Social Animals As a species, humans by nature live closely in groups – interacting, collaborating, and existing in various forms of mutual dependency. We rely on networks of kin and peer not only for basic, physiological needs but also for our psychological yearnings, such as a sense of belonging, assurance and comfort, camaraderie, or self-fulfillment. To be cut off or isolated from a collective body could mean being deprived of the sources of these emotional necessities, which can take toll on our social well-being.
Jett Osian borrows from this description of human nature to present a new iteration of his suite that confronts the current generation’s obsession and addiction to social media and its consequences. The works consist of poignant monochromatic scenes of individuals paired with mobile phones, some with the familiar brightly colored icons used in social media platforms. In the compositions, the ubiquitous handheld devices are incredibly enlarged, transforming them into surreal images disproportionate with the human scale. They rest flatly on the floor as the human figures grapple with distress, danger, or despair. In some pieces, the gadgets appear as low platforms on which individuals stands or sits, while in others they resemble deep holes into which one plunges, or resists fall.
This collection references some of the most common ills that social media inflicts upon humanity, which by now have been widely recognized. Social media has grown tremendously and become highly powerful and influential because it feeds the very needs that define humans as social animals – at times in artificial and distorted ways. Likes and shares have become the new metrics for validation, boosters of self-esteem, and sources of instant gratification. Followers have been conflated with networks and relationships once exclusively held by our friends, colleagues, or family members. The easier and faster access to a tremendous volume of information has created a semblance of freedom and democratized access to knowledge, but inevitably has opened a fertile ground for the spread of disinformation. In all these instances, the social media user remains trapped and confined into a bleak space as pictured in the paintings. Isolated from the real world, an electronic device is its lone companion as it desperately reaches up for help.