The art of reality in a ‘pics or it didn’t happen’ world
With a signature neon color-palette that saturates her imagery, Signe Pierce creates extremely meta works of art that thrive in the timeless ectoplasm of the internet. It’s an aesthetic for the 21st-century post-tumblr feminist world: somewhere between classic retro-futurism and vaporwave, or Showgirls and virtual reality. She has, in fact, been referred to as a “reality artist”, which seems to act as an all-inclusive term for the type of performance and multimedia art she creates. At the same time, the fluidity of the definition still allows her to do whatever she wants without constraint, exploring the boundaries of what “art” is, what “femininity” is, and how they can be used in the wireless world.
Signe Pierce first rose to prominence a few years ago, when she appeared in Alli Coates’ controversial short film American Reflexxx. In the film, Signe wanders sultrily around Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, in a revealing stripper-esque outfit and reflective mask. She becomes the object of a disconcerting amount of hostility and harassment, and the film ultimately instills an uncomfortable feeling in the viewer due to the dehumanization and violence that arises. As they describe of the film, “The result is a heart wrenching technicolor spectacle that raises questions about gender perception, mob mentality, and violence in America”:
In exploring gender perception and expectation, Signe often walks this line between social experiment and social commentary. “In regards to the character”, Signe explains about her role in American Reflexxx, “I’d been inspired by portraying the hyper-sexualized ‘ideal girls’ you see on TV/online/in porn: blonde, sexy, and silent without any signified sense of purpose or identity, other than the inherent condition of being observed. I’m interested in what happens when you take that girl out of the screen and drop her into reality.” It’s an interest that continues to drive her work, which frequently explores sexuality, femininity, and the frequent discord between their online versus real-world representations. Another archetype of femininity she has used is brought to life through her character “Big Sister”, recently featured in Untitled Space Gallery’s group exhibit, “LIFEFORCE“. As she describes “Big Sister”, “She’s a dominatrix and she’s definitely more in-your-face, but she’s still in this lush bedroom and she’s using her seduction to pull you in and once she has you, she’s asking you these questions like, ‘What’s your social security number? What’s your credit card number?’ So she’s essentially hacking you. I like playing with the art of seduction and seeing what happens after that.”
Last month Signe premiered her ten-minute performance piece “iDentity Bend” as part of the “Temporary Highs” exhibition at Bitforms Gallery. It explores the modern identity crisis so many of us find ourself thrown into by social media, when a simulacra of the real is substituted for what the real is itself. In “iDentity Bend”, Signe’s selfie has become sentient, and carries on a conversation with her about creating a “thirst trap” to post on social media. “Together, they engage in a discourse debating the metaphysical paradox that surrounds actual reality and personal perception when split between two forms, the body and the machine. It’s Freaky Friday meets an iPhone––an identity crisis in the iCloud”, the exhibition describes. In this way, Signe’s work can be seen as echoing concepts of simulation discussed by Jean Baudrillard. Whereas the selfie could once be seen as a mere reflection of reality, through the curated nature of social media our selves are not only inaccurately represented by our selfies and other media imagery, our selves are actually changed by them. In other words, selfies can not only mask our realities, they can become our realities. If a Kardashian falls in the woods and no one is around to post about it on Instagram…
“Likes and favs are basically just empty calories for your ego, but a double tap from your crush can be the next best thing to penetration,” Signe discusses in “iDentity Bend”. What she describes echoes what Baudrillard termed “hyperreality”, arising when reality dissolves as the real is substituted with signs of the real. Reality itself becomes performatory, in the same way that the performance of gender gives it meaning or “truth”. “When I am walking down the street, I feel very hyper-present and hyperreal”, Signe herself has noted. “I am very inspired by literally existing.” As a reality artist, Signe not only pushes the boundaries of art and gender, but asks us to question existence itself.