An artist is exhibiting her own alter-egos this month at an exhibition mapping the impact of online profiling at Stour Space gallery.
Save Changes sees artists Bettina John, Sheila Rennick and Paula Varjack address how social platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest can affect people’s sense of identity.
Bettina John, a 34-year-old artist and costume designer, experimented by using only the internet to make new friends when living in New York as an artist in residence in 2012.
She then chose the five friends she felt were the most interesting and built alter-egos based on their characters.
These include a dogmatic fashionista called Belinda Evangelica, who will be launching a ‘music manifesto’ and single during the exhibition.
“I like her because she just says what she wants,” says John. “She’s really bitchy, and she’s the kind of girl that just has two categories: black and white. She has a Pinterest page with three boards: hate it, love it and irrelevant – because that’s how she sees the world. And she dresses only in black and white.”
John calls her characters “mega stereotypes”, each one with a distinctive look to go with their exaggerated character traits. There’s a cabaret performer, an author and a ‘meta-character’ who tweets about all the other characters. ‘Cyber hippie’ Colbee Hawkins_89 has her own blog and is an activist.
“She needs a lot of in depth fieldwork, so I need to be her for quite some time,” says John. “I went with her to Istanbul and was her for four solid days.”
Being a made-up person for four days straight sounds intense to say the least, but John finds it fascinating how different people react to her characters.
“Colbee really gets attention. People always want to take her photograph and know where she’s from.”
At the exhibition opening on 8 May, three of John’s characters were in attendance and made introductory speeches. For the rest of the month there will be two installations – one for the work of the characters, and the other being the characters’ worlds.
Two more artists will be taking part in Save Changes. Sheila Rennick will be exhibiting ‘Tinder men’, paintings of the profiles of men from dating site Tinder, and video artist Paula Varjack will be also displaying work following her recent show about finding freedom in reinvention.
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Until 1 June