The Walthall Fellowship closing show is finally here! Part One opens at Gallery 72 on Friday, August 29th from 7:00 to 9:00 pm, and runs through September 12th. Part Two opens on Friday, September 19th from 7:00 to 9:00 pm and runs through October 4th. On September 4th I will give a short talk about my work, which will remain up for both parts of the exhibition.
Titled Imprint, this work grew out of several tangential interests of mine. I’ve always been interested in visualizing hidden connections, and during a trip to New York I noticed that the deep grooves in metal plates covering the subway steps were worn nearly smooth, an imprint of every person who had passed there since those steps were put in place. This led me to think about how we leave behind traces—digital, physical, and even emotional— of ourselves in our daily lives, and how, like the Butterfly Effect, that connects us to other people, places, and things in ways unseen, too many and too complex to comprehend.
At the same time, a botched 3D print of a QR code got me thinking about the different layers of systems we use to encode data for storage and retrieval—from our own memory to computer programs—and how sometimes this encoding has glitches and data is lost or disfigured. My own memory seems terribly faulty, and I employ a number of means of encoding data so that I can have access to it later, including calendars, to-do lists, and scheduled reminders. I also keep a journal to record personal thoughts and events, often looking back and seeing patterns or connections I overlooked in the moment. And finally, I practice what has arguably become one of the most prevalent means of self-tracking: photography. Like so many others, I photograph my day-to-day existence via cell phone camera, sharing many of those images on social media, thereby allowing others to track a version of me that I have preselected for them.
It was during this time that I became aware of the Quantified Self movement, which seeks to uncover insight into daily life via various technological means of self-tracking. I was curious what new things I could learn about myself, and hoped to reveal some of the unseen connections I wish to map. The convergence of interests now had a framework to explore within, and I began using various additional means of tracking myself, and thinking more about how others were tracking me, both with data I offered freely (social media photographs) and that I didn’t (any number of ways we are tracked on the internet and in our commercial transactions).
The work on view in the Walthall Fellowship exhibition contains photographs that explore manifestations of my own self-collected data, as well as an interactive installation which detects and maps viewer presence, simultaneously revealing traffic patterns and co-opting the movements of people in the space for my own purposes of creating art. This reflects the tension between that which we choose to share, and that which we share involuntarily, and the conflicting qualities of usefulness and invasiveness that we experience as part of this increasingly common facet of modern life.
The interactive portion of this project would not have come to fruition without the engineering and programming skills of my amazing husband, David Sims at The UltraMind. I cannot thank him enough for his hard work and endless patience in making my vision a reality.