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Desperately Reaching And Never Touching

Veronica Cianfrano

MFA Thesis 2010

“I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome you to

the introductory remarks concerning the dispatch I’m about to

stream called ‘The Writer As Pseudo-Autobiographical Work-In- 

Progress’ . . . in this dispatch I am employing the practice of surfsample-

manipulate, that is, I am surfing the electrosphere for

useable bits of data which I am then sampling and manipulating

to further integrate into my own defamiliarized life-story. . . I

approach this S-S-M practice as if I were making my life up as I

go along – as if I were making history up – a history without aim.

This is a revolutionary practice . . . ”

-How To Be An Internet Artist, Mark Amerika 2001

My Work: My Father’s Collage

My father wanted to be a photographer.  He was, instead, a construction worker and a handy man until his body gave out in the late 80s.  He found a reason to buy a nice camera and start taking pictures in 1973 when he and my mother moved to the U.S to start a family together.  My mother never touched the camera. Because of this, our family currently has over thirty artfully done albums documenting our family from 1973 to 1989.  All of which are from the point of view of my father.  In 1989, my parents divorced and a restraining order was issued, restricting my father from being in the same state as us.  He left and took all his albums with him and I grew up with out access to those memories. His house in Florida is now a museum to the past.  Every wall is a collage of taped together 4x6 snapshots. He no longer takes pictures except for special occasions. 

Since college I’ve been slowly acquiring these albums from him, allowing me to acquaint myself with my family’s past.  This acquisition made me aware of my inability to remember a time when our family was whole: my childhood. Upon further research on the matter, I discovered that when children undergo a painful and violent event over a sustained period of time, they block the events out of their mind as a survival mechanism. Apparently, repressing these events is the mind’s way of preserving the child’s fragile sense of identity.  If this is lost, then the mind no longer has a point of reference, and in a sense all is lost.  Israel Rosenfeld, states in his essay entitled Memory and Identity, that “Rapidly, complex Memory -- is not a set of stored images that can be remembered by an independent ‘I’; memory is a set of ever-evolving procedures. Hence our ‘identity’, our personality, is the brain's abstraction of the totality of our memories and experiences" (4). 

Because of these gaping holes in my memory, I became extremely fascinated with my family photo albums.  Much of my early work dealt with my own issues with missing memory and identity.  This work came via an anxiety from fear of memory loss and identity loss.  Staring at these photos over and over again and drawing the same faces over and over again proved to be a vain attempt at patching the holes in my memory.  Unfortunately, this practice simply took images from the point of view of my father and burned them into my visual recall.

This has made me realize that during our lives, our identities are simply a culmination of memories that, based on our emotional and social responses, imbed a syntax of morals and idiosyncrasies that make us who we are.   These photographs I was using for references didn’t represent true memories and therefore say more about my father’s relationship to us (my family) then they do about my identity. Essentially, my work had been discussing a disconnect through memory fragments.   The disconnect within myself-a severed gap between what I remember and what evidence shows has happened (the photographs); a disconnect between the idea and the reality of the father.  Though, ultimately, this disconnect shows a man’s separation from reality using photography as a filter. 

Mostly though, these photographs doubly served as a connecting point, as my father and I were both trying to hold onto these moments, fabricated or not, through constant documentation.  Though he knew it would end as soon as the shutter clicked and I knew it had long been over, the need is still there to re-live through preservation and representation.  This is surely a commonality between us all.  Why else would trillions of photos be uploaded to the Internet on a daily basis?  We need to try to hold onto moments in time despite its inevitable passing. This, I believe, is a commonality that ties us all together in a very profound way.  We are all afraid to forget and be forgotten.

This common human quality has found its place online from photo sharing to public video diaries and its social function has grown exponentially.  The Internet has been a source of constant research in the realm of memory, identity, and escapism. A quick stroll through the social networking sites and blog pages will show you a place filled with people desperately searching for who they are, seemingly unaware of how to form lasting relationships and memories with others.  I’ve spent hours watching video blogs where people are crying out of loneliness and isolation, desperate to form some kind of connection with another person only to look down and see that it has been viewed by thousands of people.   Living in this world must be like living in a never ending memory, constantly shifting and recontextualizing and yet nevertheless completely isolating. This life through cyber communication, of course, doesn’t work for creating meaningful relationships with others. 

