Forever Young: The Dorian Gray Syndrome

From Thursday 14 March until Sunday 2 June 2024, MEET is hosting the group exhibition Forever Young: The Dorian Gray Syndrome, curated by Maria Grazia Mattei, founder and president of MEET, and Clement Thibault, Director of Visual and Digital Arts at the Le Cube Garges cultural innovation pole in Garges-lès-Gonesse, France.

The exhibition inaugurates the Milan Longevity Summit – Rewriting Time, devised and coordinated by Viviana Kasam, which from 14 to 27 March will bring 60 of the most established scholars on the international scene to the Lombard capital to present their research on the demographic change underway and the possibilities of slowing down the ageing process, also through art.

Forever Young: The Dorian Gray Syndrome offers an unprecedented reflection on the theme, through the works of 12 emerging artists from the Digital Art scene, to investigate the depths of the digital by also bringing to light the way in which the themes addressed are reflected in real life, in perfect harmony with MEET’s modus operandi. An analysis of how today’s society implements innovative technological solutions to create real-time, virtual and ever-changing representations of itself.

“Today we are increasingly witnessing a race towards ‘beautification’, i.e. the use of technologies and filters to try to beautify ourselves and represent ourselves through digital means in the version we consider best of ourselves, even going so far as to hide, retouch and transform ourselves,” Maria Grazia Mattei points out. “The digital world is a kind of deceptive mirror that reflects an eternal image of ourselves, always young and vital. This denounces the eternal tendency to overcome the fear of time passing and old age, even to the point of touching on the subject of immortality. Precisely in the digital world, and particularly with the advent of Artificial Intelligence, a reflection on the Beyond, on surviving the physical person, has been triggered. After all, this is what man has always tried to do with Art, which is to create a work in order to become immortal. Whether writing, sculpting or playing, every creative action is a drive to overcome what is an inescapable appointment”.

To visit this group show is to experience the theme of eternal youth, thanks to the – mostly interactive – works by Inès Alpha, Robbie Cooper, Rodrigo Gomes, Damara Inglês, Aaron Jablonski, Ethel Lilienfeld, Mauro Martino, David OReilly, Immersive Arts Space, Inès Sieulle, Esmay Wagemans and Lu Yang.

The exhibition unfolds on three intertwining levels (The Dorian Gray Paradox, The Digital Beyond, The Digital Human) to which a critical reflection accompanies the visitor throughout.

The Dorian Gray Paradox touches upon the theme of beautification, i.e. the use of technology to represent oneself through the digital in the version one considers best; The Digital Beyond, on the other hand, deals with the concept of immortality and existence beyond oneself; The Digital Human, finally, reflects the individual’s quest to transcend the limits of physical existence through technology, raising profound questions about identity, ethics and the nature of humanity itself.

This starts, for example, with the work of Inès Alpha, where the visitor – thanks to the Augmented Reality Filter (ARF) – can mirror himself in the sculptures of Esmay Wagemans and can see his own portrait transformed by the filter that becomes an integral part of the work. Until arriving at the Immersive Room with Immersive Arts Space’s interactive installation, where the frontal image of each visitor is captured by a camera and, thanks to machine learning, transformed in just a few seconds from a 2D image into a dynamic three-dimensional figure that will be projected in real time on the walls of the room, making up a crowd of immaterial individuals, who move, fly and interact with each other for the duration of the exhibition.

To close the exhibition, a work by Mauro Martino entitled L’immortalità del pensiero (The immortality of thought): a reflection on the fact that, in this quest for continuous youth, it is man’s mind, brain and creativity that must remain young, not his physical appearance.

Forever Young: The Dorian Gray Syndrome is a first rendezvous with a phenomenon that has not yet been studied in depth and that aims to stir up important reflections on the frenetic race for beauty and youth, which, however imaginative and original it may be, has increasingly important reflections in real life. There is no shortage of risks, and they are not only linked to the stereotypes of the digital world, because it is a moment to go from seeing oneself eternally young on the computer screen or smartphone, to wanting to be so even in everyday life, arriving – in the most extreme cases – at real escapes from what is human representation.