The digital video collage Praying for my haters (2019) by Geneva-based French artist Lauren Huret begins with a view of an anonymous-looking office tower in Manila. It is the headquarters of a subcontracting company which employs so-called content moderators for social media giants like Facebook and Instagram hosts. The job of these “moderators” is to keep the net clean, and delete offensive, violent images. In their work these people are exposed to thousands of psychologically disturbing images every day. However, their contracts demand them to maintain silence.
In a hypnotic collage of text, the artist’s voice speaks of the moderators’ unacknowledged martyrdom, while on a visual plane blind windows become permeable to images lurking behind them. Thickly crowded clusters of people flicker and billow through the upper half of the skyscraper building. They are the figures of a Black Nazarene procession, which is held every year on January 9th, drawing hundreds of thousands of deeply devoted Christians to throng together for a brief redeeming glimpse of the icon of Jesus Christ; the event is also notorious for the casualties it causes. Behind the windows below you can see fragments of a re-enactment of Jesus’ crucifixion, where devout men demonstrate their martyrdom in imitation of Christ by allowing themselves to be crucified and have real nails driven through their hands. This takes place every year on Good Friday in the village of San Pedro Cutud, in the Philippines not far from Manila, where over 80% of the population is devoutly Catholic following Spanish colonization in the 17th century.
Huret creates a powerful link between the invisible self-sacrifice of people who, day after day, absorb the toxic contents of pages on the Internet in order to protect us. Revealing a long unrecognised, system-immanent flaw that enables and protects our great freedom on the Internet. However, people’s minds are at stake here, not algorithms.
Lauren Huret has been critical and distrusting of her own handling of the Internet from the very beginning. Most of the images in her work were shot using her mobile phone and edited with common filters. Huret creates her own digital language from the combination of the images’ everyday aesthetics and the elaborate visual collage of as two levels meet, amplified by a dialogue between image and sound. Her work repeatedly directs us to the question of what price our society is willing to pay for the freedom new technologies promise.
(Text: Bettina Back)
Lauren Huret (*1984) lives and works in Geneva.