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Nice To Read You , Digital Identities Explored by Visual Artist Alessandro Apai

Can who you are, what makes you happy & what you want out of life be determined by your digital presence ?

Nice To Read You , Digital Identities Explored by Visual Artist Alessandro Apai  Can who you are, what makes you happy & what you want out of life be determined by your digital presence ?

When one thinks of the term identity, from a general perspective, it’s described as the distinguishing characters of an individual, the main factors of one’s physique or psyche used to determine a generic idea to associate with one’s persona.  In everyday life we all influence how the world perceives us by the way we dress & the way we behave which we leave to the outside world to interpret for themselves primarily using these subconscious actions and behaviours. 

In the digital landscape however, this process is more meticulous I.e. we have a greater control over what we present on social media, how we are perceived is as a result of carefully curated instagram feeds, or facebook posts, with flashes of our lives all organised with intent to create a proposal of how we want the world to see us as a genre of self-design. Visual artist Alessandro Apai’s latest project Nice To Read You, explores this panorama of Digital Identities as a daily performance by using introspection and self-analysis as a map to derive one’s philosophical mindset. 

With a set of images shot by photographer Paolo Prendin in the form of an identity card or passport photo, a Milanese casting by Kikiesse Casting and Manifesto by Willy Ndatira, the photo series poses the question of whether complete strangers can answer important existential questions of, who we are, what makes us happy and what we want out of life, by judgement of our digital personalities; derived from an analysis what we post , who we follow etc. nss magazine had a chat with the artist for a further insight on the project and the concept itself. 

What exactly was the inspiration behind a project of this genre? 

It was mainly regarding the interest of young culture and their habits which drive this project. It was about showcasing this duality in personality that many of the contemporary individuals of today have.  In this digital era we are both represented by a face and a body as well as by digital data and personal information and we wanted to explore this. 

Were all the participants of the project from Gen Z? 

We worked closely with Kikiesse Casting to select a multiethnic group of people from 15 to 30 years old. So we worked with people from both Gen z and millennials. 

From your experience do you believe that Gen Z spends more time curating their online identities than Millenials and other generations? 

Gen Z and millennials are both quite influenced by the digital world which is probably because of the internet and Gen Z started approaching  the Internet from a much younger age and that provides them a more natural approach to technology and internet. They really feel like part of a big community and they take self- power and pride from that which is an interesting a very contemporary way of letting the world hear your voice especially compared to older generations who had more traditional ways of leaving their marks.

Gen Z brings a lot more personality and aesthetics to the digital world, the older people maybe bring more cultural references from analog supports, but it’s all like bricks that we are all putting on top of each other with different ways we choose to leave our marks in the world. 

What aspects of a personal instagram or social media in general makes up their digital identity? 

It’s mostly based on the content, the habits and the attitude they use over the platforms. On a first layer there is a mirror of their own identity that reflects themselves and with whom they talk (see IG stories on selfie mode with people talking) and this is composed by what they share, what they like, the accounts they follow, the topics they talk about .. but then there is another hidden layer, that is about data.

I say hidden because usually these are often used with less awareness or consciousness. This data says everything about them, from the locations they visit, the birthdays, to the brands they like the most, the items they buy and the accounts which they visit the most. All this info is used like a filter to personalize the experience users have over each platform, just like in real life, each one of us builds our life, relations and habits basing with reference to previous actions, experiences and personal taste. 

What was the most interesting aspect of curating this project? 

I think it was definitely about the studies of a specific group of contemporary young adults, they are the fuel of tomorrow and a very naive representation of the whole contemporary society. So as a consequence, maybe the most interesting piece created for this project was the initial questionnaire, that we later asked models to fill when they came in the studio, it was a way to know how everyone involved themselves personally. It was based on various questions about both real and digital life, so it was very interesting to see how they use a mix of memory, id cards and phones to answer all these question.

In your opinion, are our digital identities accurate representations of who we are , or more representations of who want to be? 

If you accurately analyze it, you will see that it is all very related with a form of non verbal communication, so it is a mix of both, who they want to be is also based on who they really are. It is even very similar to the choice of personal clothing or style. We design ourselves everyday when we get dressed, we decide what kind of brands, style, garments represent better our personality. Social media accounts work in very similarly to that way, it is another way to express personal tastes, relationships, religion, social status, politics opinions.. all of this is just inside every account, like an extension of themselves. Of course it is not a completely open flux of thoughts, so they can decide what they want to show, but with an analytic eye, you can find a lot of spontaneous messages over every post. 

Are there any dangers to the fact that we have the freedom to curate how the world sees us? 

The main problem that is unique to the digital world is about the general view and standards for imperfections. It’s important the we get to the point where we valorise imperfections by removing  superficial filters. 

But in general I think that the level of danger is equal to the amount of danger in real life. For example if someone wants to use this social mask to hurt someone intentionally, then they could easily do it outside the internet too, and that is a part of humanity, there is always a dark side.
Which proves that regardless of good or bad, these digital habits are a very human practice, even if it is about numbers and coding, it could still be translated like a projection of our brains in the end. 

If you think about it, phones are a crazy tool, in our hands we have an object that contains our financial information, food habits, emotions, guilty pleasures, secrets, work information, health information, voices etc… everything is inside this small stone, it is primitive, we are basing our life on those stones, like in the stone ages. 

What’s next for this project ? Will there be any part 2? Installations or exhibitions ? 

Our outlet Via Piave 33 will be releasing a physical component of the project. We are going to produce garments, objects and an editorial piece based on this concept. There’ll also be an event at some point. In general with our outlet VIA PIAVE 33 we’re hoping to create more experiences, and explores different arguments, garments, objects, images, videos and exhibitions.