‘Technologies change us – our attitudes, our behavior, and our bodies’, Melanie Gilligan observes with downright honesty. How new media and technology takes our daily lives into a stranglehold – with all its good and bad implications – has always been something that fascinated me. Are we still in control or are we turning into a meaningless, remote-controlled mass? Who are we or pretending to be behind an invisible mask? What does self-fulfilment and social interaction mean in our day and age? The versatile mixed-media Canadian artist, who works with video, performance, text, installation and music, incessantly asks said questions as part of her creative projects. Similar to previous works ‘Crisis in the credit system’ (2008) and ‘Popular Unrest’ (2010), Gilligan’s futuristic multi-episode drama series ‘The Common Sense’ delves into the effects of political and economical struggle on the individual and the collective as well as people’s ultra-dependence on technology.
The experimental narrative of Phase 1 introduces us to a future technology called The Patch, a sort of prosthesis which makes it possible to directly experience the physical sensations and feelings of another person. Subsequently, the boundaries of work and social life become blurred. While employers take benefit of the new technology to pressurise and control their employees at every turn, new forms of service industries take shape, offering ‘products’ such as the feeling of unemployment, the emotions of childbirth or the sense of sexual satisfaction to the paying customer. After radically transforming society and the notion of individuality, the technology’s networks suddenly fail causing massive disorientation. Once the system reboots, the story bifurcates into two separate parallel storylines: Phase 2A sees society reconciling with the concept after a period of normalisation, whereas 2B portrays a social movement that tries to resist the new status quo and exploitative elements of The Patch.
The Common Sense is a stylish, worryingly realistic and thought-provoking piece of work, that knows how to pack a punch and reminds us what our own future might have in store for us given tech developments that push onwards and upwards. If you’re curious, you can watch the first episode of Phase 1 here or catch it in full as part of the British Art Show 8 at Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh until 8th May 2016.