When I was a little girl I had an imaginary friend. I can remember her quite clearly. She was my same age (4 years old) and height (around 40 inches?). She had long, thick, brown hair and used to wear a green sweater all the time (don’t ask me why). She lived next to the fence of our countryside home, on a little hill (and when I say little, I mean REALLY little, like a road hump). Her name was Francesca; I loved her. Not the same with my brother, though. I guess he was so annoyed by her “presence” as, when travelling by car, she was sitting between the two of us, not allowing him to move much (I would start complaining so hard if that was happening). Yes, I think he disliked her a lot. In fact, I cannot blame him, imagine: older brother and younger sister, sister’s imaginary friend and sister talking non-stop to this friend for the whole duration of a car-trip from Sicily to Ravenna; a lot of fun! Eventually, Francesca disappeared. She was the first fictional character of my life.
Thinking of her, one would logically resolve that growing implies to develop awareness of reality, going away from a fabricated version of the world and the self. Conversely, fiction today is everywhere. No need for me to state the obvious with mere words; let me use a more visual example. On the 19th of September 2014, Chisenhale Gallery, London, opened Modern Family: the first UK solo exhibition of London and L.A based artist Ed Fornieles. In an environment full of props, remainders of the artist’s on-going performance and research into the realm of social media, the show (more appropriate term in this case) challenges the semiology of home, community roles and the market. The atmosphere is that of a fantasy-horror, American IKEA, where objects from the house of your dreams are presented in a forcedly random disposition: a dis-order that recalls an earthquake of emotions and icons. A vividly live component is denoted by the lighting (now strong, then soft), the background music (your most embarrassing pop playlist mixed with sinister tracks) and the videos: a waterfall of images sneakily taken from the sea of the web. The press release advises that you might find this content offensive, violent and sexually explicit. I doubt you actually would: what you see is what you experience everyday in the Internet. Taking advantage of his expertise as data analyst, the artist appropriates seemingly private content from people’s lives, turning it into an artwork’s material able to highlight and destroy many contemporary role model(s). Sitcom design and construction of identities are two of the main facts explored by Fornieles in this project – which follows the ‘Facebook sitcom’ Dormdaze (2011) and Maybe New Friends (2013), both questioning the interaction between virtual and physical reality.
The Chisenhale commission thus unfolds with both irony and critique, without forgetting the entertaining aspect of the subject matter itself. With no big effort, in fact, everybody can picture a funky, yet absolutely common, modern family of imaginary friends moving around. However, if this is not your case, I suggest you visit the Gallery on Saturday the 8th of October: a series of performers is supposed to activate the space, as orchestrated by Ed Fornieles. Now, reality meets fiction to unequivocally become one and the two peacefully share that middle spot at the back of the car.
Miriam La Rosa