By exploring the emotional tension of the void in-between the virtual and the physical, Hannah Neckel creates immersive installations.
She is extremely online – by this Hannah Neckel does not only mean being located in the digital space but a close engagement with internet culture. Online is a way of doing things. In her practice, she introduces the symbols and aesthetics of digital subcultures to the analog exhibition space, always with the desire to find connections: between online and offline, between new technologies and users, but, above all, between the desire to freely express emotions and her intermedia approach.
Many people try to erase their traces on the internet, revealing as little of themselves as necessary. You, on the other hand, surrender to the algorithm. Why?
It is possible to curate and create your own world online. It is a tool which can be used to your advantage, if used in your favor. In my work as well as in my private and online life, I try to keep those ideals of the early internet alive. For me, it is a place of self-expression, connection and community. I feel the freest online, and being extremely online allows me to do so.
You have published your notebook with your intimate thoughts and inspirations online, which is now openly accessible on the internet. On Instagram, one can follow your current location via your live status. How do you deal with self-representation and privacy matters online?
By being as transparent as possible online, in my practice and in my everyday life. I want to keep the feeling of community and connection as strong as possible. My notes on my website are public because I wouldn’t want to keep any information hidden from anyone interested in my work. As an artist, I feel like the goal is always to be understood and to share my ideas. Over the past years, I learned so much from other artists who share their work, their research, concepts and behind the scenes pics on Instagram or other platforms, and I hope that I can also help other people with that.
So, for you it’s about creating a global network?
The fundamental idea of the internet was to share knowledge, and I want to do my part and share what I know and my experiences to support that utopian ideal. Freedom, for me, is only possible in a community. It is possible to build a community online, to find like-minded people and to grow together. Thanks to this development, it is possible to find people in the same scene all over the world, who form a decentralized community and work in similar directions while being connected online. Offline, for example, the Instagram live status is a tool I use to connect IRL. It updates my friends on my location, so that we can also find each other more easily. I think that is a wonderful aspect: the internet not only helping you get closer IRL but also blending into real life. The desire to connect is so big that we essentially created this worldwide network just to be closer to one another. And I intend to use it that way.
Some installations feature analog pink heart sculptures, which indeed seem to be digital offspring. They are centrally staged with different elements surrounding them, such as plastic flowers in empty Monster energy drink cans or screens with 3D scans. How do you choose these symbols and materials out of the broad variety of early internet culture?
Over the last decade, decentralized subcultures have emerged online. Unlike before, these scenes are not bound to a certain location but are based on an aesthetic union online, spreading worldwide and connecting people. In my practice, I am both a part of those online scenes and greatly influenced in my work by them. These online subcultures, like IRL, have strong visual signifiers that make them instantly recognizable and identifiable. Since I started »being online«, they have adapted, merged and evolved, being re-appropriated and reused over time. In the multitude of scenes, the borders between them have blurred and the interchange between them has increased. By utilizing these signifiers IRL, I hope to evoke a feeling of unison of IRL and URL. Highlighting the utopian visions and potential of a global community through the internet, reminding people that this is still a possibility today – and we don’t have to give in to dystopian bleakness but can create a world of pleasure and excitement.
And this is supported by the specific spectrum of colors you use?
Pink is known to have strong emotional connotations. As a color, it is inherently associated with emotions: signalling a range of positive vibes from calmness to excess, inspiring and gently offering love, attention, empathy, safety, connection and tranquillity. Light in this color is an especially effective way of evoking those emotions in people and thereby creating a safe and inspiring space for visitors.
In a recent interview, you talked about »a post-post-internet layered world, merged together in abstraction. « But what happens if the distinctions between IRL and the URL fade and this new reality emerges? Do your installations describe some post-internet realism which is only emotionally perceivable?
The underlying theme of my works is the desire of freedom, expression and connection. No matter what happens to the internet – I think those are inherent to the human condition and will always be relevant. Recently, I have started using the term »expanded internet«, coined by curator Ceci Moss, because, instead of implying the end of something like the term »post«, it favors a future-oriented practice. As the merging of those two states of reality is gaining traction, it influences my work not only thematically but also in my practice, which is very reliant on consumer-friendly tech. For example, since photogrammetry has become accessible through the iPhone X, I have used that a lot in my work for videos, GIFs, etc. and to translate between the physical and virtual. I don’t think the distinctions will fade completely, but exactly this space in-between is where my practice lies and where I try to further the union.
How do you deal with the dependence on the advanced ubiquity of the internet? And, in view of constant innovation in this sector, how do you choose from the selection of ever-new techniques and media?
My work focuses more on the emotional tension of the void in-between the virtual and the physical, so I am not directly dependent on new forms of technology. I explore this space emotionally, and the work emerges whether it is a sculpture or video. New technologies are important tools, of course, but they are even more important signifiers. I choose them with regard to my concepts, like screens and phones, which act as a sort of portal between the realities by being our exclusive access point to the virtual, by acting as a kind of social connector. 3D scanning is inherently imperfect. It tries to merge the virtual and physical by translating not a single moment, like a photograph, but by blending a period of time, rendering it abstract through its technology and generating a virtual sculpture not true to reality. So, it’s more like we remember a dream, or a memory.