The Miami performance artist envisions the end of the web as we know it.
It's no secret that Jillian Mayer owes her performance-art career, brief yet bizarre as it is, to the Internet.
Responsible for last summer's "I Am Your Grandma," a 60-second outré art video filled with grotesque baby faces, costumes and a firm resolve to freak out her unborn grandchildren, the Miami artist saw the clip go viral on YouTube (with 1.5 million views and counting). The Guggenheim Museum in New York even handpicked Mayer's 2010 video "Scenic Jogging" – in which she unsuccessfully chases a series of projected computer screensavers down the nighttime streets of Wynwood – for its biennial show "YouTube Play." Earlier this year, Mayer debuted the short film "Life and Freaky Times of Uncle Luke," about 2 Live Crew rapper Luther Campbell, at the Sundance Film Festival and at South by Southwest.
And yet, all these accolades make Mayer's newest art project at the Bass Museum of Art, the web-based "Erasey Page," seem a bit ironic. Boasting just a keyboard and a widescreen monitor, the lone installation purports to hand the user, with a stroke of said keyboard, the ability to destroy the Internet page by page.
"I don't know. Because you forgot what outside looks like?" says the Miami 27-year-old, reached earlier this week by email. "Actually having the power to delete the most-powerful thing that exists in media exchange is extremely intense. I know many of us constantly wonder how different our lives and experiences would be if the Internet stopped existing."
For "Erasey Page," Mayer collaborated with Miami-based graphic designer Eric Schoenborn, who helped design and code the project. Users who interact with the installation are greeted by Mayer as a "pop-up spokesmodel," who urges them to live a happier, Internet-free lifestyle by punching in a random website of their choice for "deletion." Afterward, Mayer applauds the user for "enjoying a less-computer-interactive and a more-real-time reactive lifestyle."
"Realistically, I don't think it will deter people from their Internet usage," Mayer says. "But hopefully, people may examine their allotted time that they spend on the web. Or maybe they will consider the web ending. Or if they would take the plunge to deleting if they had the power to."
Like most of her performance art, "Erasey Page" tackles themes of reality vs. artifice and human interactions with technology, both notions, she says, that were spun from too many hours weaning herself on scripted family sitcoms such as "Full House" and "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air."
"The actor, the script, the easy-to-fix 24-minute problem. TV was my learning system," says Mayer, who earned her BFA at Florida International University. "Now, that has shifted to the Internet for most young people, and that is why I have so much interest in it. "
Still, she believes "Erasey Page" isn't "against the Internet."
"The Internet is a playground for me and my work. As far as my videos, I don't think they would exist without the Internet, because they are based on Internet-related themes," Mayer says. "I provide the chance for people to take part in something by freeing themselves from the Internet – mainly, the distractions of the Internet."