Geoffrey Lillemon and Stööki's <i>Like to Death</i> is a subversive project that explores Facebook's digital shelf-life.
Jean Baudrillard, the French philosopher whose ideas inspired The Matrix, didn't live long enough to sign up for a Facebook account. It's a shame. As somebody who wrote about reality and simulations, he would've seen his theories echoed in the way social media allows us to create a virtual persona—and how that persona starts to become equally, if not more, important than our real life selves.
Geoffrey Lillemon and Stööki explore similar conceptual territory with Like to Death, a subversive project that explores Facebook's digital shelf-life. Inverting Facebook's most popular interactive mechanism--the omnipresent "like"--the project actually disintegrates a bit with every thumbs up, whereas not liking it will preserve the project from experiencing an untimely digital death.
Upon loading the Like to Death website, users are presented with flickering, pixelated white light on a black void. In the middle, the robed figure of Death, flanked by three symbols. On Death's fingers, four heads in place of rings. Lillemon and Stööki describe these symbols as “demons”—an alternative to terms like digital personas or simulacra. As more and more people “Like” the project, the portrait gets destroyed “by being engulfed in flames and particles.” And if users refresh the page, they will see Death undergoing further disintegration as likes accumulate.
Stööki, founded by Luke Hippolyte, Nadia Abbas and Quincey Cassell Williams, is in one part an independent jewelry and apparel label, but also an art collective. Based in London, Stööki is interested in fusing jewelry with garments, and transforming “graphic art into a 3D form.” Geoffrey Lillemon, a leading figure in the contemporary Net Art movement, works with digital 3D animation and modeling. His style is one that's clearly inspired by the Tumblr generation's lo-fi, DIY approach to visual art.
Asked to describe Like to Death's “mortal time based experience,” Lillemon had this to say:
“It's art that may or may not last as long as archiving is possible. In this case we take a portrait of Death, and his state of existence is drastically altered and diminished by people clicking the 'Like' button until it is completely destroyed. If people like it to death, then it's gone forever. But if they don't like it, then it keeps on existing. So the way I see it is, if they 'like' it, they don't want it to live; therefore not liking it means they like it.”
Stööki often use social media to engage with their audiences, but recognize the pitfalls of this type of social interaction. “It's ironic that some people have a constant battle with saying things like 'I'm going to delete my Facebook, or I'm trying to give this a break and stick to Twitter, and then two months later they are back on it,” said Stööki. “It's more about making a point when it comes to Like to Death—we are all aware of online personas, but we never really explore the fact that it takes many of us to build a social network and many of us to destroy it.
“We don't actually realize the power of 'Like' and 'Share' just gets stronger and stronger. Who knows, one day we may be able to vote just by clicking on one 'Like' button,” they added.
All images courtesy of the artists.