Part II 2006-2013: Times when the people are absent, actually when I was the absent person 2017
Installed as part of the UMass Dartmouth Fine Art Faculty Exhibition, CVPA Campus Gallery
Since I first got a camera in 2001, I've been obsessively recording every aspect of my life with photos and videos. In this new series, I'm making installations about the experience of observing - reflecting on how I've seen other people, the ways I've retreated into solitude, the things I've potentially missed out on by being behind the camera. The photo stills come from digital video footage that I took, but they exclude people and their faces because even though the images come from my life, they also come from other people's lives, and I'm not interested in telling their stories. I'm wondering about the complexity of documentation, when something is put in the public realm, I guess it's no longer just a "home video." Obviously, this is part of a larger conversation about social media and cameras in our phones.
The personal imagery serves as a prompt, encouraging people to think critically about their own life, wondering about how they engage with the people around them.
The series is also about intervening in galleries as public space, and requesting audiences and gallery staff to participate in the work (to question their perspectives on what is supposed to happen in the traditional art space).
For the first iteration, Part II 2006-2013: Times when the people are absent, actually when I was the absent person, the audience is invited to "check-out" a pair of binoculars on a 200 ft rope, wander throughout the building or go outside. They can write their name on the wall, and they're invited to read and respond in a public journal. The gallery staff is instructed to encourage participation in the piece, and they're asked to maintain the rope coil.
An essay about "Part II 2006-2013: Times when the people are absent, actually when I was the absent person":
Throughout my life I’ve witnessed myself forgetting to call, only in retrospect. A kind of withdrawal that goes unnoticed by me and might be felt in real time by others. I could be looking through binoculars toward the next place where I will answer questions or walk or wake up to measure sea turtles. Sometimes I’m in a car staring into a desert while the person I just met reaches over to touch my knee, but I didn’t reply to four Facebook messages. It’s possible I got into an accident, and I’m in the hospital bleeding through my clothes looking across the room at a giant unicorn stuffed animal with a balloon that says Get Well Soon. Suddenly I hear tapping on the tent roof and I peak outside and there’s snow falling. Snow is pouring onto the ground in April and we’re camping in a blizzard.
Of those times, many excerpts are recorded on video or digital cameras. My first digital camera used floppy disks to store the images, and I took photos when I dressed up our dog in sequin shirts for an imaginary circus where I was both the Ring Leader and the documentarian. I also reported on times like Christmas morning when I wore blue eye shadow and straightened my hair and my grandma’s poodle wandered in. I liked to take self-portraits while my parents weren’t home, I never had a baby-sitter. Part II comes post-floppy disk starting when I learned to drive. I got a gift card to the Gap that year, so a lot of the self-portraits show me looking sad and skinny in a purple sweater and dark jeans that I wore with things (shirts and dresses) that looked like hotel bed spreads.
The oldest scene from Part II is when two of my closest friends are performing Rehab by Amy Winehouse, right after the album was released at a house in rural Florida. In those instances, when we’re all together ignoring the rest of the world, it doesn’t feel so bad. Most of the images shown here come from moments when I forgot about the rest of my world so I could learn about a new place, and in these video stills, there are only a few people, mainly represented through crowds or distance and blur—not a single face. No one to remind me that sexual harassment at work (or anywhere) is not only not okay but actually illegal and a fireable offense, that people can and will take advantage of you and it’s your responsibility to say no, that romantic love is not the most important thing in the universe and it’s preferable to live with that information, that familiar trauma is real beyond what you see in other’s lives, and the people, places, and pets we love the most do die, and that’s okay.
If you want to, respond in this book by letting me know what you saw when you checked-out the binoculars, or how far you took the binoculars before there was no more rope left, or what you wish you saw when you looked into the future, or who those people are that tell you the important stuff—where do you find them? How do you remember to call them? You could write or draw, leave your name or remain anonymous, in either case it might be nice to share. Or not.