Artists grapple with social media in another meh episode of The Exhibit

Frank Buffalo Hyde, Misha Kahn and Baseera Khan gathered before the jury for critique (all images courtesy of Paramount)

Back by popular demand, another review for the second episode of The Exhibit, unironically titled “Fifteen Minutes of Fame,” which premieres tonight on MTV. I won’t mention this week’s winner, but please be aware of the spoilers in advance. I can give credit and admit that this episode was far more compelling, but it still doesn’t have the *spark* I so desperately wanted watching this in my bed of Vietnamese summer rolls.

This week’s second challenge for the artists was to tackle “the world’s love affair with social media” in just seven hours instead of the 10 hours of the first episode over two days, a timeframe that’s reasonable given the “in the spirit of the spirit” theme Immediacyā€¯ was chosen. This week’s guest judges are Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) President Sammy Hoi and the museum’s digital strategist JiaJia Fei.

Jennifer Warren dug in defensively about last week’s win and how it shows she should be in this competition regardless of her educational background. Somehow it made her feel like she was attempting a series of three oil paintings in seven hours. It went as well as you can imagine. Warren drew three photos from her own social media feed to explore the curated self… Meh. I understand that caution is needed when it comes to expanding his toolkit with a Hirshhorn exhibit and $100,000 at stake, but Warren will falter unless she learns a new trick to complement her lackluster concepts .

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The Exhibit contestant Jennifer Warren with one of her three paintings from her commissioned series Digital Cigarettes

Baseera Khan also explored the curation of the self in this round, playing with the “face, tits and ass selfie” and relating it to art history’s influential S-curve body composition. Her collage of appendages was activated by a fan to create some movement that sounded like a boomerang clip to me. It was a clever, superficial exploration of what it takes to present yourself on social media, but many of the layered meanings were lost as silliness took center stage.

Misha Kahn, who stole the show last week, had a kinetically stunning but conceptually disjointed garbage conveyor belt installation that left everyone scratching their heads but still dazzled. Clare Kambhu also bit off more than she could chew with her assignment, which included dozens of vintage smartphones with close-up shots of her graffiti painting on the school desk, which references “old-school” social media. Cool in theory, a struggle in practice.

Still from Episode 2 of The Exhibit

According to Frank Buffalo Hyde, his painting of hands filming an indigenous buffalo dance on a phone was meant to read that we are “experiencing our lives through our devices” and “are absent from the moment,” but I actually read it as preserving and sharing culture via social media. Maybe we have to attribute that to generational differences, but the picture was beautiful nonetheless.

Jamaal Barber was limited by his technical skills. His brief, to depict social media’s addictive “infinite scroll” through a grid of linocut prints, was beautiful but utterly unconventional. Just like in the last challenge, tech can’t carry the show.

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Jillian Mayer ate and left no crumbs in this episode. Her interactive yet subtle “slumpie” contraption, designed to support our regressive posture (text on the back of our necks, rolled shoulders, arched backs) as we mindlessly scroll, was one of the most intriguing explorations of social media’s physical effects. I also think that she and Misha carried the episode with their wry humor while the cast interaction gauge continues to stagnate.

Frank Buffalo Hyde’s painting “The New, New, New” during the crit session

Honestly, there are so many ways for the show to be humorous that no one is taking advantage of. Khan asked lead judge Melissa Chiu to wear the fake tits they made for the photoshoot, and Chiu just curves them completely. I’m just saying that the ladies in Flavor of Love didn’t proudly prance around in the world’s most obnoxious watch chains for Chiu to duck the Baseera boob job. Show some respect for reality TV and give people what they want: drama, publicity stunts, and covert abuse.

It seems like something is simmering, however, as the episode three preview features an awkward clip of Barber pushing a stool away and bursting into tears. Maybe then I’ll have something to tell besides the art.

Jillian Mayer’s “Slumpie” contraption