Phoenix continues its intelligent yet understated arts programming with Kitty Clark’s Mr Nobody in the Cube Gallery – An investigation of the influence technology has on our anxious minds, or ‘Technostress’. Clark is starting an important and very necessary collective conversation, though it sounds strange to say that when the artwork she presents is viewed individually, via a virtual reality headset that seperates the individual from any human contact.
I sit within the gallery, at a desk that mirrors the usual menial scene of office life, and enter the world of Mr Nobody. Through the VR headset he and another robotic voice take me through 5 scenes of everyday monotony – recurring scenes of office life, a café, an open green space and a darkness that seems similar to closing your eyes ready for sleep. Each time the viewer returns to the office scene something subtly changes. There’s the added pressure of a crackling fire in the bin, or a swarm of flies gathering above the desk – a subtle metaphor for the decay and corruption of Mr Nobody’s mind. Clark provides the viewer with virtual hands that can move, but the hands merely engage in a frustrating game of fly swatting rather than having any lasting impact on the virtual scene you sit within.
Two voices robotically speak dialogue to accompany the visuals. The speech is scattered, and sometimes uncomfortable listening. “Sweat, like water, streaming out of his fingertips” a female voice states, often offering reassurance such as “It’s not too late…” The male voice, interpreted as Mr Nobody, is the one of concern. “There are new scratch marks… how long have I been here?’” The fleeting nature of the dialogue can only be compared to the back and forth of the rational and anxious mind voicing continuous remarks, through daydream, visions, memories and intrusive thought.
There is something unnerving about witnessing this reality that Clark has so carefully concocted. These inner thoughts and monologues, held so closely within us, are expressed robotically and inhumanely through a technologically contrived character. If this can be so easily recreated, it almost makes our rationale of concern in ‘real life’ seem trivial.
Returning to the gallery I am able to realise how cleverly curator Gino Attwood has laid out the space. The acrylic desk I am sat at shadows Mr Nobody’s office layout and transparent panels of acrylic act as walls around it. Suspended from a height they create an intimidating space, a seemingly transparent box of angst and a cathedral to the epitome of self-pity, Mr Nobody.
As Clark confirms, Mr Nobody is a concept rather than a person and is someone, or rather something, that resonates and creates dread within us all; A person living from wage slip to wage slip, month to month, being swept through life from A to B without noise or question. On entry to the gallery a periphery of digital rain meets you via a panel on each wall. It’s a pathetic fallacy to the reality of what it’s like to be the apathetic antihero of self-pitying debauchery – Mr Nobody.
The conversation that springs from the work is about far more than the singular, technological reality that the viewer experiences through the headset. It’s about the transient and dynamic relationship we’ve developed with the technology of 2016 and how that impacts our ‘real life.’
Mr Nobody tackles the issues of isolation and “technostress.”, something we’ve all experienced and perpetuated through lack of self-restraint. Whether its mindlessly scrolling through Instagram, or engaging with the vanity of Facebook profiles for people whose names we’ve long forgotten, we have all been victims of technological advancements. Our society teases itself with the idea that we are better off because of it. Surely it assists us? Making our lives more comfortable, easier, and obtainable – but, what benefit do we gain from isolating ourselves at a desk all day? Mr Nobody’s subconscious stream of thought challenges the benefits. “The new guys told me to take days off… to ‘relax.’”
Clark intelligently presents our uncomfortable relationship with technology in an artwork that strains us between the two realities we are dealing with in 2016 – a virtual one, and ‘real life.’ Our real lives continue to contain the residue of stress accumulated in virtual world and Mr Nobody is the digital embodiment. Mr Nobody is a clear cue for us to take control and inform ourselves about the technological realities we find ourselves part of, before our leniency permanently impinges on our ‘real life’ experience.
Mr Nobody runs until 20th November in the Cube Gallery at Phoenix Cinema and Art Centre. Entry is Free. There is an accompanying screening of Coworkers on Wednesday 9th November.