U of O student showcases technology addiction-inspired art

Starting on Sept. 21, a local artist-run project space, titled Possible Worlds, is hosting the first-ever solo exhibition of the U of O’s very-own, Aidan O’Keeffe, a first-year bachelor of fine arts student.

The exhibit, which he named Digital Epoch, tackles what it feels like to be completely connected to an online world, and yet disconnected from real life—an increasingly problematic sensation plaguing Generation Z.

“The show is just an abstract reflection of my experience with technology—how you can feel so lonely, (and, ironically) so disconnected,” explained O’Keeffe.

O’Keeffe’s vision for his exhibit stems from his own addiction to technology—and the anxiety, loneliness, inspiration, and exhilaration that it has brought him.

“It’s still something I deal with … having to balance that (addiction) with school, wanting to do more with my art, and feeling … debilitated from this want to play video games, or to be on my phone all the time,” he admits. “Then when (I’m) offline and connected to real life, (I) just feel anxious without it.”

To confront his desire to prioritize technology over people and real-life experiences, O’Keeffe began creating visual representations of his feeling of wanting to do more in his life without being inclined to check-in online.

“I just wanted to capture that feeling,” O’Keefe told the Fulcrum. “That lonely feeling you get, … (of being) distraught or upset, but also the good feelings you get from using technology—because (I feel that) it (has) changed our world.”

O’Keefe showcases different forms of art in his exhibit, that seek to portray his feelings. Some of the colours in his art pieces melt together in ways which might seem comforting to some, capturing the ease of coexisting in an online society—whereas some pieces with sharp lines, and isolated abstract objects are meant to symbolize the loneliness of choosing not to engage in a real society.

However, that is not the only way that his works can be seen. All of O’Keeffe’s pieces are untitled because he wants his work to be open to interpretation, “so that the viewer can create their own perception of the work while finding their own emotion, and moment.”

As a first-year fine arts student, O’Keeffe feels lucky to be hosting his opening solo exhibit with Possible Worlds. “It’s a spot for emerging artists, so they give people, like me, an opportunity to show (their) work,” and a platform for the formation of a cultural community with shared interests, and career goals related to the arts, he told the Fulcrum.

Living in a city with a lack of accessible opportunities for surfacing artists has taught O’Keeffe that one of the best ways to promote art is through social media. “Instagram’s a big thing,” he added while laughing at the irony of crediting technology.

Aidan O’Keeffe’s exhibit will be open to the public at Possible Worlds until Oct. 17. You can find more details about the event on their website, or follow O’Keeffe’s work on Instagram @aidan.okeef.