This is my view of what the contemporary world I live in is like. People are isolating themselves in completely public forums out of fear: fear of abandonment, fear of commitment, fear of being forgotten, fear of forgetting, fear of identity loss, and the numbing fear of reality (life experienced without the filtration of a media device).  These fears embody the concepts that I believe connect us as people.  Hopefully, I can physically let people into my memories by using these concepts along with the common language of cyber communication in my installations. This will allow me to relate my memories to people on a more universal level, and through participation will promote a new memory that will live on through the minds of others. This hopefully will create a certain intimacy that cannot be achieved through cyber space alone.

See figure 1

The Wake: Alice’s Collage

I attended a wake recently for Alice; a friend’s Grandmother who died of old age.  Viewing this situation as an outsider allowed me to develop an intense interest in the family history of the multiple generations of people clustered in that tiny room. The room was L shaped which separated it into two parts: the casket and the sitting area.  In the sitting area, everyone was crowded around an easel, which contained a large collage filled with old family snap shots. 

Being a stranger to many of the people there, I introduced myself and expressed curiosity and interest in the people pictured in this grand collage.  This engagement made everyone very happy to have a new person to talk to about the photographs and the happy memories they were inspiring. As I learned about their great-uncles and aunts and discussed who looked like whom, I realized that these photographs are now more real to these people than the body laying in the other part of the room.

For the niece of the deceased woman, Alice will live on as she is in one of the black and white photographs.  In the background, cheerfully tending to her garden as she smiles at her niece who is standing proudly in the foreground.  “That’s me there, she had the loveliest tomatoes, she was so proud of them.  Look how young I was there… I remember the dirt I got on my new dress that day and mother got so angry.  Alice would just laugh.” 

This made it very clear to me that if we document our lives, it changes how we deal with its passing in a very real way.  We can remember our loved ones in a more poetic way; we can have a permanent watermark of that person in our minds frozen in our best memory of them. It is ultimately through imagery that we decide who we are and what we leave behind through the memories we choose to absorb and moments we choose to re-live.  Without photography, the people at that wake would have no way of removing themselves from the reality of death and that L shaped room would have a different central focus:  the body of Alice, as she is in reality.

However, photography serves not only as a method for distortion or removal from reality, but also provides references by which we navigate the world.  Israel Rosenfield explains the mind’s natural inclination to perpetually conflate the various imagery around us to form a uniform reality in his interview with Tatjana Barazon entitled, Body Image, Memory and Identity.  He states, “Conscious perception is temporal: the continuity of consciousness derives from the correspondence which the brain establishes from moment to unrelated moment. Apparently static images are not static, but relations, connections the brain establishes over time, from moment to moment. Without this activity of connecting, we would merely perceive a sequence of unrelated stimuli from moment to unrelated moment and we would be unable to transform this experience into knowledge and understanding of the world ” (3). (http://cm.revues.org/659)  The fact that we have a physiological need to navigate our place in the world through the images we are surrounded by helps explain how dangerous it can be to be surrounded by such a wide array of imagery on a constant basis; a topic that will appear again later. 

The Postmodern Individual:

“ --- An individual shaped by the postmodernist world. Such a person is complex, flexible, morally relativistic, diversity-seeking, with a "Monty Python" style sense of humor, whose general outlook is dominated by uncertainty, and who (for not all too clear reasons in view of his nature) is predisposed toward some form of dissociation and escapism. --How is one to explain the predisposition toward dissociation and escapism? Both seem to be desperate attempts to force order into chaos. The most natural explanation, then, is that the "postmodernist" individual is really "modernist" at heart. Her "postmodernist" features are acquired. They result from her failure to manage her too complex and overwhelming reality. After all, a "postmodernist" individual at heart ought to welcome her head-spinning complexity and have no need for dissociative or escapist tendencies. - Katarzyna Paprzycka

As Israel Rosenfeld has previously stated, the brain automatically absorbs the imagery around us to form connections that determine our senses of self.   Unfortunately, the unedited nature of the imagery we are surrounded by has made our connections between the world and ourselves a chaotic one.  Perhaps this is the chaos Katarzyna Paprzycka is referring to when she describes the escapist tendencies of the “postmodern individual”.  Most people today are filled with uncertainty in themselves and in the changing world around them and are simply looking for control.  If you fear rejection or abandonment, the safest way to initiate a relationship with someone is to never meet them.  Video blogs (vlogs), dating web sites, chat forums, and many more allow us to remain in our comfort zones while making connections with others.  And if things get too complicated or confusing, we still have the comfort of anonymity and all we have to do is press a button to make it all go away. 

