My project, #LIVING# attempts to examine the way death is understood and represented in an age where everything virtual (and virtually everything) is public information.
The project is composed of many different parts. Through the mediums of The Sims 3, Emoji, Instagram, and Snapchat, we revisit the same situation over and over: my death, or rather, the ‘death’ of ‘Sewa’.
The Sims is popular simulated reality computer game, in which the user can craft their own digital towns & cities. From the landscaping of the environment, to the freckles on a Sim’s face, the user is given near-complete control of the medium. I used The Sims in this project as the closest actualization of physical reality (the world in which we live). While the video is an obvious reminder of the limitations of technology (game glitching, pausing, etc)., the still images from the film are at times incredibly chilling, as you can clearly see fear in the Sim’s face.
Emoji ideograms are frequently used in digital to express further sentimentalities or emotional states that cannot be stated or described. However, the characters have begun to integrate themselves within a number of different artistic and literary mediums: in December 2013, the Emoji Art & Design Show featured media and artworks that featured the ideograms. In this project, we see a conversation between two people - however, instead of using words, they communicate using only Emoji. Is the story communicated as clearly through Emoji as it would be through words? Or is it completely incomprehensible?
Instagram is a photo & video social networking application that runs exclusively through one’s phone. Similarly to Twitter, the application has further popularized and normalized the sharing of immediate status updates with others - the difference here being that Instagram primarily uses images and video, not text (aside from a photo caption). Through the Digital Death Announcement, I explore the actual utility of the application, sharing with my followers the news of ‘my death’ in a form that remains true to my artistic expression (even in my ‘death’).
Snapchat is a photo & video messaging application that is also run exclusively through one’s phone. The user takes a photo or video lasting between 1-10 seconds, then gives the user the option to caption the picture with text, or to physically draw on the image or video. The user can then send the video to their friends - however the most appealing aspect of Snapchat is that the image or video ‘deletes itself’ off the recipient’s phone after they view the image or video. Thus in theory, any image sent through Snapchat in a way also ‘dies’. Nevertheless, the recent introduction of the new ‘My Story’ feature - though which the user can stitch together the different images and videos they take during the day - gives the user the ability to create a personal, cohesive (or at times, not cohesive at all) 24-hour narrative summary. This narrative is then available for your friends to watch however many number of times for the next 24 hours immediately preceding the Story’s publication. In Death and Self-Destruction, I address both features of the application, mirroring my illustrated ‘death’ with the destruction of the entire story.
Everyday, I visit and use all of these applications (including this Tumblr!) with great frequency. While these systems were created to further connect each other socially, the question always arises of ‘how much’ is acceptable to share through these different media - is it okay to watch someone die if it happens virtually? Should there be laws restricting what people can or cannot share on digital media? Does the reliance on such media also beg to question the actual ability of the technology to communicate human emotions and sentiments through text, image, video, and audio? Finally, what does it mean to ‘die’ in the virtual sense? As the fable goes, "Everyone dies 3 times - the first, after one takes their last breath; the second, after the body is ‘consigned to the grave’; the third succeeding the final time one’s name is said by a living person." Perhaps in the future digital world, we can finally ‘live forever’ through the mediums that record our lives, whether carefully constructed, or not.
—Sewa Adekoya, December 2013