Fake Lake is an online show emerging from a collaboration between the students in the department of New Technologies For The Arts at the Brera Academy of Milan (IT) and the students in the research seminar Arts of the Self: Identity and Self-Representation from the Diary to A.I. at UC Berkeley (US).

Fake Lake - Brera Academy of Milan, New Technologies Departement

Fake Lake is a rest area, a safe zone in which to pause and consider how unconscious automatic habits are formed and internalized through mediated online experiences. The artworks presented in this show — developed by the students in the department of New Technologies of The Arts at the Brera Academy of Milan — reclaim a space for introspection and constitute a break from the acceleration of connectivity. The students’ projects reflect upon the ways in which affects, emotions, and personal accounts are both shared and captured online. How are we to share stories, feelings, and emotions outside of the pervasive surveillance of the techno-capitalist algorithm? How are we to engage in online forms of self-representation without falling into the traps of data extraction, objectification, and categorization? What forms of futurities are we to imagine outside of the overarching and over-grasping archive of the web? Fake Lake poses these questions by exploring three main topics: 1. Feelings, Introspection, and Automatic Habits: Ways of Sharing; 2. Future Disillusion and Imagination: Ways of Reacting; and 3. Objectification of Bodies and Faces: Face Filters and Face Masks.
The title of the show — Fake Lake — and the layout of the corresponding website stem from a study of the visual rhetoric of 3D simulations increasingly used by real estate developers to sell houses in advance of their realization. One of the case studies analyzed by the students recounts how a block of apartments was sold by a construction company with the promise of a lake to be installed in the midst of the structures. Once the buyers entered the site, however, they discovered that the lake was in reality a blue plastic surface crossed by a wooden bridge. The image of the 3D simulation thus materialized itself as merely another image. In the context of the show, then, the story of this fake lake has been adopted as a provocative metaphor for the compromises inherent in attempts to carve out a safe space of rest within digital media ecologies and economies.

Arts of the Self: Identity and Self-Representation from the Diary to A.I. - UC Berkeley

During a semester-long, practice-based research seminar at Berkeley, undergraduate students pursuing majors in various disciplines — including cognitive science, philosophy, economics, comparative literature, sociology, and ethnic studies — researched practices of selfhood in the age of digital technologies and AI. In the seminar, we asked: what is it to have (or be) a self? How do different media technologies—writing, photography, digital media—generate different forms of selfhood? Is the self a brain, a soul, a mass of data, a computer, a narrative, a system of affective capacities? In experiments with different media platforms, students explored artistic and vernacular practices of performing the self, from the “private self” of the written diary to the networked self of TikTok. As the COVID-19 crisis uprooted our normal lives and forced us into isolation, we mapped data usage and made “data portraits”; considered the genres of self-performance that populate new media spaces; and examined the interfaces between human and nonhuman subjectivity. Some of the projects celebrate utopian possibilities of post-human media technologies; others critique the role of media platforms in shaping contemporary selfhood; still others examine the fate of “older,” humanistic forms of aesthetic sociality — sharing songs, making paintings, imagining colors — in the era of algorithms, emojis, and predictive text. These diverse projects traverse the quotidian and the exceptional, the visible and the invisible of contemporary media forms — and affirm the creativity of the self, whether human or not, in its drive for expression and connection.