Digital Objects featured artist Molly Soda specializes in video, online performance, .gifs, and installation, using the Internet as both an inspiration and outlet for her work.
She has been featured by publications like Rolling Stone, VICE, Nylon, The Verge, Hyperallergic, Complex, Jezebel, Paper Magazine, and PBS. Her most recent solo show, Me And My Gurls, opened last month in London at the Annka Kultys Gallery. See VICE’s coverage of the show here.
Visit Molly Soda’s artist profile on Digital Objects to collect digital editions of her work.
Below, Soda discusses the processes and philosophies underlying her one-of-a-kind practice.
You’ve had success translating fundamentally digital work into more conventional art constructs — IRL installations in traditional galleries, books built from Instagram posts, etc. What have you learned from this process? What gets lost in translation?
Nothing will ever capture the full scope of interacting with something online. I’ve always felt that my work is best viewed from the comfort of your own home via your personal device. The work is about the Internet and needs to live on the Internet and evolve with the changing landscape, the comments, and the eventual decline of certain websites. Translating that into a physical space, whether it’s a publication, object or installation is always a challenge. Because I’m dumping so much online at a nearly daily rate, a lot gets lost — it’s up to the viewer to find the work and “keep up” with it as much as they want or are willing to. It’s always a treat to get to pull a lot of work/ideas together into physical space because it ultimately is up to me to guide the viewer and draw connections between seemingly disparate pieces.
Do you think that your work’s innate reproduce-ability make it more difficult to control the conceptual conversation? Do you have any horror stories about seeing your work appropriated online?
I’ve always believed that once you post something online it’s no longer yours, you can’t control the conversation or the narrative around it. Letting go of that control is really freeing for me. A lot of my work deals with the ways we project onto each other online so the conversation (or comments) around the work lift it up and aid to it — making it a fuller and more fleshed out piece. Nothing feels “done” for me until it’s online, living amongst suggested videos, ads and comments. I’d love to see my image appropriated more honestly — that would really take it to the next level.
I do, however, have a funny story about my physical work being appropriated. When I left Chicago, in 2013, I got rid of a box of old prints that I had done in college — mostly self portraits. I left the box on top of the dumpster in the alley by my old apartment and went on my way. About 6 months later I received a call from a reporter telling me that a curator had found the box and was curating an “anonymous” art show around the prints! Obviously, once people caught word of this they put together that the “anonymous” woman in the photos was me. It was incredibly amusing to have PHYSICAL pieces appropriated as that’s not the bulk of my practice and my image is plastered all over the Internet. The curator went ahead with the show despite knowing they were mine and I never actually saw it.
Your first major installation adopted a fascinating click-count economy — the more a work had been viewed online, the greater its value. Despite the fundamental democracy of work born online, do you think the art world’s valuation of digital work is evolving?
I’m still unsure about how digital work is valued in the “art world”. People want things they can touch or hang. There’s a lot of instability with files, especially as technology is rapidly changing and we’re not sure what the future is going to look like. This hasn’t deterred me but if I wanted to make a lot of money I’d probably be doing something else.
The organic evolution of your art practice, from AIM naïveté to art gallery, feels sort of unimaginable now — at only 29, you’re basically an online art elder-statesperson. “Authenticity” is always a dicey proposition in online self-presentation, but do you think the subjective self-awareness of emerging young artists makes it more difficult to distinguish sincerity from personal brand building? And does the difference matter?
Authenticity is a marketing term. The “is this real” conversation is boring to me. Everything online feels like a brand to me and it’s exciting to find people doing things because they genuinely care about them, but how am I supposed to know what anyone’s intentions are? Sometimes I don’t recognize my own intentions until years later.
What art is exciting you now?
I like art that isn’t respected or seen as art. I want to watch people sing for their webcams, or make freaky 3D videos on YouTube because they want to.