Tumbling in Harness
Curated by Erin Reznick
May 3–July 22, 2023
Art Museum at the University of Toronto
Justina M. Barnicke Gallery
(in Hart House)
7 Hart House Circle
Presented in partnership with Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival
Tumbling in Harness inquires into the sociopolitical, practical, and emotional implications of online death in the age of platform capitalism—a phenomenon that has only recently emerged and, for the moment, the consequences of which are yet to be fully understood. As the world has become increasingly integrated with online media, the temporal and spatial boundaries of digital memorialization complicate the notion of what remains of a life after death, and how the bereaved “gather” in the absence of physical bodies.
For most in Western societies, death today is no longer a familiar or first-hand experience, as it was for most people just a century or two ago, but it is now something increasingly filtered through media screens. Social media users participate in online grieving processes shaped by the social media platforms in play. Representations of death, dying, and grief become harnessed—selected, edited, revised, and revalued according to a particular digital interface—within the framework of a managed website with existing commercial provisions. The nature of these platforms reflect their engineers’ economic motivations; they are designed according to algorithmic logic rooted in the measurable value of popularity. As death is increasingly ritualized through social media platforms, where the posthumous online self persists, the promise of digital afterlife becomes a sought-after commodity. Tumbling in Harness brings together a group of artists whose work examines the mediated, ritualized space of online death, where digital legacy obfuscates finitude; where self-identity persists beyond the physical body, and the dead lie not in cemeteries but in our very palms. In this digitized world, the dead wait patiently, forever harnessed in a state of suspension for the swipe of a finger, the click of a mouse, or, importantly, when the algorithms dictate, to conjure them back into existence. Social media platforms provide a new socially situated space to grieve; one that enables the proliferation of posthumously persistent profiles and offers the promise of immortality by way of a digital afterlife.
This exhibition is produced as part of the requirements for the MVS degree in Curatorial Studies at the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, University of Toronto.
Wednesday, May 3, 6pm–8pm
Opening remarks at 6:30pm
University of Toronto Art Centre
We gratefully acknowledge operating support from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council with additional project support from the Reesa Greenberg Curatorial Studies Award and The Graduate Architecture, Landscape, and Design Student Union (GALDSU).