In Life On The Screen, Sherry Turkle discusses the possibility that living in a postmodern world is what causes our need to remove ourselves from the physical world.   She uses Frederic Jameson’s theory on Postmodernism to explain her position; stating that, “ –In a postmodern world, the subject is not alienated but fragmented.  He explained that the notion of alienation presumes a centralized, unitary self who could become lost --- But as a postmodernist sees it, the self is de-centered and multiple, the concept of alienation breaks down.  All that is left is an anxiety of identity” (49).  If we follow Jameson’s theory then we can assume that this anxiety of identity is what causes this need to branch out into multiple selves and project our fears and desires onto a harmless avatar in a world where nothing is really “real”. 

With the onset of digital photography and social networking sites, the specificity of memory preservation - that is so important to our identities - has gotten muddied.  As people mass their images online with little care for editing, it makes me wonder how certain images can retain their importance.


According to the March 2009 Nielson Report On Social Networking: Global Faces And Network Places, there are over 350 million people actively using Facebook, uploading over 30 billion photo albums per month.  According to their own statistics page, Facebook users spend over 700 billion minutes per month using the site while 70 percent of avid Facebook users are from outside of the U.S.    Last year, Myspace had 185 million registered users and 45 billion pages viewed per month with 1 billion total images on the site and 150,000 requests per second for new image downloads.   The grand total of uploaded images last year was well over 180 trillion, not to mention the 168 billion uploaded videos.  All of this downloaded information is easily accessed by anyone interested due to the privacy issues these sites face.  In 2008, Facebook users were infuriated when they realized their page content and information was kept online even after they terminated their accounts.

  How can this new way of remembering and communicating affect our individual sense of self?  If Alice were a product of this time, would her funeral be a different experience?  Would her funerary collage be different?  Perhaps Alice’s niece would no longer have a singular important image to remember her by but a mass of images; both important and unimportant, identity shaping and false implants of moments she would not have naturally remembered.  Especially significant is the change in authorship when considering a life lived through cyber space.  The pride in ownership associated with the physical act of making a tangible object of mourning (a funerary collage) is not possible through digital means and effects our ability to process our feelings of loss.

The Importance Of Physical Interaction:

According to Marcel Proust’s book called In Search Of Lost Time, there are two types of memory: voluntary and involuntary.  Proust explains that voluntary memory is associated with images that convey the outer appearance of things but involuntary memory is associated with the experience its self, which is far more meaningful because it springs up unsolicited recall and emotion.  He recons that since involuntary memory stems from physical engagement, all of our senses are in use and so it gets encoded multiple times.  Subsequently, whatever we are feeling at the time time of encoding has a better chance of becoming a very important and well-imbedded memory, out of cognition’s reach.  (Proust 1908).  

In Body Image, Memory and Identity, Israel Rosenfield argues that in order to truly have a grasp on reality and identity, experiences have to be physical.  He states, “A change of body schema gives rise to a change of personality; a breakdown of the sense of body, gives rise to a breakdown of the sense of self and with it a loss of knowledge of our surroundings.”  He explains this idea through a study that was done in the sixties.  He states, “Subjects were asked to introduce a gloved hand into a box. They were told to observe their hand but they were not informed that the gloved hand they were actually observing was that of the experimenter. They were then told to make certain movements with their hand. The experimenter made precisely these movements and the subjects believed they were watching their own hands until, the experimenter failed to follow the commands and the subject saw his gloved hand moving in a way that was different from what he was actually doing. About thirty percent of the subjects believed the hand they were observing was their own hand being controlled by an external force. They also felt considerable pain when their hand ‘failed’ to carry out the experimenter’s commands. The source of pain appears to be related to the incoherence between what is being observed and the action the brain believes it is performing” (4).

While this experiment surely provides evidence that the mind and body have to be experiencing the same reality in order to retain our grasp on the world, Rosenfield shares another example of the necessity of mind/body equilibrium in the story of  John Hull.  “He became blind as a young man, [he describes] how he lost visual memories of those he encounters often, while the images of those he no longer encounters remain visual – until the day he meets someone he has not seen for a long time. The new encounter will change his ‘perception’ of the acquaintance into a non-visual form.  Indeed his sense of his own self has changed: ‘I find that I am trying to recall old photographs of myself, just to remember what I look like. I discover with a shock that I cannot remember.’ (John Hull, Touching the Rock, 1990, London, page 111) Hull’s new experiences now refer to his non-visual body image; inevitably his face ‘disappears’. Our sense of self is a consequence of constant change.  The brain integrates past and present into a new form – conscious knowledge and awareness of self” (4).

