Something Something National Conversation 2020

Mitchell F. Chan

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Something Something National Conversation (In 2 Characters or Less), 2016
Site-specific installation

In December 2016, Mitchell F. Chan exhibited Something Something National Conversation at Angell Gallery, scored by the sound installation Infinite Newsfeed. Four years later, and so much has changed. Four years later, and so much has stayed the same. Join us for the 2020 incarnation of this installation, taking place virtually on December 16 via Zoom from 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. https://bit.ly/SomethingSomething2020

Of the exhibition and these artworks, Chan says:

“My 2016 solo exhibition at Angell Gallery, Art & Inactivism, represents a watershed moment in my artistic output. To this point, my artwork had explored the liminal zone between the material and the material, between legibility and illegibility, and between content and form. In the three works presented in this exhibition, I examined how that zone manifested itself in our culture.

Something Something National Conversation (in 2 characters or less) is a meditation on how digital communication technologies --and social media in particular -- overload our sense of legibility. It is a visual metaphor for the way digital culture has transformed our understanding of “content” from the way it was once defined—as the substantive meaning of a text—into content as we now know it: an amorphous type of capital which, like other types of capital, exists primarily as a means to reproduce itself.

I began this work in 2015 and, either through prescience or just coincidence, debuted it shortly after the 2016 American Presidential election. The election was, of course, a major turning point for how we would look at online discourse. It was no longer harmless. Somehow, what had seemed like nothing more than a bunch of hot air online had conjured a very real presidency. It was like a magic trick.

As it turned out, important things were happening in that liminal zone. This sculpture is a monument to that zone between the old idea of content-as-substance and the new idea of content-as-volume, between legibility and illegibility.

Infinite News Feed is an algorithmically-generated musical score that accompanies the exhibition. The piece generates lyrics by pulling the day's news headlines from the internet, and recites them along to a droning musical accompaniment composed in real-time by software of the artist's design. Set against the piece Something Something, the entire exhibition becomes a machine opera of infinite duration, giving dramatic representation to the ways we consume -- and engage with -- the discursive world around us.”

Mitchell F. Chan has exhibited innovative and ambitious artworks across North America since 2006. In 2009, he was awarded the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Trustee Scholarship in Art & Technology Studies. His work has been covered and discussed in numerous media outlets including VICE, Canadian Art, Slate, the Toronto Star, and Gizmodo. He has worked primarily in large-scale public art projects since founding the firm Studio F Minus in 2008.  His gallery work explores the liminal zone between legibility and illegibility.