Princess’ @1minworld brings a Bo Burnham-esque social media critique to blissed-out life
Tuesday May 23, art-rock duo Princess graced the 21c Museum Hotel [219 W 9th St,] with a glimpse of caustic galaxy-brain performance art that too few were in attendance to experience—luckily their natural enemy, social media, will give you an opportunity to correct that mistake.
Alexis Gideon and Michael O’Neill’s Roy Lichenstein-inspired outfits graced the “stage” at the 21c gallery space, as the performers staged a production of their touring show “@1minworld.” The show is a series of 15 single minute long music videos, destructuring and demystifying the world of social media and its impact on our mental health—especially our parasocial relationships, spatial relationships, and the commodification of depression hierarchies.
The two artists appeared at pedestals with their instruments and microphones, a projection screen dividing the two of them. As they blistered through each track, a video accompaniment displayed their pre-made music videos, with which the artists danced and physically manifested around in the space.
The busy over-stimulation concocted by the duo brought the addictive nature of social media notifications and the dopamine rush of “favs” into a real-life space. We, in attendance, bobbed our heads and tapped our feet along to these absolute bops that, while pleasing to the senses, were equally terrifying in their barbs at the limitations and cruelty of the digital prisons we’ve built for ourselves. A Bo Burnham-esque tone permeated the short set, as we became willing participants within, and cheerleaders of, systems that Princess’ art insisted would become our collective undoing. The humorous, dark aesthetics and revealing lyrics rode high atop piercing synths and vibrant visuals.
“KIDDING” received some of the most instantaneous laughter from the crowd, as the track mocked our ability to turn our children into shiny objects or digital trophies that provide us with attention without inviting anyone to examine our actual behaviors and failings since, you know, kids are cute! Procreation as a means of achieving digital status shouldn’t work as such a harsh punchline, but we took a surprising amount of cynical joy from its 58-second runtime.
“SCROLLING” grabbed Instagram animation and jammed repetitive lyrics that mimicked our passive mindset when checking social media, merely identifying which posts are photos or ads without our lizard brain needing to invite further examination. More so than most, this snippet seemed to sting with a personal attack on just how much our critical thinking is willfully surrendered when we log-in and equally shut down internally. Along with the animation, Michael stared at his phone while registering the type of post–a photo, video, or advertisement–instead of its content.
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@1minworld as a whole also invited the audience to perceive the physical divide created between humanity. Gideon and O’Neill’s separation in the performance space was only temporarily bridged in their strongest attempts to reach slightly across the ever-evolving gap. This built towards a finale where physical touch offered a promise of both connection and, by extension, prison break.
“EVOLVING” is the most eerie of the snippets on display. The energetic faces and gestures of the artists immediately flipped into a robotic stance. In the animation, dinosaurs walked a city’s ruin. The artists then faced each other and hunched over phones, mimicking the large dinosaur body and tiny T-rex hands—an attempt to echo the de-evolution of our physical and mental presence in our Online Era.
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Within 15 minutes, 15 songs provided a blissed-out bout of analytical depression that felt half-marathon and half-TikTok scroll in bed when you know you should be asleep. Our attempts to document the performance live only made us feel, perhaps obviously, more like we were slaves to the black mirror in our pockets, and the human inclination to document everything in order to make it real for others laid bare just how frustratingly samsies we’ve all become.
Luckily, Princess has put the entire performance’s video series online so you can experience it on your own time. If you’d like to blast through this set (and believe us, you do) check out the videos here. The songs rule but the medium and the message know how inseparable they are, so enjoy to the degree that you can. It might involve flipping some parts of your brain off for a short reset.
Then maybe go touch grass.