Exhibitionists·Video

In our Extremely Online times, Kaley Flowers's screen-addict ceramic figures are bizarrely relatable

You probably look like one of these slouchy guys right now as you look at this on your laptop or phone.

You probably look like one of these slouchy guys right now as you look at this on your laptop or phone

(Kaley Flowers)

Kaley Flowers was born in the last generation to know what the world was like without the internet.

As a member of the early days of the web, Flowers grew up curating her own simple websites and participating in online communities. As witness to the meteoric rise of technological capability, she saw pieces of the digital world flourish and become relics — things like the floppy disk or dial-up. (Remember when?) Now, all of this history shapes her art practice. And her choice of medium is kind of a strange bedfellow to the world of technology.

Watch the video:

Kaley Flowers makes art about living with technology, and you probably relate to her technology-obsessed figures. 3:40

Flowers works in ceramics. Many of her works feature misshapen figures that fit — maybe slightly depressingly — into the internet age, as they slouch to stare at their laptops. And they're disturbingly relatable, especially if you're reading this in bed with the laptop on your stomach or phone in your hand, and even more so if you've already been lying there for a few hours. Their facial expressions are also relatable, ranging from extreme happiness (more than 100 likes on a photo) to a debilitating sadness (comparing yourself to the 500 people you follow).

"Ceramics — it's so permanent. Once you finish a piece it could last thousands of years," Flowers says. "Technology is so ephemeral and fast-moving. So I'm really interested in this play on taking something like technology that's so changing and kind of solidifying that aspect of it into a permanent object."

(CBC Arts)

Notably, she did a piece that involved bitcoin. (In simplistic terms, bitcoin wallets work with a two-part code — one being a public key where someone can view how much bitcoin is inside that wallet, the other being a private key which gives you access to transfer the bitcoin amount into normal currency.) Flowers placed the public key on the outside of her sculpture and placed the private key hidden on the inside of her sculpture. The only way to access the private key would be to break the piece. The owner of the piece would then have to decide whether the bitcoin were worth more than the artwork itself.

Flowers calls the piece "cold storage," which is a term referring to keeping a cryptocurrency code offline to better protect it from hackers. As she explains: "Essentially, my pieces are like fancy piggy banks!" As new technology comes in waves, Flowers is surfing them — making her an artist to watch without a doubt.

Special thanks to Harbourfront Centre.

(Kaley Flowers)
(Kaley Flowers)
(Kaley Flowers)

Watch CBC Arts: Exhibitionists on Friday nights at 11:30pm (12am NT) and Sundays at 3:30pm (4pm NT) on CBC Television.

About the Author

As a young child, March Mercanti would play with his action figures for countless hours because he was obsessed with telling stories...to himself. Currently, March is a filmmaker living in Toronto, ON. He works at CBC Arts creating documentaries for artists across Canada.