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Video: An exhibition brings together 200 TikTok videos for young people to speak for themselves

Videos of up to one minute, transition effects, popular music. This is the aesthetic that has made TikTok one of the most used social networks in the world: there are more than 800 million active users per month. And now these short videos have reached the art world in a compilation of 200 TikToks that is part of the exhibition PUBER, by the Catalan artist Tanit Plana (Berga, 45 years old), focused on adolescence and the management that young people make of their public and private image.

The sample is in the rooms of The Viceroy Image Center, in Barcelona, ​​where it can be visited until February 21, 2020. In addition to the TikTok video collection, the exhibition features 74 portraits of various young people and three podcasts based on the songs these teens listened to.

The person responsible for the selection of TikTok is Estela Ortiz (Terrassa, 32), an expert in digital ethnography, which is the study of communities and cultures created through online interactions. “I discovered the application at the beginning of the lockdown, in March. So I started making weekly video compilations “that he publishes on his Instagram stories, Ortiz comments to Verne in a video call.

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Ortiz and Plana follow each other on social networks and, from there, the artist invited her to contribute TikTok videos to her exhibition. The idea, as the creator of the collection explains, was for the pieces to show adolescents in their own environment, without the interference of an adult’s gaze.

From his analysis of TikTok, Ortiz believes that the main thing that can be learned from teenagers on this network is that they are creating their own codes and looking for ways to present themselves to society without the mediation of an adult. “There is a certain condescension towards young people. Adolescents have never, or almost never, been given the opportunity to represent themselves, ”he says. And it is on TikTok where they find an environment to communicate freely.

To choose the videos, Ortiz has focused on users who were trying to give a voice or make visible the most diverse stories possible. The pieces come from what Ortiz defines as queer TikTok, where the most transgressive content is, as opposed to straight TikTok, in which more traditional videos are seen. Here, these words do not refer to the sexual orientation of the users, but to the content of their videos.

In the selection of short videos, which total 48 minutes, you can see boys and girls talking about their daily lives, their problems, their difficulties and even making jokes about these topics, not only in Spanish, but also in English.

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Ortiz clarifies: “They talk about their vulnerabilities and insecurities, but not in a victimizing way, but naturalizing them, doing irony, with a very intelligent humor, with many layers.” The person in charge of the compendium also believes that talking about these vulnerabilities is a very strong generational change in attitude among young people and adolescents, and their parents’ generation.

In the videos, teenagers can be seen dancing to popular songs on TikTok with humorous intent. There are also those with political content, who do not lose their humor either, like the Moroccan boy who parodies the filters that would show how others see him, and for whom a boat full of immigrants appears crossing the Mediterranean Sea. Or the video in which a girl says that sometimes she feels insecure in the hijab but remembers her ancestors, and images of veiled women begin to appear dancing or protesting. In addition, pieces with absurd situations abound, such as a person dancing dressed as a hamburger. “The absurd is already part of the imaginary millennial Y centennial by the historical context that we are living. You have to take it with humor ”, explains Ortiz

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