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Photo: The University of Manchester's Whitworth Art Gallery

And Now We Are Plastic

And Now We Are Plastic is the first exhibition at the Whitworth to be curated by young people. The show focuses on the modern world’s relationship with technology, and the youth’s dependence on it. This is a concept that appears to be at the centre of modern literature, TV and Film which sees the evolution of artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and even augmented reality.

With regard to the ever-changing technological environment with which we are faced, the Whitworth states, “As technology helps us to constantly evolve, the boundaries between our physical and digital spaces are blending, yet our ability to adapt and change remains visible in our art, marking the world we leave behind.”

Whitworth Young Contemporaries are a group of 15-25 year olds who have the chance to collaborate with emerging artists to create exhibitions of their very own. This particular exhibition was produced using various items from the Whitworth’s collection of works, including textiles and sculpture, to aid the exploration of “consumerism, technology and the selfie”.

The artwork within the exhibition explores a vast array of art across time. From early Egyptian textile, 18th century satire drawings, to 20th century works by Eduardo Paolozzi, Richard Hamilton, the first showing of experimental textile works by Georgina von Etzdorf, alongside contemporary artists such as Lynn Hershman Leeson, Laure Prouvost and Marc Quinn.

The inclusion of the idea of society being ‘plastic’ refers to the idea that plastic comes in many different forms, some disposable and some in the form of necessities, and plastic can also be moulded and changed, just as society can be influenced by its surroundings.

Technology in particular has had a huge impact on every generation, whether they use technology or not. Its presence is constant, ever changing, and ever evolving — just as we are.

This exhibition is certainly thought-provoking, even before seeing it, and so relevant to society today — particularly the youth of today. So many of us go from day to day with our heads in our phones that we miss the world going by. Are social media and TV taking over from the real world?

We live in the age of selfies, where getting likes on Instagram is the highlight of our day. Does this just reflect society’s constant need for approval? Maybe it’s just a reflection of our basic human desire to fit in. But where does it end? Where will our obsession with technology lead us?

It goes without saying that we will look forward to more of Whitworth Young Contemporaries’ forward-thinking in their future works.

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