Interference is the second installment of Mark Arcamo’s recent works on paper, a sequel to his May 2016 exhibition called Static Individual. (1) Similar to its predecessor, Interference is a collection of black-and-white headshots of anonymous individuals. Each headshot almost feels like a copy of a copy of a copy—if not for the appropriated silhouettes, sharp strips and blocks of colors that break the homogeneity of the images.
The artist claims that the headshots are intended to convey what American spoken word artist and Youtuber Prince Ea refers to as “pageantry of vanity.” Like Prince Ea, Arcamo is perhaps also “…so tired of performing in the pageantry of vanity/ and conforming to this accepted form of digital insanity.” (2) Hence, the faceless portraits. It seems that the artist could empathize with the sentiment expressed in a Prince Ea video that went viral a couple of years ago (although Arcamo prefers to speak upon the subject of anonymity, oversharing, and media overstimulation, whereas the spoken word artist focused more on social media addiction and the current generation’s FOMO (3) tendencies.)
When I asked the artist about how he understands “interference,” he simply pertained to its dictionary meaning. Nonetheless, his concept seems very much motivated by his perception of how people behave on social media. It seems that Arcamo is either fascinated by or frustrated with what he often sees online, on Facebook, for instance—particularly with people “interfering with others,” sharing and exchanging viewpoints in public. He even refers to social media as “a perfect example of interference in this information age.” (4) In a way though, by creating and presenting his works in public, the artist is also already interfering with other people’s affairs.
However, the exhibition presents an essentially percolated reproduction of the artist’s raw, visceral attitude towards how people behave in a privately-owned public space like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. In contrast to the published comments on social media the artist has seen, Mark Arcamo’s works may seem tamed or harmless. They do not seem to bite, insult, or mock the viewer. Perhaps it is because the portraits do not feature a particular face or emotion. It is interesting to note though, that like the sideswiping comments often seen online, Arcamo’s portraits can potentially make the viewer somehow oblivious to the individual’s offline persona.
As the internet becomes more commonplace and social media a part and parcel of the Filipino contemporary life, how does the artist make sense of the internet and social media’s impact on important socio-cultural issues like free speech, censorship, and involvement? Would Mark Arcamo be ready to disclose a more critical view?
(1) Mark Arcamo’s previous exhibition was held only last May 2016 at Blanc Gallery.
(2) Excerpt from Prince Ea’s “Can We Auto-Correct Humanity?’
(3) FOMO means “fear of missing out”.
(4) Quoted from the artist’s response to an e-mail interview conducted by the author.