Alice dos Reis
When I meet people like Alice dos Reis, I can’t help but think about the concept of the Generation Y, and what it really means being a millennial. Born in the late 90s, the Portuguese artist manifests many of those attributes I relate to someone who's successfully integrated within this modern world of rising technology and new existences. Well-versed, quick and patient, tech-savy, and above all open minded. There’s a certain quality of innocence too, pertaining to this ideal of infinite possibility and a place where we all survive equally.
Doing her MFA at Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam, the video artist currently concerns herself with examining different forms of online presences. Whether it’s her works about eBay or 3D luxury real estate reels, dos Reis continuously discloses and questions our changing relationship to objects and our way of existing, both online and offline. A short yet personal dialogue about growing up during the Millennium, the consequences of consumerist behaviour, and what it could mean to embrace incoming developments to the best of their ability.
Your work often revolves around online existences. Can you talk about having been raised at the very climax of the web and how it influenced you personally as well as professionally? Do you identify with the term ‘post-internet artist?’
I don’t really identify with the term as my art practice intends to comment, analyze and quote several non-online based contemporary visual technology devices of which the internet is a part of but not as a whole. Generally, I’d like to think I have the freedom to not work on any of these subjects.
I wasn’t properly allowed to use the internet until the age of twelve. We had a communal HP computer in our home living room which ran (already considerably advanced) Windows XP. Since my family didn't get an internet deal until very late, all I could do was essentially draw on paint, edit text on Wordart and play a rather dated version of Lara Croft Tomb Raider and a couple of other games. I’d go online at school and houses of friends. By then most of my friends in school were using online messenger and engaged in online video games.
When we finally got internet at home, and it was already very established age of Windows Messenger, The Sims, Hi5 (an absolutely uncool Portuguese version of Myspace), downloading Avril Lavigne’s The Best Damn Thing on LimeWire and learning English through fan-made subtitled anime.
Overall, growing up as a kid in the second half of the 90’s, internet and technology still seemed too much of a distant glooming abstraction abstract thing which you couldn’t fully grasp as much as it was maybe for people born before me. The real difference was perhaps being able to grow up as a teenager and young adult in an increasingly developed world. For the better or worse, being able to integrate communities and support others, feel less of a weirdo, make friends with incredible people URL and IRL while assimilating patience, flexibility and tolerance. Simultaneously there also existing this fear of an increasingly policed, surveilled and neo-liberal/market, restrained and domineered cyberspace.
Assimilating patience, as in understanding? How does surveillance affect us individually, and as a whole?
Yes, in terms of understanding. Learning and listening, specially from subaltern experiences. Surveillance worries me on a personal level, of course, but I reckon the main concern resides on a wider pandemic sphere. It’s not restricted to realizing my personal messages might be read by State Security agencies for policing purposes, or my data and web history being sold to private companies for advertisement purposes based on an algorithmically generated profile. But also what it means to be subject to this scrutiny in ideological terms. What future to expect as a user whose becoming increasingly aware of their online participation and freedom.
Returning to your work—there’s also a continuous thematic of consumerism.
A consumerist ideal is inherent to most subjects I’ve recently worked on. I think I’m interested in understanding how our relationship to objects and images of objects manifests and shifts in regards to their materiality, virtuality and visuality under capitalist notions of ownership. Maybe that’s part of the reason I’ve become obsessed with luxury Real Estate 3D video reels, whose purpose is selling condo apartments based on virtual imagery before its concrete materialization.
So—in some way—you romanticise consumeristic behavior? I guess I’m wondering if this innate interest also derives from recognizing some type of beauty in it. A fantasy.
No, I don’t think I’m interested in romanticizing that or any other subject as a means. I don’t believe I’m exceptionally drawn to consumerism or consumerist behavior as a motive itself, since there are definitely other subjects that intersect.
There’s also a domineering sense of sterility, moving away from human emotionality. A deprivation of it all.
I think this kind of atmosphere might have the potential to open up other channels of responsiveness. It’s similar to how we tend to relate and emotionally connect to varied forms of fiction and narrative, how these wrap up and construct a very personal and subjective web of responses.
As someone who was born almost a decade earlier, I still seem to have problems in how everything is changing so rapidly, especially in terms of human interaction.
Things are changing so quickly! Simultaneously that’s very scary, and incredibly exciting. In terms of human interaction. I don’t believe we’ll ever stop interacting in ways we always have, such as physical communication. But, of course, devices and interfaces have been added to our everyday emotional, intellectual and casual interactions. And new ones are already on their way. I guess I’m more afraid of how these same devices and interfaces—which in their ideology serve to bring communities together—end up being instrumentalized and homogenized by sovereign economically powerful entities and not by the common user. But yeah, generally speaking, I like to believe in its potential for positive change, including stopping the latter described from further developing and overpowering. I very much believe in it, actually.