10 November 2016

Arvida Byström, the artist documenting the pleasures and anxieties of the digital age

"Maybe if we didn’t live in a capitalist world it would be less problematic.”

jacket Cecilie Bahnsen | dress Ganni | shoes Vivienne Westwood

Art has the potential to reframe our reality, to shape our collective existence in new and unknowable ways. Now that the Internet is a tangible vessel for our sense of belonging and self-worth, we need art to address that reality too.

Arvida Byström, the Swedish, selfie-stick obsessed, Instagram-native creates images that converse with our online identity and the tension between the pleasures and anxieties that surface through digital culture. Arvida’s work exists within its own web language of pastels, flowers, selfies and pink USB cables. It reflects a culture that has intimated the internet as an extension of real life – pursuing relationships and friendships and building careers all without looking up from our screens.

"The internet is like anywhere else in that it’s good and bad, you have to learn how to navigate it.”

“You’re a woman and you’re an artist and if there’s a body, especially your own body, and you put it in your work, people are like “this is about sex,” says Arvida, “like, okay, thanks for sexualising female bodies.” Arvida feels that there is an inaccurate prevalent notion that all women’s work has to be about feminism.

“It’s good to have feminist values, I have feminist thoughts and I can be a feminist but clickbait journalism is lazy and will put the word feminist in there as a buzzword. It’s just so sad as it really scatters the movement.”

"It sucks that certain big brands won’t go to the artists, who need the money, but it happens,”

The internet has moved art galleries into our pockets, and with 24/7 opening hours, the accompanying visuals can bleed into infinite Instagram scrolls. This makes it easy for aesthetic vultures of big corporations to pick the bones of these artists for their supposed inspiration. “I literally walk in to people’s offices and they have my stuff on their mood boards… It sucks that certain big brands won’t go to the artists, who need the money, but it happens,” she sighs. “People just take your photos. It’s tricky and maybe if we didn’t live in a capitalist world it would be less problematic.”

In light of recent Instagram intellectual property theft, as well as cyberbullying and trolling, I ask Arvida if she believes the internet is a safe place. “I don’t think anywhere is a safe place, the internet is like anywhere else in that it’s good and bad, you have to learn how to navigate it.”

Like the internet, Arvida’s work is amorphous, not locked down to one set of visual cues but growing and expanding in tandem with her real life offline. Let’s hope the corporate vultures don’t get to it first.

Gallery

This article is taken from the latest issue of Hunger out now and available to purchase here and for your local stockist check here