Light by Screen, 2021

Review of Light by Screen from Ronja Falkenbach, written by Fabio Ney

We are crossings. We are nodes. We are intersections of myriad discourses specific to a time and place. We carry traces of conversations we were exposed to and engaged in. The material condition of communication leaves imprints on our bodies and minds, shaping our actions as social beings, our friendships, our relationships. What makes us unique is the arbitrariness of threads that meet in the knot. You’re so special! Being special adds to our social value. When exposed to the idea of individuality, our collective subconscious seems to become highly permeable. Be the best version of yourself! Your very own self. Own yourself or… sell yourself? Understanding our generation and its technologically swayed, that is mediated self-perception can be achieved by many means and no single one is apt to connect all the dots. However, through Ronja Falkenbachs work “Light by Screen” transpires that having an affair or even a romantic relationship with another person is such a crucial, ever-relevant life goal in western societies that the socio-technical changes in this domain transcend love and sex immensely. It is precisely this circumstance that drew her attention towards Tinder, where people swipe through thousands of potential partners, but in the end are none the wiser when it comes to what really matters to them in a person. It seems like the more choice there is, the less likely it gets that someone feels they know exactly what they want. Efficiency becomes inefficient, rationality becomes irrational. And as we spend more and more time online, at every stop-sign, in every conversational hick-up and every queue we wait in, we spend less and less time alone soaking up our own feelings and thoughts. Self-reflection has been suspended by self-thematization. And yet, to stand a chance on Tinder, you must have an authentic self. The possibility of editing profiles – from retouching a selfie to lying about age – makes this situation paradoxical. Not least since our bodies still obey normative ideals of beauty. How does online dating affect people’s self-constitution? What do their faces tell us, when they don’t have to compete in a never-ending stream of profiles? For her work, Falkenbach signed up on Tinder and met up with people she matched with. Their rawness is as much the author of her work as her photographic approach. 

At the heart of the respective exhibition concept lies the depiction of the portrayed in a larger-than-life format which precipitates an alienating effect in the viewer. On an app like Tinder, a profile photo often gets swiped away in the blink of an eye. Contrary to this, the glossy prints mirroring the 16:9 screen ratio ask for attention and can’t hide from the viewer’s gaze. Behind every profile there is a real person. However, even when every possible detail is revealed through the print’s hyperreal quality, their identity remains unknown. Accompanying the photographic work, a screen shows running quotes by the protagonists in an endless loop which reflects their sameness but also the singularity they experience. All names, as well as biographical information of the persons were anonymized. The room installation is expanded by a book of 100 pages showing portraits of all 27 people Ronja Falkenbach met.

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