Annabel Troost's Programmer Pick: Sylvia

    • Festival
    • November 24, 2020
    • By Maricke Nieuwdorp & Annabel Troost

    Throughout the festival, the IDFA programmers present their favorite hidden gems from the festival program. Today Annabel Troost, researcher & editor at IDFA DocLab, recommends Sylvia.

    Sylvia (#myfriendsylvia) is a virtual influencer who lives on Instagram. She is different from her virtual colleagues in the sense that she does get older, at a breakneck pace even. When she created an account a few months ago, she was in her thirties. The influencer is now 77-years-old.

    Her feed consists partly of algorithmically generated posts on lifestyle topics—yoga, self-care, coffee, work/life balance—and partly computer generated images of Sylvia herself. Like many popular real or virtual influencers, she occasionally asks obligatory, clichéd questions to her followers, like ‘How was your day?', or ‘How do you prefer your coffee?' Sometimes she offers advice and encouragement in line with her growing life experience. Other times she gets lost a bit in a reflection on loss, gratitude, and balance.

    This Instagram account is a social media experiment by multimedia artist and researcher Ziv Schneider, who developed it within the DocLab R&D Program. If you scroll through Sylvia's feed you will see themes such as ageism, beauty ideals, artificial mortality, and normative behaviour being explored on social media. In that sense, Sylvia is also a form of social criticism and a counterpart to virtual influencers such as the popular Miquela (#lilmiquela), a girl who will always stay nineteen and will always be able to meet or even determine the youth ideal.

    Schneider worked on this project with a scientist who researches aging and different stages of a human life. This is reflected in what Sylvia finds important—an interesting career, well-being, health—and in the life course of Sylvia's existence. For example, this "designer from New York" at one point lost her job. The feed shows what something like that can do to a person. Somehow this is also a self-examination of the artist. Because even if you are current, you remain concerned with the question of how to remain relevant—as a person and as an artist. Those are life questions everyone recognizes.

    During the first weekend of the festival, Sylvia passed away. We said goodbye to her in an appropriate way, with an online wake. Actually, it's a strange idea that she's no longer here. Now that I have been following her for months, she's become human to me. The great thing about Instagram is that an archive of her life has now been created that is permanent.

    During the festival, several events and talks related to Sylvia will be available online through idfa.nl/donotplay.

    Sylvia

    • Ziv Schneider
    • 2020

      Sylvia is a virtual influencer, a digitally created Instagram model. But unlike her “colleagues” who are deployed to promote major brands, she doesn’t possess eternal youth. On the contrary: Sylvia is ageing rapidly and will die during IDFA.

      More info

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