Margaret Curtis: This, too. is on view in the Street Gallery through November 9, 2024

Mike Lee: Digital Mirror: Selfie Consciousness

Oct 21, 2016 – Dec 17, 2016

The mirror is a central part of Shintoism. A mirror, Yata-no-Kagami, is one of the three objects that constitute the Imperial Regalia of Japan. These objects originate in one of the most ancient myths of Japan written in both of the oldest Japanese texts, the Kojiki, and the Nihon Shoki. In the myth, Amaterasu-ōmikami–the goddess of the sun–hides in a cave after her brother destroys her loom and kills one of her attendants. She eventually is coaxed out of the cave by the other sympathetic gods who need her sunlight. They place the Yata-no-Kagami in front of the entrance to the cave. After peeking out and seeing her glorious reflection, Amaterasu is lured out of the cave, once again filling the world with light.

In the future, what will Google Earth become? Possibly, a digital world that so precisely reflects our physical world allowing us to see ourselves digitally as well as we can see physically.

A.I. is said to be imminent, with some fearing it will be an unknowable, unstoppable force. But the internet may already be the A.I. we are anticipating. It is indeed an artificially created form of consciousness comprised of all of us at once, yet none of us individually at one time. Twitter and Facebook trends are developing the vague conceptions of an infantile hive mind that will eventually cover the planet, rendering Earth an entity with a form of consciousness.

Thinking of the internet as a fledgling A.I., the issue of net neutrality becomes more than just an issue of socialist utility vs. capitalist service. Companies that have had key roles in the development of the internet would also then become involved in this battle for ownership, possibly affecting the future of consciousness.

Digital Mirror: Selfie Consciousness depicts this battle that will decide the fate of consciousness, by borrowing the visual language of the feudalistic Japanese samurai. The textual aspect of this language is still used in Japanese business and is often militaristic, similar to the feudalistic texts of the Sengoku period. The early internet companies could then be viewed similarly to the feudalistic organizations of the various local daimyo before the empire united under Oda Nobunaga.

The nature of consciousness is changing as swiftly as we can conceive it, affecting how we will think in the future. What will we discover about ourselves in the digital mirror we have so carefully constructed, what glory will we lure out of the cave?