Sonia Hadj Said
Big party. Rushing. Need to impress Mr X. There is that new shadows palette with no instructions and no idea of how to use it. The makeup genius friend moved out. Well, what would you do?
You would rush to YouTube, check how much time you have left and starting typing “how to”, you would choose the video that had possibly most views and wasn’t longer than you needed.
Whether the result is beautiful or terrifying and ending with you staying home, what is most beautiful would be the fact that you will find a tutorial that’s just right, no matter your nationality, eye or hair color. Whatever makes you perfect.
Exploring those limits of attaining perfection in her new exhibition is Gretchen Andrew – an American artist based in London.
“How To How To How To” is a three part investigation into the notion of ‘becoming’. Starting with “how to get a perfect body”, Andrew uses her own body as she learns the actions from YouTube clips and transforms them into playful GIFs.
The idea itself raises masses of questions, but the point of the project isn’t to give any answers. As Andrew says “the journey is the destination and the process is the outcome”. And while when we look for perfection, tutorials can give us tips, but they won’t make us perfect. The perfection itself is non existent. And as Andrew started with the criticism of the idea, that also lead to the surprising affirmation of how much of it is actually true. Perfect breasts. Skinny legs. Nice arms. Muscly calves. Beautiful and healthy hair. Even knees. Did you know that a lot of women are stressed with the idea of their knees being too dark? As Andrew notices, getting too deep in such project might get you realising things you would never think of. Are your knees too dark?
Amongst fairly “women problems” there are even some more deep and disturbing ones. “How to prepare for death” wouldn’t be something you might think to look up at YouTube and yet, there it is, with people watching.
By this, Andrew shows us the diversity of the things we care about in this world, from superficial to between life and death.
How did this journey begin?
Andrew simply decided that the internet would give her all the answers. After she quit her job at Google, she threw herself to painting with the help of “how to…”. As she notices, in doing so, the question wasn’t ‘are we limited’, but rather ‘what limits us’. Internet can help in learning how to paint, but it’s not going to make you a painter. You can learn how to eat like a Russian astronaut (part 2), but won’t make you one. It can teach you how to write a novel (part 3), but won’t help you become a published author.
Around these, dances one crucial question: in that case, can internet teach you how to be an artist?
The idea seems unrealistic and even upsetting. With internet making it possible for anyone to start a blog, write a book, launch a digital magazine – artists are becoming more difficult to define in the society of “learn how to do anything”.
But as the director of Arebyte Gallery – the home to Andrew’s exhibition – Nimrod Vardi remarks, “the approach of exploring and experimenting is the artistic way”.
Banner image: Gretchen Andrew