Sarah Genge’s studio is big, bright and under a blue sky.
The 18 year-old Ladysmith Secondary grad, who plans to study at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design, has been completing a mural on a whitened wall behind the school, next to the tennis courts.
Prominent on her cinder block canvas is a tribute to LSS art teacher Ms. Johnson, an “amazing” teacher and friend.
In bright colours, set off brilliantly against the long white background, Genge has created a ‘timeline’ of one person’s life. The work is a commentary on how human relationships are being depersonalized thought the filters of modern technology.
The series starts of with a baby, playing with an iPhone; progresses to a toddler, dressed for baseball, but fixated on a TV screen as his pitching partner; takes a romantic interlude for young lovers; then moves on to a family, with the parent and kids “mostly robotic.”
This not so futuristic view of our inundated world ends with an old man surrounded in a bouquet of screens and digital paraphernalia; then finally with a post mortem brain that has been deformed by overexposure to a Wi-Fi reality.
Hers is a reaction to a generation which she sees being drawn farther and farther away from healthy thinking, feeling and relationships by its fascination with all things digital. The future of the infant with the iPhone is threatened.
“The technology does a lot of thinking for him because as a society we’re addicted and it just gets worse and worse,” Genge said. “So technology in our lives, instead of becoming helpful, it’s become really unhelpful.”
Asked why she would want to convey that message to a high school audience, when teens are perhaps the most plugged in and switched on demographic, she said it’s time for young people to look up from their screens at the real world around them, and especially at each other.
“Ten years ago, if you saw teenagers hanging out together, they’d all be playing together, and doing stuff with each other,” Genge said. Not so much now. Increasingly – and Genge makes it clear there are still plenty of exceptions – teens are interacting with each other over their phones and computers.
There’s a frantic desire in the modern world not to be bored. People mistakenly equate being bored with being boring.
“We no longer get bored, and there’s this big thing about being bored, whereas when your bored you’re the most creative you can be,” Genge said. In that listless, moody state, when you are between events, ideas flourish, she believes.
“I believe that when you’re bored, certain things come to you and we’re no longer getting bored as a society, instead we’re just always on our phones, constantly being connected, doing stuff.
“I don’t think that connection’s always the best. Sometimes it’s best to just live in the moment and look up once in a while.”
Her art is ‘kind of a warning to students,’ Genge said. “Just a reminder to get off your phones.”
Most of the work on her mural took place during a couple of intense weeks shortly after school let out for summer. She doesn’t know how people will respond to her work, but she hopes they’ll appreciate it, and the message it conveys.
As for her, she’ll be immersed in art at Emily Carr, asking “what is art, what goes into art – the questions you have to ask when you’re making an art piece.”
Some of the answers she’s already left on the wall behind Ladysmith Secondary.