I am interested in how society and human behavior are becoming simultaneously “tribalized” and atomized amidst the ever increasing noise of mass (over)communication, digital media, and electronic hand-held devices. My photographs are panoramic fictions that seduce the viewer into exploring observations I draw directly from the world – a process possibly similar to both caricaturing and reinvention. They are digital collages constructed from images that I shoot at public relations, networking events and at “meet-ups” of subcultures that were formed and/or are operating as a result of social connectivity on the Internet. Compositing the source photos heightens the intra-group dynamics and throws off the viewer's ability to find a primary point-of-view, thus generating an underlying disruption: the participants, while appearing connected within a social network, also appear atomized in a contrived pose or uncertain gesture.
My investigation is based on the idea that consumer culture influences the construction of personality. American commerce – now worldwide – seems to offer broad opportunities for individuals to re-describe themselves while, through media imagery, proposes set categories to simulate. It seems that the popular media, advertising and the ubiquity of handheld electronic devices (many containing cameras and access to external “realities” via wireless internet) now dictate behaviors and create stereotypes for society at large, similarly to how powerful institutions used to do in the past – marriage, family, class, school, religious code, etc. While mass media is a young institution – if it can be called as such – it is old and powerful enough to have influenced at least one generation from birth all over the world. In the current age of reality TV shows, “seamless” product placements, celebrity endorsements, and online social identities, we enter a phase in which the distinction between mediatized and non-mediatized behavior becomes increasingly blurry: the two categories form a behavioral feedback loop between each other that is becoming ever noisier.
While we detect and possibly lament the effects of vapid media imagery on human behavior, it is also important to consider that the possibility for individuals to be influenced by certain types of behavior – whether inspired by media or any other cultural traditions – may very well have liberating effects; it provides tools for creative self-transformation, re-description and escape from suffocating and overly staid institutions and stereotypes.
Mónika Sziládi was born and raised in Budapest, Hungary and lives in New York. She is a 2010 Yale MFA graduate in Photography. In 2008 she received the Gesso Foundation Fellowship to attend the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. She holds a Maitrise in Art History and Archaeology, Sorbonne, Paris, France (1997). Solo exhibition: Wide Receivers, Godot Galéria, Budapest. Selected group exhibitions: Point of Purchase, DUMBO Arts Center, NYC (2006); Lost and Found, Staatliche Kunsthalle, Baden-Baden, Germany (2007); Market Forces, Carriage Trade Gallery, NYC and Galerie Erna Hecey, Brussels (2009); Designations, NT Gallery, Bologna, Italy (2008); Photo Biennial, ICA, Dunaújváros, Hungary (2007/2009); Domestic Goods, AIR Gallery, NYC (2006); Homo Ludens XVII. Photography Biennial, Esztergom, Hungary (2010); The Architecture of Space, Flash Forward Festival, Toronto (2010). She is the recipient of the Alice Kimball English Traveling Fellowship (2010) and is a winner of the Philadelphia Museum of Art Photography Portfolio Competition (2010), her winning image becomes part of the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
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