Rankin Creative Exhibition – THE UNSEEN
Sorcha Ní Cheallaigh previews a new exhibition for the artists the social media companies don't want you to see. Main Image | Ryan Michael Kelly | @ryanmichaelkelly | Tessa Kuragi | @Tessa__Kuragi
It’s a true yet bizarre fact that cross Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and Youtube, access to accounts for Playboy and Pornhub is relatively unfettered while independent artists and creators worldwide are still reported for the mildest of infringements of content their guidelines. In a move that seeks to reinstate the image of wrongfully deplatformed creators, Rankin Creative has partnered with Quantus Gallery to launch a uniquely multifaceted exhibition titled THE UNSEEN. Opening with a launch event on Wednesday 15th June, the project will be accessible worldwide via an online manifestation, while a digital-physical exhibition space will be open to the public at the Quantus Gallery in London’s famous creative quarter, Shoreditch.
THE UNSEEN project has already energised a community that has regularly been abandoned and ignored by technocratic social media sites. UNSEEN artist Holly Inks appealed a content and shadow ban applied to her Instagram account due to images containing the female nipple. “Of course they came back and rejected it,” wrote Holly for her UNSEEN entry, “and getting through to speak to anyone at Instagram/Facebook is impossible so there’s nothing else I can do”. For Holly, the bans drastically impacted both audience growth and sales, forcing her to self-censor in hopes of removing the shadow ban. “My audience quite literally couldn’t find me or see me,” she says. Yet Holly is still not allowed to use sponsored content, advertising, or promotional material. “My website is marked permanently as inappropriate. I cannot use the ‘shops’ feature to promote any work or list any art for sale. My Reels/Hashtag reach continues to be limited.”
Within its first phase of research and development, THE UNSEEN engaged with hundreds of people from all over the world who, just like Holly, each expressed their own individual experience of discrimination, suppression and digital isolation. THE UNSEEN community is open to anyone who has experienced discriminatory content removal, account removal, promotional and advertising bans, and the stealth-based practice of shadow banning. Through their community-first research approach, the project has outlined the core reasons marginalised people feel they are being censored on social media sites.
The female body and experiences related to sexism and misogyny ranked as the number one reason creators felt their work was being censored, followed by – in ascending order – homophobia and queerphobia, politically related experiences, fatphobia, plus-size discrimination, ableism and racism. A simple online form offered creators and artists the opportunity to share their stories and reported posts. “We’ve had an incredible response so far, and we’re just getting started,” said Rankin, renowned fashion photographer and eponymous founder of Rankin Creative. “This is an important issue, and those affected deserve to have a voice in the policies that affect them on the platforms they love and build their businesses on.”
All previously censored posts will be reinstated in their intended form on THE UNSEEN’s new digital platform, with a focus on presenting the personal stories and reported posts of artists such as Bri Cirel, Holly Inks, and Wes Viz. As part of the exhibition, Rankin will also present 13 newly unveiled portraits showcasing the individuality of THE UNSEEN community. The portraits will be accompanied by AR-facilitated interactive experiences designed by the experimental team at Media.Monks. “We wanted to put the viewer back in control, and subvert the relationship we have with the images we see online,” writes Rankin, “so working with Media.Monks was ideal. It’s important to show how emerging technologies like 8th Wall can be used positively to make things fairer.” Rankin Creative’s OPALUKE (Opal Turner and Luke Lasenby) echo this desire for equity and equality: “We hope the simple act of creating a database and awareness of these stories will help make a difference, but we’re far from done. We’ll be working until the system is fairer.”
THE UNSEEN exhibition is a collaboration with Quantus Gallery – Europe’s first hybrid NFT Gallery – offering creators, viewers, and art collectors a new approach to ownership and media consumption for the 21st-century and beyond the restraints of traditional social media.
Visitors can view THE UNSEEN website from 15th June and visit the exhibition between 16th – 24th June at Quantus Gallery, 11-29 Fashion Street, London, E1 6PX.