Florida, why you always gotta go there?
A St. Petersburg art gallery plans to put even more eyes on the recently leaked nude photos of female celebrities like actress Jennifer Lawrence and model Kate Upton. As part of LA street artist XVALA's "Fear Google" campaign, Cory Allen Contemporary Art (CALA) will display the unaltered, blown-up images on canvas in an upcoming show called "No Delete" next month at CACA's The Showroom, located in the Warehouse Arts District of St. Petersburg.
CACA publicist Cory Allen said he originally was looking at Miami as a location to settle his public relations gallery concept, but decided on St. Petersburg because the wealthy city ultimately had more room to grow, unlike big art cities New York and LA. CACA's show "No Delete" will feature the XVALA's seven-year collection of images found on Google of celebrities in their most vulnerable and private moments that were comprised by either hackers or the paparazzi. "We share our secrets with technology," said XVALA in a press release. "And when we do, our privacy becomes accessible to others."
XVALA has stated that he wants to "disappear from the Internet." His Fear Google sticker, first known in Silicon Valley and now around the U.S., is designed for the Post-PC era. XVALA's "No Delete" exhibit also will highlight low-points in celebrities' lives, such as his 2007 appropriated portrait of Britney Spears' shaved head and hacked nude photos of Scarlett Johansson in 2011, with the "Fear Google" logo covering her privates.
The response online has been mostly indignation, with people feeling creeped out by the web-stalking aspect of XVALA's work. But Allen claims the "Fear Google" campaign is a more conceptual project than an image-based one. He says both he and the artist want to draw focus not on the celebrities' exposure, but on our lack of control in the digital age.
"Some people support it and some people are outraged," Allen told New Times "...I've had people concerned with it and questioning what was going on; receiving comments online and so forth. That's what we were hoping for; we were hoping for people to be outraged because it's inspiring, especially in a time when so much information is given away and accessible.
"The artist and I both believe that invasion of privacy is a horrible thing and we really want this piece to speak on that; in order to do that, he as an artist is appropriating this whole commentary...This isn't the first time he's done this."
Allen references the artist's public display of Scarlett Johansson's leaked nude photos in 2011. Back then, the work was almost celebrated, he says, a response both he and the artist found disappointing.
"We weren't there to popularize," he said. "We were there to put a message out. We didn't sell anything, we didn't try to make any money from it...He was hoping for dialogue [about] stolen property. Instead, they were using the word, 'hacked.'"
The conversation shift from hacking to privacy invasion and stolen property inspired the artist and Allen to reawaken the project. "This time, the dialogue was right," Allen said. "We didn't care if it was Jennifer Lawrence or Kate Upton; we didn't care if it was a male; we didn't care what it was. That's why we got involved in this. There's petitions for me to cancel the show...but we wanted to see people reacting...
"The question everyone has to ask themselves is, would they have reacted any differently if this was you and I versus celebrities? Would it be different if they were male celebrities? Was this outraged response the same as when Edward Snowden leaked out that the government was spying on us? There's a bigger picture to all this. It's also a self-reflection of what a celebrity means in today's culture and how we are responsible for that."
Despite the intent, it's hard not to cringe when reading about the plastered female nudity and the comments that follow on every website. When asked if their message could have been articulated another way, Allen reaffirms that our obsession with celebrity is what brings eyes and ears to most efforts.
"It's almost like you have to have a celebrity there, any specific celebrity, to promote a message, to be heard; because if you don't then nobody cares. The gossip's gotta be there," he said. "The Internet (has) created self-entitlement; people feeling that they have to respond to everything and their opinion is everything...It becomes this big mess, and really, at the end of the day, the person's information was stolen, their images were stolen...and used however needed, maliciously; for fun; for entertainment..."
According to Allen, XVALA's campaign is a glimpse of what's to come as privacy continues to dissolve digitally.
"There's an Orwell influence. He's really seeing how things are being played out and [the work] is kind of a warning. We're not here to exploit anything but ourselves."
"No Delete" will open to the public at CACA's The Showroom, located in the Warehouse Arts District in St. Petersburg on October 30. For more information, contact Cory Allen at 323-393-3115 or visit cacanet.com.
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