Erin Mitchell

b. 1989, US
Based in Berlin, Germany

Organic Engagement

Presented at Virginia Bianchi Gallery (Bologna, IT), Organic Engagement is a series of interactive browser-based 3D models that explore nature as a speculative future product of platform capitalism: domesticated by attention-driven algorithms, tamed by frictionless interactions, and streamlined for optimal engagement.

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Text: Virginia Bianchi
Virginia Bianchi Gallery is delighted to present Organic Engagement, a solo show by American-born, Berlin-based artist Erin Mitchell and the fifth show on the gallery platform. Showcasing seven 3D modelled icons visitors can interact with, the exhibition explores humanity’s future relation with the organic world, considered as a post-natural virtual product.

Erin Mitchell’s current practice involves an ongoing exploration of nature as a future virtual commodity and technocapitalist asset. In Organic Engagement, Mitchell reflects on the omonimous marketing concept that describes the interaction of users with digital content without being prompted by any kind of notification, sponsored content or advertisement. In June 2019, organic reach and engagement on social media decreased dramatically as the platforms, primarily Facebook and Instagram, updated their algorithms to prioritize a pay-for-visibility business model. In an attempt to compete with corporate advertising and secure previous levels of visibility, small businesses and independent creators have been forced to increase the quality of their online content, which has gradually become more polished and professionalized.

In the exhibition, Mitchell considers the phenomenon of organic engagement under a different light: literally, organic refers to anything that is or comes from living matter, while engagement rests on an idea of interdependence and interactivity – both online and offline. In this unexpected logic, the artist questions how the attention economy is reshaping our understanding of and interaction with the natural world, understood as a post-digital product. Because of the increasingly central and almost indispensable wave of data-driven technologies, Mitchell envisions a speculative future by positing a different look on nature as one of many lifestyle assets to be digitally exploited and optimised for the users’ benefit.

The will to tame nature for humanity’s sake is already visible in our society: Veggie is NASA’s first space garden to study how to grow fresh vegetables and fruits in space, while Amazon’s new headquarters in Seattle include an indoor forest with more than 400 plant species from all over the world. Simultaneously, the biohacking movement proposes to use scientific knowledge and technological advancement to understand and optimize the biology of the human body.

In Organic Engagement, Mitchell speculates on the trends described above by domesticating nature into digital icons: the 7 3D-models invite visitors to engage with the 360° environment by grabbing, moving and turning the pieces, stimulating simil-tactile sensations of the virtual objects.