Metahaven: The Sprawl at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) in San Francisco

Metahaven, The Sprawl (still), 2015


For their exhibition at YBCA, Amsterdam based design and research studio Metahaven debut the first gallery presentation of their new film project, The Sprawl. In an immersive video installation that explores the mutation of propaganda in the age of social media, with a particular focus on how the diffuse, networked circulation of messages through these channels affects how we read, interpret, and understand events. Presented both online as a series of short films distributed across various platforms and in the gallery as a multichannel video installation, The Sprawl exists in a dispersed format in order to occupy the same space as its subjects, in essence becoming, as Metahaven describe it, “propaganda about propaganda.”

The project investigates the recent Ebola outbreak, the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, and the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) through the internet and traditional news media. Unlike previous eras, where the state continuously enforces one propagandistic message to the public, the example of these three crises reveals how propaganda now exists within a horizontal field of instant, multiple messages. The Sprawl incorporates found footage, popular online videos, staged interludes, and interviews with theorists, writers, and activists such as Benjamin H. Bratton, Monalisa Gharavi, and Peter Pomerantsev. For the installation, the film is parsed into several looped video clips on large flatscreens affixed to custom mirrored structures around the gallery, creating a cacophonous theater.

Metahaven use graphic design, identity branding, and product development as a means to investigate existing commercial and political power structures.

Metahaven: The Sprawl is curated by Ceci Moss, Assistant Curator of Visual Arts, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Metahaven, The Sprawl, 2015


Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) –  701 Mission Street San Francisco, CA 94103
18 December 2015 – 3 April 2016