March 3, 2024


Yo Quiero Techno

Artists Tackle Social Media in Another Meh Episode of The Exhibit

4 min read
Artists Tackle Social Media in Another Meh Episode of The Exhibit
Frank Buffalo Hyde, Misha Kahn, and Baseera Khan gathered in front of the judging panel for critique (all images courtesy Paramount)

Back by popular demand, another review for The Exhibit’s second episode, unironically titled “Fifteen Minutes of Fame,” premiering tonight on MTV. I will not mention this week’s winner, but please be aware of spoilers ahead. I can give credit where it’s due and admit that this episode was far more engaging, but it still just doesn’t have that *spark* I so desperately desired while watching this in my bed with Vietnamese summer rolls.

The second challenge this week was for the artists to tackle “the world’s love affair with social media” in just seven hours instead of the first episode’s 10 allotted hours over two days, a timeframe chosen in the “spirit of immediacy” regarding the topic. This week’s guest judges are Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) President Sammy Hoi and museum digital strategist JiaJia Fei.

Jennifer Warren defensively dug her heels in about last week’s victory and how it shows that she’s supposed to be in this competition regardless of her educational background. Somehow, it made her feel empowered to attempt a series of three oil paintings in seven hours. It went as well as you can imagine. Warren painted three photos from her own social media feed to explore the curated self … Meh. I understand caution about expanding one’s toolkit with a Hirshhorn exhibition and $100,000 on the line, but Warren is set up to flounder if she doesn’t learn a new trick to supplement her lackluster concepts.

The Exhibit contestant Jennifer Warren with one of her three paintings from her commission series “Digital Cigarettes”

Baseera Khan also examined the curation of the self in this round, playing on the “face, tits, and ass selfie” and relating it to the influential S-curve body composition of art history. Their collage of appendages was activated by a fan to bring some movement, which read like a Boomerang clip to me. It was a clever, surface-level exploration of what it takes to present oneself on social media, but a lot of the multilayered meanings got lost when silliness took center stage.

Misha Kahn, who stole the show last week, had a kinetically impressive but conceptually disjointed trash conveyor belt installation which left everyone scratching their heads but dazzled nonetheless. Clare Kambhu also bit off more than she could chew with her commission that incorporated dozens of old smartphones with detail shots of her school desk graffiti painting that references “old school” social media. Cool in theory, a struggle in practice.

Still from episode 2 of The Exhibit

According to Frank Buffalo Hyde, his painting of hands filming an Indigenous Buffalo dance on a phone was supposed to read as us “experiencing our lives through our devices” and “being absent from the moment,” but I actually read it as the preservation and sharing of culture through social media. Maybe we’ll have to chalk this up to generational differences, but the painting was beautiful nonetheless.

Jamaal Barber was constrained by his technical prowess. His commission that was supposed to portray social media’s addictive “infinite scroll” through a grid of linocut prints was beautiful but entirely off-base. Just like in the last challenge, technique can’t carry the show.

Jillian Mayer ate and left no crumbs this episode. Her interactive but subtle “Slumpie” apparatus made to support our regressive posture (text neck, rolled shoulders, curved back) as we scroll mindlessly was one of the most intriguing explorations of social media’s physical impact. I also think that she and Misha carried the episode with their dry humor as the cast interaction meter continues to flatline.

Frank Buffalo Hyde’s painting “The New, New, New” during the crit session

Honestly, there are so many opportunities for the show to be humorous that no one capitalizes on. Khan asked the lead judge, Melissa Chiu, to wear the set of fake tits they made for the photo shoot and Chiu just curves them entirely. I’m just saying that ladies in Flavor of Love didn’t prance around proudly with the world’s most hideous clock necklaces for Chiu to shirk away from the Baseera Boob-Job. Put some respect on reality TV and give the people what they want: drama, publicity stunts, and covert name-calling.

It seems like something is simmering, though, as the preview for episode three shows an uncomfortable clip of Barber pushing a stool away and bursting into tears. Maybe then I’ll have something to talk about besides the art.

Jillian Mayer’s “Slumpie” apparatus
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