Touch My Soul
As dinner hours go, standing a mere two feet away from Hollywood superstar Shia LeBeouf, with him taking calls in a make shift call centre, certainly beats the normal routine of agonising over which Tesco meal deal to purchase.
Fresh from his latest performance, watching all his films back to back for three days (#ALLMYMOVIES), the Transformers star has set up camp at FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology), with his collective as part of the centre’s latest exhibition, Follow. Since 11am Thursday, Labeouf, Ronkko and Turner have been manning the lines and accepting calls from across the globe; asking those ringing in “Can you touch my soul?” So, if you watched Nymphomaniac and always fancied making Shia’s hotline bling, now’s your chance. To be in with a shot to chat with Shia about his soul (as if it’s 6am and you’re sat in someone’s kitchen after a night out; discussing the universe and that time you thought you saw a UFO), all you have to do is ring 0151 8080771 between the hours of 11am and 6pm GMT. Gutted if you finally get through and Shia isn’t the one who picks up (No offence, Ronkko and Turner).
If you don’t fancy enduring the chaos that is trying to get connected to the trio, you can call into FACT and witness the collective answering calls live; sharing the same air as an A list celebrity* for free. We were lucky enough to be at the press preview of the exhibition on Thursday and experience it without the hoards of crowds that will undoubtably gather when it opens to the public Friday – Sunday. In a world where we use Instagram and Twitter ‘likes’ to assess who and what is important, FACT’s latest commission asks what impact the internet is really having on our concept of ‘reality’, and how we think about ourselves, our idols and those around us.
*Yes, I know Shia once wore a bag over his head claiming “I Am Not Famous Anymore” but let’s face it, he is.
No irony was lost on us as we creepily stalked pottered around LaBeouf with our smart phones barely leaving our hands; making our Snapchat stories obnoxiously longer, filtering his ‘socks tucked into trackies’ look for Instagram and basically live- streaming the whole event.
“Are we okay doing this?” we finally asked a member of staff, after already taking approximately 345 close up shots of Shia (It’s easier to apologise for what you did than ask for permission, remember). “Oh yeah, as long as you don’t talk to him or disturb him” we were reassured.
Other highlights from Follow at FACT
Eventually, the novelty of being apprentice paparazzi wore off and we explored the other commissions on display. With work from Cecile B. Evans, Debora Delamr Corp, Joe Orr, Ant Hamlyn and Louise Adkins, a whole host of fabulous installations, videos and concepts fill the gallery; exploring the idea of self-branding, identity sharing and micro-celebrity within online lives.
Debora Delmar’s Branded for Life examines the ways in which commodity culture structures our everyday life by reconfiguring the production, branding and merchandising techniques of global corporations. Centred around Cara Delevinge and Jordan Dunn’s matching ‘Double D’ tattoos, Delmar’s corner of the gallery is filled with Instagram profiles, videos and branding body suits; all inspiring you to think about the idea of self-branding and marketing the ‘aspirational lifestyle’. With millennials now having online identities alongside their real life, and friendships no longer just important relationships in our lives but instead, steps towards creating our very own #SquadGoals like Taylor Swift, Branded for Life is a unique look at how we’re presenting our real life experiences online.
The best bit though? The free* temporary DD tattoos. So, while you and your bezzie may never be able to achieve Cara’s infamous eyebrows, or have Jordan’s breathtaking figure, you can wear their iconic twin tatts on your body for a few days.
*50p donation is suggested – don’t be cheap.
High Retention, Slow Delivery
Another commission that got us talking was Constant Dullart’s High Retention, Slow Delivery (2014), which puts a microscope on the recent, worrying trend that you can literally buy your ‘likes’ and followers online. If most people are honest, they’d admit that they’d love a few thousand more followers on their Twitter account, or some extra ‘likes’ for their selfies on Instagram; even when we’re fully aware that it’s all superficial and not something that enhances their everyday reality, we all still seek online validation. Only a select few though, will actually waste their hard earned cash on a bunch of egg profiles to bump up their count. Dullard’s exhibition looks at the problems that surround this and the commercial and capitalist impact. Having purchased over two million Instagram followers, Dullard then distributed them across a range of accounts; with many accounts possessing as few as five followers. I’m no art buff but my interpretation of this was that it took something that was once high of value but reduced it by scattering them across various profiles. And then it clicks – two million followers mean nothing when their attached to a range of ‘unimportant’ accounts but also, would they actually mean anything if they belonged to one specific Instagram user?
The Boost Project
FACT’s very own Ant Hamlyn is also amongst all the commissions from artists across the globe, with The Boost Project. The commission ties in nicely with Dullart’s previously mentioned High Retention, Slow Delivery. The Boost Project looks at that online validation we’re all chasing; exploring how the power of social media can give us a temporal state of appreciation. An inflating orb, symbolising the sense of self-worth that we can feel after receiving ‘likes’ online, grows in size if liked through Facebook, Tweeted about or Hashtagged via Instagram. If the orb is ignored, over time it will subtly default and fade into the background of our lives.
Follow is an exhibition that all of us can relate to; social media is present in everyone’s day to day life, whether they ‘like’ it or not. Even someone who declares that they ‘hate Facebook’, or just ‘don’t understand Twitter so haven’t bothered getting an account’, you can’t escape the culture that surrounds online personas. Even digital detoxers will have to sit and twiddle their thumbs while their friends upload their latest selfie, or check in on Facebook – we’re all stakeholders in the world of social media.
As we left the arts centre on Thursday, I felt differently about all my ‘likes’ mounting up for the content I had uploaded that day. It wasn’t important that my video of Shia had hit that allusive 100 likes on Insta, or that my phone wouldn’t stop beeping with notifications from Twitter – it was what was happening in the moment that actually mattered. I spent the rest of the day with my notifications turned off and was fully present in the company of my friends; without documenting any aspect online.
With the world’s media focussed on Wood St yesterday, it’s the perfect time to reflect on just how lucky Liverpool is to have such a fantastic organisation like FACT that we can call our own. If you financially back them, giving them a helping hand to bring more world famous artists to the city, take a look at their Kickstarter here.