A Dutch Artist Explores the “Digital Divide” Between Humans and Technology
Pushed along by a wave of technological advancements, we find ourselves living in uncharted territory where the line between virtual reality and “real life” seems hopelessly blurred. It’s one of the timely themes of “Digital Divide,” the first New York show from renowned Dutch artist Ellen de Meijer.
“The last 20 years, we have experienced an enormous evolution mainly driven by technology and the digital revolution,”De Meijer says. “But our human instincts have not changed, despite that our modern society often expects us to ignore these. It’s this tension that inspires my work.” And she should know. She’s been making art since the days when people composed handwritten letters instead of rapid-fire text messages. Which wasn’t, of course, very long ago—and that’s precisely the point.
Born in 1955, de Meijer received a classical arts education at the Academy of Fine Arts in Tilburg, the Netherlands. And while a number of noted European art collections, including the Van den Broek Foundation, exhibit contain her works, “Digital Divide” at UNIX Gallery marks her debut in New York.
In “Digital Divide,” de Meijer’s message isn’t buried in layers of symbolism: Her subjects grip iPhones and wear earbuds or Google Glass. Half-realistic and half-cartoonish, they peer back at the viewer, expressionless, as if hypnotized. The titles of her works further convey de Meijer’s cynicism about technological dependence in the modern world: featured works include Linked In (2014) and Virtual Love (2014). In other works, like the eerie Girl Scouts portrait Soul Mates (2012) or the old-fashioned-looking Stand By Your Man (2011), there’s no trace of technology, only a palpable sense of the tension that inspires the artist. De Meijer is interested in the effects of postmodern society on human behavior—how the forces of technological change shape us and transform us, even when we’ve accidentally left our iPhones at home, even when we’re not actually online.
“Digital Divide” is on view at UNIX Gallery, New York, Feb. 5–Mar. 5, 2015.