In the first thirty seconds of Andrea Mikysková’s True Match (2017), the viewer is rapidly confronted with imagery of our highly developed, global world. Abrupt alarms and whistling horns signal the beginning of a work day and positions social media—the stated subject of the piece—firmly within the realm of business. As an automated voice narrates “above all, we [human beings] want to be accepted in a certain light by the societies we live in,” the camera circles a large warehouse. One message is clear: we live in a highly materialistic society. More subtly, the automated voices in True Match claim humanity, reminding viewers of the continuous advance of Singularity, a dystopian merge of man and machine.
A unanimous mesh-clad woman stands alone in a warehouse. Her hip bones protrude sharply while lighting and camera angles draw the viewer’s eyes to the woman’s breasts and nipples rather than her darkened mask. The mask obscures her identity—what is most important and most visible is her body. A tube attached to her chest flows beyond the camera and seems to render the woman dependent on something or someone outside of herself (this motif is also used in Mikysková’s Rigged Game). The woman’s body seems unfixed, malleable, at once medical and kinky. Still, her body is all we know of her. She seems to represent a social media presence, a body detached from mind.
In True Match, Mikysková has stripped away the feeling of false intimacy until the true, transactional nature of parasocial relationships is all that remains in this metaphorical analysis. Her position along an assembly line signals a transaction. A printer reproduces a portrait of a white woman with pore-less skin, plump lips, large eyes and arched brows. At times, rectangles overlay the face. This seems to reference the idea that a symmetrical and specifically proportioned face is the most beautiful face (as if beauty can be measured objectively). In this day and age, although this ideal of beauty is fixed, the real, physical body is not. Technological advances in photo manipulation and non-invasive cosmetic procedures allow people to literally mold themselves to this ideal. The mesh-clad woman slips the photo, which transform into transparent pieces of plastic in her gloved hands, into white bags. Her product is intangible. Her product is an ideal image of beauty introduced into the minds of her audience by her content.
A white bag labelled “Singularity” seems to mock personal branding at its core, the idea that a person should adhere to consistent selling-points. Personal branding it not natural; it is an integration of humanity and technology, a move toward singularity. A shot a small, orange robots’ lens seems particularly eye-like—an impression heightened, no doubt, by the mesh-clad woman’s lack of facial features and detached manner. Mikysková is visually hinting at the integration of humanity and technology.
True Match makes very clear that the integration of social media and personal branding is a capitalist strategy used to sell a person, an ideal, a product. The celebrity, a human being, has become a commodity through the concept of personal branding. Celebrities’ carefully curated social media accounts strategically and subtly sell their artificial brand. Scrolling through celebrities’ social media accounts feels like this piece.
Shots of the woman’s assembly line are cut with shots of makeup and fashion warehouses, solidifying the connection between the intangible desires instilled in an audience by celebrities’ social media and the material purchases that the audience makes upon being convinced they need to enhance themselves. Toward the end of the piece, the clips of fashion and makeup warehouses shift to shots of servers, the modern warehouse for the Digital Age. The spoken word section, read by a female automat voice, reminds the viewer that this is the natural effect of capitalism: “we [human beings] will always want more and get more because the business behaves.” Social media is part of this business.
Suddenly, an animated bust of Medusa appears. In the place of her eyes, the seat of her power, is an inverted image of herself. The snakes take defensive action against an invisible enemy. The rectangles can’t seem to decide how to judge her, constantly shifting and modifying. Is she empowered or has she turned her power against herself? Is this positive or negative imagery? Before being turned into a Gorgon as punishment for her own rape, Medusa was described by the poet Ovid as a ‘ravishingly beautiful maiden’ who was ‘the jealous aspiration of many suitors.’ By introducing her image, Mikysková invokes themes of vilified women.
The mesh-clad woman begins placing images of Medusa in the bags. The same subconscious messages still accompany the bags, and Medusa has been subjected to the rectangles. It seems significant that the image of Medusa that Mikysková uses is Caravaggio’s Medusa with sharp steams of blood pouring from her severed head. Caravaggio’s brutality against women are well documented. Suddenly, mens’ eyes fill the screen in very closely cropped videos as if they have been peering through a peep-hole. Immediately, my unease at the suggestive camera angles and faint black thong register in my mind. The mesh-clad woman’s literally objectified body accompanied by the rectangles on Medusa’s image remind us of how “indoctrinated” we are by this ideal of beauty and femininity, that even in rebelling against it we may still be feeding the system.
Watch Mikysková’s True Match.
Kate Wiley studies art history and archaeology at the University of Richmond. As the 2019-20 curatorial assistant at UR Museums, she has co-curated two exhibitions with executive director Richard Waller. She is also researching Andy Goldsworthy’s work for her senior thesis.