The term “cringe” has resurfaced on the internet in recent years. According to Google Trends statistics, there has been a significant increase in searches for this term, which has been steadily rising since 2016. “Cringe” refers to a reaction of embarrassment or social awkwardness. This feeling arises when we become aware of our own uncomfortable actions or when we empathize, or even mock, someone else’s behavior that causes us secondhand embarrassment.
The term “cringe” encompasses a wide range of emotions, making it a versatile word to describe various incidents. However, its usage and application have been shaped by internet communities. Not only is it widely known and used, but it has also managed to bridge divergent identities.
People of different ages, races, genders, political affiliations, and other backgrounds find a common language of communication through “cringe” online. Similar to the existence of metaphorical languages for artistic subjects, “cringe” has spawned a metaphorical language for artistic expression. This is evident in many contemporary works, both digital and non-digital, and has given rise to new artistic media such as memes. “Cringe” has become an overarching concept that encompasses a broader range of social embarrassments.
The universality of identifying with “cringe” when faced with discomfort or socially awkward situations could position it as a contemporary Sublime. Historically, the Sublime has been associated with aesthetic theories heavily influenced by the social dynamics of the time. However, does “cringe” represent a modern form of the Sublime? Has it emerged in response to a shift away from a prescribed aesthetic? We currently exist in a time where collective digital languages are being created to understand a wider range of identities and where a diversity of aesthetic influences is prevalent.
Considering that aesthetics today are multifaceted due to the World Wide Web and the widespread dissemination of information, this exhibition aims to explore these ideas. Through artworks that construct an intimate fusion of references to our digital identity, it presents a familiar chaos that challenges viewers to organize it, while deeply engaging with their present human identity.
*cringe* Curated by: Socrates Stamatatos, Dimi Kalabo 29 SEPTEMBER-08 OCTOBER 2023