Digital Natives

by Fei Jun

‘Digital natives’ refers to the generation growing up in the age of the Internet and surrounded by digital technology, and they perceive and create truth in a very different way to previous generations. The ‘truthfulness’ of images is being challenged as never before and will be further deconstructed by emerging technologies such as AI. The impact of which is only starting to be felt in an era of post truth, fake news, and manipulated images. Artists across PHOTO 2021 are exploring how these trends are changing how we communicate with each other, and in turn are shifting our sense of reality.


Simon Fujiwara’s film Joanne explores how a teacher’s life is upended when a compromising photograph is circulated online and how she builds a new public image through social media, fashion photography and branding. The film fluidly changes pace and merges different media—a sensation similar to exploring the Internet—and as with so much material we view online, the truth can be interpreted in different ways.


Kenta Cobayashi employs digital editing tools to distort images in a quest to question what it means to capture ‘truth’; Agnieszka Polska creates digital media works to investigate society’s shared experiences of environmental and humanitarian catastrophe; and Danish collective Sara, Peter & Tobias ask whether we are actually living in a computer simulation, through exploring the slippages between the physical and digital realms.


Two exhibitions—which are presented online—also address this topic head on. The Image Looks Back invites international artists, photographers and technologists explore the impact of machines viewing and making photographs. The exhibition investigates how notions of visual truth and human experience are shaped by new technologies of vision with contributions from myself, Thomas Hirschhorn, Rosa Menkman and Forensic Architecture amongst others. No True Self reflects on the way digital technologies mediate our relationships through virtual and physical realities, and the effects on our performance of self. Seven emerging European artists investigate the blurring of private and public realms and the agency of the individual within a post-digital society.



—Fei Jun, Professor, Art+Technology Program, School of Design, Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing

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Founding Partners
  • Bowness Family Foundation
  • Naomi Milgrom Foundation
Major Government Partners
  • City of Melbourne Arts Grants Program
  • Creative Victoria
Major Partners
  • Maddocks

PHOTO Australia respectfully acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands upon which we work and live, and the rich and diverse Indigenous cultures across what is now called Australia. For over 60,000 years, Indigenous arts and culture have thrived on this sacred land, and we honour Elders and cultural leaders past and present. This was, and always will be, Aboriginal land.

01–24 March