Are the Internet and social media making us more, or less social? Smarter or dumber? Are you going to make it through this review before clicking over to check your email, Twitter account, Facebook page, or blog site? How many people “liked” your status update today?
Artist Rachel Lee Hovnavian is fascinated by the social transformations wrought by the virtual world. Mud Pie, her new show at the Leila Heller Gallery, is all about how we seem increasingly happy to forgo real experience in favor of the virtual and artificial. This could be a dry, heavy-handed message, but Hovnavian delivers it with such sly humor and visual panache that even the most committed technophiles might have to admit she’s on to something.
Take the show’s centerpiece, a supposedly romantic dinner for two. A long dining table is elegantly set with all the expected signifiers: flowers, candles, wineglasses. But the couple itself is virtual, represented by two LCD screens. The man and woman on the screens don’t speak to each other. Instead, each seems perfectly satisfied to interact with a mobile device while beeps, trills and the Angry Birds soundtrack punctuate the silence. Oh, and those flowers? They’re artificial. Naturally.