Pygmalion — Deification in the Digital Realm
by Julia Waraksa
The main theme of Pygmalion's myth is the artist's love of his own creation. Pygmalion becomes so infatuated with his work that he begins to treat it as if it were a real person. In theatre, the moral story of Pygmalion is centred on the idea that life is too realistic to believe in the fabrication of idealism.
Pygmalion is a modern interpretation of the original myth, exploring the notions of intimacy, idolatry and trust between strangers on the internet who find refuge in the digital presence of the ambiguous other.
The early framework of the Internet was not yet based upon targeted monetisation. This allowed the user to assume total anonymity, which in turn removed almost entirely the threshold of exploring one's identity. On the internet, one could become an amorphous being; to assume any age, name and opinion became as simple as acting the part within the digital space.
William James, the father of American psychology, once suggested that we have as many personalities as the number of situations we are in. Although our digital identity may be fragmented, it seems clear that our various online personas are all digital breadcrumbs of the same persona; different symptoms of our same core self.
The internet allows for a blurring transgression and deliberate confusion of boundaries of self; a concern with what makes us human and how we define humanity, how we view ourselves and how we view our relation to others.
The act of creating someone different from ourselves over the internet not only allows us to be something we are not, but also to hide something we are and hence curiosities and fantasies are fulfilled in a disinhibited fashion. Because they can't be seen or heard, people may open up and say things that they normally wouldn't say in-person. Self-disclosure and intimacy may be accelerated, and people may be much quicker to establish deeper relations with one another.
 Because of this disinhibition, the internet naturally offers a safe-haven for those who feel cast out or alien to the surroundings they are otherwise constricted to — physical limitations, prejudices and geographic restrictions play no role within the boundlessness of what one can be or become digitally.
 Chamorro-Premuzic, Thomas. 'How Different are your Online and Offline Personalities?'. [online] https://www.theguardian.com/media-network/2015/sep/24/online-offline-personality-digital-identity
 Samantray, Snigdha. 'Internet Addiction and Relationships: the Psychology behind it'. [online] https://medcraveonline.com/MOJAMT/internet-addiction-and-relationships-the-psychology-behind-it.html
When in 2007 I permanently lost my voice due to a surgical mistake, the mistake rendered me unable to speak for the remaining years of my childhood and many years later I could only produce tired and weary voice. This event, which started my isolation, coincided with the growth of social networks on the internet. Because of this, I too, became one who found refuge in the safe-haven that the internet could offer me at the time.
As a youth, I found that in a digital community I did not require my physical voice to participate. My digital self became an extension of what my physical self would forever be unable to achieve: a sociable, vocal character. Consequently, the digital realm, in the presence of my digital self, became a sanctuary. And in it I met strangers: strangers facing similar predicaments, in search of the same.
The traces that are left of this sanctuary are scattered fragments of conversations with these strangers, evolving into friendships that I fostered over the span of 10 years. Whilst some of them crossed over into the real world, the majority of them remained in the digital world. Strangers without a physical body, and sometimes, without a face. The only proof of us crossing over into each other’s physical realm are these fragments; the confiding of our innermost thoughts and feelings. On the internet, I was the confessor, and I was the confidant: to Pygmalion's myth, I was the sculpture, and I was the sculptor.
While many relations have faded some of them have accompanied me until today, and we maintain both online and offline contact. The friend of the top right letter I met online in 2014, for she was part of the group above. A couple years later in 2018, I met her physically and we travelled together for a week. We felt so familiar with one another that it felt as if I were visiting an old friend.
References, Prototypes and Experiments
The video is choreographed in such a manner that the figure is moving both closer and farther apart, their contour fluid in order to evoke a sense of feeling familiar yet estranged. The eyes that never met me on a human scale, enlarged me to become an edifice.