Are we together? Are we friends? Do I even know you? The increasing digital nature of our social interactions have altered how we relate to others and brings into question the quality of these relationships.
Maine-based photographer Tanja Hollander takes on digital intimacy. Her interactions via this social platform made her wonder who all these people are and whether these relationships might translate from the digital realm to the physical. She’s investigating her virtual friendships by traveling the country to meet and photograph all her Facebook friends in Are you really my friend?
Known for his appropriation art, American artist Richard Prince uses his New Portraits series to question the meaning of amorous liaisons through the internet. He appropriates the images of young women and girls with whom he interacts on Instagram. Prince is not merely a voyeur; he communicates with these women. Under his own name, he comments seductively and suggestively on these images.
American filmmaker Miranda July proposes to break down the digital wall with the Somebody app. This messaging platform allows you to send a message to someone through a real-life proxy. Your message goes to a Somebody user in physical proximity to your intended recipient. That individual becomes your proxy, delivering your text in person according to stage directions you provided. You can try this experiment on your next visit to the New Museum or the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston—both venues have opted in as hotspots.
The photographs of Czech artist Dita Pepe add a new layer to this discussion. What might it mean if you went down a different path and had another life? The artist inserts herself into the lives of people she knows, new acquaintances and strangers on the street in Self Portraits With Men. Photographing herself in these contexts allows her to mold herself to another’s life, trying it on, exploring the malleability of personal appearance and personality. This work puts you in a vulnerable position, filling you with nostalgia by reflecting a potential reality for your own life.
And then there’s the reality chamber. With a visit to the Mom Booth by Minnesota-based Andy DuCett at the Crystal Bridges Museum of Art, you can return to your childhood. Connect with real matriarchs (museum workers who happen to be mothers) in this performance installation that blends the everyday with high art. After you finish folding clothes and picking up toys with one of these ‘Moms’, you might be tempted to call your own and thank her for doing your laundry all those years.
Experiencing art like this helps us to see our world in a new way, to examine the intricacies of contemporary intimacy. The work spotlights the thin line between the real and the fabricated. Where do you see yourself in this relational spectrum?