Tinder, Xanax, Netflix and Chill—these are the things most of us use to zone out. They’re also the things digital artist Sara Zaher illustrates, her campy visuals critiquing the millennial desire to remain comfortably numb. Through bright colored and satirical imagery, the Australian-based Zaher creates cutting cultural commentary, that’s just as likely to go viral as it is to piss people off. But that doesn’t deter her—in fact, it probably encourages the 27-year-old whose goal is to force the Instagram generation to react online and IRL. With subject matter ranging from Trump to Big Tobacco, Zaher points out all the pitfalls (and distractions) of the digital age, proving it’s way more fun to tune in than out.
BULLETT caught up with the artist to talk social media, synthetic pills and Saint Hoax. View an exclusive series and read our interview, below.
Tell me a little about the new series. What inspired these works?
I try to create images that comment on current events—these can range from the highly political to the highly personal and all shades in between. I like to experiment with visual and linguistic meaning, as a way to reinterpret the obvious or familiar. This is usually done by combining different visual content to bring about an alternative meaning.
What themes do you like to explore in your work?
Anything that inspires me to create—it could be personal issues like relationships, social media and common millennial woes or socially and politically active issues.
Your work revolves around satire and criticizing contemporary culture through comedy. Why is that important to you?
I think I use this satirical approach as a way to deal with a polarizing attitude towards ‘contemporary culture.’ A specific example could be the fame-centric nature of social media that can either inspire or depress. So finding a way to navigate gently through that pendulum becomes increasingly necessary.
Obviously, you’ve developed a large following on Instagram. But you also reference a lot of digital-specific visuals in your work. What role has Instagram, and the internet in general, played in shaping what you do?
Social media and the internet at large is intertwined with our day-to-day existence and identity. I’m constantly curious about observing and commenting on its effect—both positive and negative. This could be through the accessibility of the medium which fosters creative growth or its potential for mass distraction.
You seem drawn to a lot of imagery relating to medication. What’s that about?
This imagery is more of a critique on our fetishization of modern addictions. Whether through a dependence on prescription drugs or an obsession with social media, we are becoming an increasingly medicated generation—a generation that finds comfortable numbness through a synthetic pill or behind a glaring screen.
‘Bombing For Peace’
What’s your artistic background. How did you get into this digital design?
I did my BA and MA in graphic and media design. However, my decision to pursue art full-time came after the positive feedback I received when showcasing my work through galleries, fairs and social media. As for the medium, I taught myself photography and different design and editing programs as a way to communicate these ideas.
What do you think you get out of this medium that you can’t with others?
I think since most of the themes I communicate deal with modern ‘millennial’ issues such as technology, elusive relationships, the internet and so on, it seems like a suitable platform and medium. I am however constantly researching and testing new ways of communication, like video, neon and installation.
A lot of women artists are using social media as a means of sharing their work. What do you think it is about the internet, and Instagram in particular, that creates a space for women to express themselves?
I think the nature of the internet democratizes information—anyone regardless of gender, race or class can create and expose with a click of a button. This is a very empowering tool for all voices to be heard.
Aesthetically, what are your influences? Do you have any artists that really inspire your work?
There’s definitely a lot to mention, but the first few that come to mind are Jenny Holzer, James Turrell, Ai Weiwei and ones I’ve admired online such as Saint Hoax, Joan Cornellà and Carole Feuerman, to name a few.
What do you want people to take away from your work?
My main aim is to critique, entertain, and create dialogue. I like to engage and disturb. My biggest fear is comfortable art—art that is so subjective, so reclusive, that it fails to comment on issues greater than the artist.