Artereal Gallery last week celebrated the opening of #YOLO, a group exhibition that examines the complexities of life, death and passing time through the lens of the pithy acronym #YOLO, a common and often lighthearted catch-cry for the Internet generation.
An abbreviation of the phrase ‘You Only Live Once’, this now ubiquitous acronym is so often used as a caption to excuse undeniably questionable and irresponsible behaviour or celebrate exciting events and moments of extravagance that the term has all but lost any true sense of meaning.
In this exhibition, the lighthearted use of the hashtag #YOLO on social media platforms is turned abruptly on its head in order to unravel the phrase’s darker and more philosophical origins. #YOLO is Artereal Gallery’s second group exhibition that explores the pervasive (mis)use of internet acronyms, and follows the light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek exhibition, #FOMO, that took place in 2014.
Exhibition curator, Rhianna Walcott elaborates; “The transience of life continues to be one of the most common themes tackled by artists throughout the generations, and #YOLO examines the way in which themes of life, death and passing time continue to be addressed within contemporary art. A thoughtful rumination on the human condition, the phrase essentially grapples with the fragility of our existence and raises universal questions to do with life, death, passing time and our own mortality.”
#YOLO features a lineup of six contemporary artists: Ben Ali Ong, Shoufay Derz, Stevie Fieldsend, Hyun-Hee Lee, Anne MacDonald and Zan Wimberley, all of whom examine these topics in their various practices, which span the two-dimensional, three-dimensional and moving image, including painting, photography, installation and video.
“What #YOLO represents is by no means a new phenomenon. Notions of our own mortality have been explored by artists since time immemorial and repeatedly examined throughout art history. You only have to look at the religious iconography of early Christian art to pick up on its fascination with man’s mortality, or the Vanitas paintings of the 16th century Dutch still life tradition to see the ongoing and prevalent investigation of these themes,” said Walcott.
Included in the exhibition are works such as Zan Wimberley’s time lapse video '#YOLO', which offers a light and antagonising yet probing look at the complex subject of mortality. By taking heavy concepts and making light of them, Wimberley’s work explores what at first glance are light ideas by highlighting the often-overlooked gravity that they actually contain.
Likewise, Anne MacDonald’s photographic work Candle, which depicts a birthday candle and the physical remnants from a child’s birthday party, is a meditation on the ephemeral nature of life: the passage of time and sense of loss experienced due to it’s passing, while Stevie Fieldsend’s potent installations (made from rusted cast iron drainage grates and blood red fringing) act as memorials, marking and remembering the little deaths we experience throughout life, such as the death of innocence, ego and attachment.
Meanwhile, Hyun-Hee Lee’s practice explores personal memories, experiences inspired by family rituals and practices derived from Korean religions and searching for an understanding of spiritual and cultural connections, which are closely tied to the life cycle and have a fundamental importance in marking and celebrating the passing of time, from the beginning of life until its end.
Ben Ali Ong’s breathtaking work has an underlying sense of anguish and sorrow, which clings to his moody black and white photographs. The interplay of light and dark in his work act as a visual metaphor for the vagaries of human existence, alluding to the idea that the beauty and fragility of life are inseparable from the horror and sorrow which accompany it.
Shoufay Derz’s work King for a day (Stripped), which depicts a golden satin bed sheet, the word ‘stripped’ woven through it using pomegranate-dyed hand-stitched silk thread, is a meditation on the passing of her father, whose final sleep was at home in gold satin sheets.
With thanks to Jo Griffiths, for her teaser video #YOLO.