:mentalKLINIK Explores the Sinister Seduction of Online Culture
As their name suggests, :mentalKLINIK specializes in hallucinations, waking dreams, things that are not as they appear. The Turkish artist duo of Yasemin Baydar and Birol Demir resists categorization, working in a variety of media from video installation to sculpture, but through each conjures beautiful visions that draw you dangerously close.
In their most recent work, :mentalKLINIK takes on digital culture, examining the ways in which we’ve adapted our minds, bodies and identities to constant connectivity. “We are swamped with information in the digital sphere,” remarks the pair, and the result is shortened attention spans, phantom phone vibrations and online avatars. The pieces in the “Profiles” series express the ambiguity of our relationship with social media, which can be at once ineluctably captivating and utterly destructive. Composed of layers of brilliantly colored polyester film caught between sheets of tempered glass, the works are as glossy, vivid and appealing as hard candy. At over 5 feet tall, they are also inescapable, attracting the viewer and confronting them with a specter of their image caught in the reflective surface. Across each panel is a jumble of broken text, italicized and in all caps. Among the fragments, the self-reflexive, declarative political-sexual vernacular of the online world is distinguishable—FASCIST, OPENLY GAY, DOGMATIC, WHITE COLLAR, ANIMAL LOVER, SUBMISSIVE, ELITIST—and that’s just LUKE (2014) (each piece is titled after the imagined figure who has created the profile). The hectic, disjointed text gives the impression of shifting frenetically between tabs and windows, or carrying on simultaneous chat sessions; struggling to concentrate while focus is being pulled in different directions.
Works in another series resemble mirrors that either capture the viewer in electric shades of yellow and pink, or partially obscure their reflection in areas of matte darkness. With titles that alternately begin with “LOVER” (for the former) or “LIAR” (for the latter), the pieces speak to our hyper-awareness of our public image and our impulse to craft, monitor, edit and control it through social media.
Through their artwork, :mentalKLINIK exposes our problematic relationship to a virtual world that is as seductive as it is sinister.