Saved by the web?

29 Apr — 3 Jun 2017 at the Postmasters Gallery in New York, United States

11 MAY 2017
Saved by the web? Exhibition view. Courtesy of Postmasters
Saved by the web? Exhibition view. Courtesy of Postmasters

Postmasters is pleased to announce Saved by the web?, an exhibition of Hasan Elahi, Lin Ke, and Eva and Franco Mattes, all artists whose work is a result of an engagement with the internet.

Please note the question mark in the title. Because the web will not save us.

This exhibition is all desktops and screens transformed into physical objects to exist in real space. Imagine two pre-internet framing devices for this show: Charlotte’s Web, the beloved, classic children’s book and its various adaptations, and Saved by the Bell, the generational touchstone of a TV sitcom. Both narratives are grounded in the expression of friendship through direct interaction.

In Charlotte’s Web, at the farm that is at once real and magical, the worlds of people and animals overlap. Charlotte, the spider, saves the life of Wilbur, the baby pig marked for slaughter, by weaving text messages onto her web.

Word spreads—the messages go viral; the ensuing media attention and publicity transforms Wilbur into Zuckerman’s Famous Pig. Wilbur receives a special award at the State Fair, and his life is spared. Because nobody kills celebrities. Ever. The words in the spider’s web put human beings on notice that they must always watch the wide world for the arrival of wonders. This web saved him.

Different web.

The Facebook website was launched on February 4, 2004. In Saved by the Bell there is no Facebook. There is a laugh track. Arguably the first great teen show of the past thirty years was a monster hit for NBC's Saturday-morning programming during its run from 1989 to 1993. Beloved and savaged in equal measure, the show follows the adventures of an archetypical gang of high school friends across eighty-six episodes.

Lessons of life and love, big and small, pulse through this offline social network, and are resolved in thirty minutes. Jessie develops a caffeine dependency. Zach and Kate get fake-married for a class assignment. And (my personal favorite) romantic confusion flares during the school rap play, “Snow White and the Seven Dorks.” The inherent innocence of the sitcom medium primes the onset of nostalgia for a more naïve past of less data and more interaction.

No web.

Dial up to current time, characterized by networked and mediated contact points, a no-touch experience in the digital realm. Living through our current screens is lonelier than television alone ever was. Saved by the web is not happening.