Lady PheOnix is Changing You: The Entrepreneur and Instagram Gallerist Shares Her Thoughts with Lowercase

Lady PheOnix isn’t just an online gallerist, she wants to catalyze a movement.  She curates the Instagram account YESUNIVERSE, a place where people and technology meet.

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Lady PheOnix, a consummate entrepreneur, has been reborn a couple times.  She became involved in the business and world of art after travelling and working in Japan, and later running the distribution services of a beverage company in America.  When her grandmother developed Alzheimer’s disease though, art became something she used as therapy and pivoted her career as a result.

The conversation got deep, fast.  Within 5 minutes of speaking we were on the topic of social engineering and how the human race got fucked by Edward Bernays, the godfather of modern marketing. Product placement? Being thin is sexy? Smoking is cool? All your human desires and emotions should be harnessed for the good of a corporate elite? All products of Eddy.  

We quickly realized that both of us are resisting the same enemy - the engineering of humanity for the corporate good.  Lady PheOnix focuses on tech and integrating it into art. In so doing she levels the playing field. The insidiousness of tech’s ability to socially engineer us is now used to liberate us from that same engineering. It’s one of the biggest issues facing art. It’s all very Black Mirror.  

Incidentally, Black Mirror came up a few times in our conversation.  Art now, Lady PheOnix believes, is filling a space it maybe hasn’t in the past.  We’re living in a visual culture, and though that might be bad news for writing, complexity will come in other ways.  Shows like Black Mirror, and House of Cards are replacing the novel as a way to get complex ideas about right and wrong out to the public.  Black Mirror is making us think about our relationship with technology and the future, harnessing our most powerful emotions. Do we control it or does it control us?

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Over time, we have lost something in the way we carry ourselves- in the way we occupy space and behave in it.  Lady PheOnix believes there may have been a sort of engineered self-deprecation which has led to a lower self worth.  Was this grating of the human soul intentional? Maybe, but it definitely fits with Bernays’ conception of how the world should be.

Without a sense of self, without a sense of honour, technology and whoever wields it will inevitably control us.  In her words, we’ll serve them while they figure out who they serve. Art in her view exists to change that paradigm.  She-and in fact, we-want to harness the power of art for good.

Art is one of the last things that makes us capable of thinking differently.  We need it to lead us into the future and to preserve our humanity even as that future becomes ever more unpredictable.

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I left this interview feeling optimistic, unusual for me.  In Lady PheOnix I found someone who understood our own mission.   It made me feel hopeful that there are others out there foreseeing what we do and maybe, like us, trying to prevent it.  We need a new way of thinking. She believes-no, we believe- that art will be what makes humans confront their relationship with technology and social engineering. Art will be the thing that expands our consciousness.

Spreading the good news  is always difficult but Lady PheOnix does an admirable job, not only on Instagram but also with her exhibitions. Phase 2 of the current one is titled Applied Imagination and is running from June 3-to September 13th at 836M in San Francisco.  

It will feature media artist Refik Anadol, Phase I artist Marjan Moghaddam, computational artist and interdisciplinary researcher Parag K. Mital, and creative technologist Jacqueline Assar. This exhibition encourages us to look beyond our preconceived notions and participate in moving society forward with AI as our creative partner.

She embodies the best in what a gallerist should try to do.  She finds artists and amplifies their message, all the while using art to change the way people see the world.   “Art is my service, hopefully it brings people together,” she says, and we couldn’t agree more.

Applied Imagination is running from June 3-to September 13th at 836M in San Francisco.

To follow Lady PheOnix on Instagram, click here