Surprised But Not Delighted is a pop-up exhibition by Katie Lips a contemporary artist working with digital and mixed media. It explores technology startup culture; the value of ideas, the price of ambitions, and the promise technology makes to the hopeful. The exhibition pops up at Jealous Gallery – an apt location for a show about technology in Shoreditch, a stone’s throw from Silicon Roundabout, the heart of London’s startup-land.
Inspired by Startups & Sticky Notes, Katie Lips’ new work includes pieces which use business artefacts such as the simple sticky note. One piece ‘Build The App’ explores how startup teams plan how they’re going to run the business they hope will be worth millions – summed up on a few stickies. Mindfulness, business mentoring and life coaching are also in the firing line as Lips takes aim at the motivations of entrepreneurs in her piece “Personal Backlog”, an overly laboured list of the things entrepreneurs might do when striving for success. Neither piece includes much about the technology or product, indeed “Build The App” includes just one item that delivers anything tangible; and seemingly as an afterthought.
Also part of the exhibition, a video installation piece “The Entrepreneur” sees Lips take on the persona of an entrepreneur at three stages in a career as a startup founder. She explores the uncomfortable yet confident ‘investor pitch’, the self satisfied ‘post exit’ success story and a philanthropic benefactor. Again there is no real mention of the actual business or idea; suggesting their irrelevance. Many of her pieces distill her look at technology entrepreneurship into a few words; often humorous, and often devoid of any real meaning. But it’s not all negative, she insists there’s optimism and a fondness in many pieces.
“‘Entrepreneur’ is an easy job title to obtain; I know how hard that journey is even for those that make it. But it’s been dumbed down recently, re-engineered, and mapped out. Much of my work, I hope shows the enthusiasm felt by so many as they embark on this journey.”
Visually, her work builds on the business aesthetic of ‘office supplies’ – sticky notes and ‘Sharpies’; a nod to the improvised lo-tech employed by high-tech businesses. The messy DIY aesthetic is not the end of the story; the works are not themselves devoid of technology and several exist as digital pastiches: notice boards advertising mail order versions of themselves as editions via a website, advertising bizarrely real looking jobs at fake business including www.schlep.work.
Lips’ rationale for Surprised But Not Delighted is as follows: “Tech startups have become predictable recently. In 2016’s startup-land there’s a well worn map, a blueprint; follow the rules and you might achieve success. But everyone’s following the rules, reading the same map. What might have been a bunch of people choosing to co-work out of necessity has turned into people rushing to Google’s shiny cafe every morning. With its childish ‘Seize the Day’ and fanciful space suits it has a veneer of excitement, but is anything new happening? After all, to get in to this cafe, you have to fill in a form and become a member. Google knows who you are before you’ve had your idea or your breakfast.”
“I don’t see myself as a digital artist; or even a “Post Internet Artist”; I’m a conceptual artist who might happen to work with digital technology or might happen to work online, but who might also work with paint or mixed media.”
Katie Lips is an emerging artist, who having spent several years not making art, is returning to life as an artist with attitude. Her first show is her own pop-up at Jealous but she’s already attracted the attention of those keen to spot emerging talent – she’s landed a place at the prestigious ‘The Other Art Fair’ and is “developing a busy calendar for 2016”. Having studied at Central Saint Martins in the early nineties, fascinated by how the early Internet was changing everything, Katie Lips began working with Digital Media. “As an early adopter I was exposed not just to the new technologies, but to new ways of doing things in this brave new world. I was early to social media, to blogging, to mobile, to spinning up businesses, to co-working, to un-conferences. I hung out with the Web 2.0 kids in the mid 2000s and was part of the European Web 2.0 startup scene. Early attempts to develop digital ideas into businesses gave me an immersion into the world of startups and money; and a culture of ideas and aspiration even more enigmatic than the art world.” Her earlier work includes a tenantspin commission for ‘Fifth Floor: Ideas Taking Space’ at Tate Liverpool (2009), and a commission by FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology) (2006).
Surprised But Not Delighted – Katie Lip 3rd and 4th March 2016 at Jealous Gallery, 53 Curtain Road, London. www.surprisedbutnotdelighted.com