For me this show attempts to address so many different aspects of our daily behaviors and how they’ve been affected by technology and our culture of consumerism, it's difficult to succinctly write about how I feel about it.
Forgive me while I begin with an anecdote. My little sister (both the youngest and the only girl among my siblings) was, what I would consider, raised quite spoiled. She was brought up believing consumption was expected, admired, and even revered. For a brief period of her younger years, I watched as she obsessed over the American Girl dolls - which so aptly package contemporary consumerism into a single box (or several if you can afford the accessories). I remember being struck by the concept that families were spending hundreds of dollars so that their children could simultaneously own and become their doll. Dressing to match and acting out prewritten fantasies that you could purchase for yet a bit more cash. For just over $100, I watched my sister consume herself. She loved it.
Although the years between us are not excessive in number, I sometimes feel as though our childhoods were driven by completely different motives. Perhaps sparked by societal norms, personal preferences, or the general disillusionment of my parents, I (very unlike my sister) spent most of my childhood afternoons on my bicycle with friends. I know I also consumed as a kid. We all do. But I remember consuming adventure and experience equally from the back of my bike and the manipulations of a video game controller rather than through the acquisition of material things. I seem to notice that the volume of items consumed by the average person has only increased since my sister’s or my childhood. I have to ask if this increase (whether invented or actual) in consumption is inherently wrong, or if it’s just the way of that elusive ‘progress’ we all want to make.
We live in a society where we consume more than we produce - we’re forced to. Whether we buy into it or not, we are part of a culture that spends an average of 8 hours a day staring at a screen (according to 2014 research by internet analyst Mary Meeker). That number is bad enough on its own, but layered into those 8 hours are the majority of the 5000 ads we see every day (NY Times). Even as I look around I can visibly count more than 10 product names and brand symbols from where I’m sitting… in a park.
I’m writing this post on my laptop while I listen to music on one device and text two friends, one in California and one in London, on another. We spend so much of our waking lives plugged in and awaiting instructions from our devices that it's hard to imagine a world without them. I read the other day that more than half of millennials would rather give up their sense of smell than their smartphones. I look to the future with great awe of the technological advancements we have yet to accomplish, and great hope that we as people will not lose sight of our human connection in pursuit of them. To me, this project represents that hope - or at least a piece of it. Consumed reminds me to address our culture of consumerism with a grain of salt. It has been that ever more necessary reminder that I need to take a break from the screens and spend some time with the people around me. I hope it makes you think about doing the same.