going to succumb to the collective, placating them at our peril. They will not hesitate in removing any people or ideas that refuse to conform to their ever expanding censorious gospel. Actively striving to narrow conversation & expression is a cancer not only to the arts but to the liberty & freedoms we enjoy that came at the cost of much suffering & death from those before us. It’s the artists role to test the boundaries & status quo their society imposes. There’s nothing creative or progressive about censorship. That is not culture it’s a tyranny born out of ones overextending ego & intellectual shortcomings. If history has taught us anything it’s that freedom is not the default, it needs to be constantly maintained. A diverse cultural space in which artists can safely express themselves is a sign of a healthy society. We only need to look at areas of the world where artists do not have that privilege to see how dangerous & dysfunctional a civilisation becomes when the few get to decide how the many can safely & independently go about their lives.

As we continue to transition deeper into the microcosm of the electronic screen we can continue to mindlessly sleepwalk along the path sacrificing our voice, humanity & freedoms to the communal altar of endless streams & mindless distractions, or we can wake up & consciously recalibrate our digital dependences & behaviour to focus on a truly diverse life of liberty rather than a hollow existence fishing for likes in a social media sea of piranhas.” - Michael Pybus

Michael Pybus (°1982, UK) lives & works in London. He has a BA in Fine Arts from Goldsmiths College London and a MA in Sculpture from the Royal College of Art London. Recent exhibitions include ‘REALITY APATHY’, Tatjana Pieters Ghent (BE) , ‘soft play’, LUNGLEY London (UK), ‘I’m sure they have very different painting on their own walls’, Jelato Love, Palma, Mallorca (ES), ‘Anything can happen in life, especially nothing...’, Tatjana Pieters Ghent (BE), ‘HOLLOW’, Thierry Goldberg, NYC (US), ‘Pretend the world is funny and forever’, Amor, Mexico City (MX), ‘PEAK HUMAN’, Depart Foundation, LA (US). His work can be found in private collections in the USA, UK, Brazil, Japan, Sweden, Belgium, Germany, Spain and Russia.