These examples presented by Rosenfield show the importance of a unified experience for the human mind. Both John Hull and the subjects of the experiments both experienced a schism between their physical presence and their visual understanding of reality.  This disconnect shook their senses of the world; the subjects thought their hands were being controlled by forces outside their bodies and John Hull lost his visual map of the world.  Also, the physical pain in the hands of the subjects and the inability of Mr. Hull to remember visuals of that which he experiences in the present are proof that seeing and physically experiencing play equal parts in our abilities to negotiate the world. 

Knowing that seeing alone cannot stabilize our reality, what are the ramifications for the mind and body to be constantly in separate places?  When we sit in front of our computers or cell phones, we are in an alternate visual reality but our bodies remain still and our minds are still aware that on the most primal level, these experiences are not balanced.   What does this imbalance between what we think we’re experiencing and what we are really physically experiencing do to our senses of self and our social aptitude?  Perhaps this is the key to understanding the plight of the “postmodern individual”.  Perhaps it is not only the masses of non specific imagery our brain is confronted with daily, but the added disconnect between the mind and body that inhibits our abilities to form lasting memories or connections between stimuli and our understanding of our place in the world. 

According to Peter Anders, the body is what keeps us sure of reality, space and time and as we lose touch of our physical selves we may lose touch with all the things that come with it.  He states in his essay, Anthropic Cyberspace: Defining Electronic Space From First Principels, that “ The body is the bridge between ourselves and the world.  Our worldview relies as much on the body’s senses as it does upon the environment itself.  The body’s relationship to the perceived world is a basis for cognition, language, and culture” (3). 

Anders continues to discuss how severely distorted our reality becomes when the physical is removed.  Think about how in tune we are with people’s facial expressions, body language, and proximity.  There are millions of signifiers that we instinctually rely upon to steer our behavior and partake in successful communication.  In cyberspace, not only is our knowledge of that person’s physical information limited but so is our knowledge of the audience.  We have no real way of knowing how many or what kind of people are viewing our online communications.  According to Anders, this behavior distorts our perceptions of reality and can seriously alter our behavior. 

Social Ramifications Of Cyber Communication:

Oftentimes, when people immerse themselves in the cyber world, social politics are the first to go out the window and people tend to think and behave differently than they do under the watchful eye of their socioeconomic group.  Anders writes, “Body zones---a foundation of social interaction---are moot in cyberspace.  After all, how does one relate to a lobster avatar?  How close does one stand in casual conversation with it?  Here our physical absence in simulated social environments forces us to reconsider our social conventions” (5).  According to Anders, this breakdown in social behavior becomes a breakdown in our sense of reality and can directly be attributed to a large amount of false intimacy.  Once these false connections with others online become the dominant source of human connection, Anders asserts that loss of identity and community is sure to follow. 

You may ask, if the drawbacks are so detrimental to society then why is everyone living at least a segment of their lives online?  Looking at any video blog makes it painfully obvious that living in a world of convenience through modern technology feeds into people’s pre-existing condition of wanting to have their cake and eat it too.  In many ways, cyber communication has gotten so efficient that, at first glance, it appears to be the answer to all of our normal pre-existing psychosocial issues.  What if you really did get to have intimate relationships with others without any responsibility to them or commitment to maintaining communication over time?  Wouldn’t it be nice to feel like you were finally being heard with out the embarrassment of actually saying it?  Haven’t you ever wanted to express yourself in a public way without needing the bravery for face-to-face interaction?  What about the possibility of trying on new personalities on a daily basis to see if a completely new identity is in order?  Well all of these things are currently accessible to anyone of any age, eliminating any sense of responsibility or pre-existing social constructs for many people.  Not to mention, there is a whole new generation that is developing cognitively while using this communication technology causing them to experience its psychosocial drawbacks on a very deep level. 

According to Eric B. Weiser’s dissertation on psychology entitled, The Functions of Internet Use and Their Social, Psychological, And Interpersonal Consequences, “It is difficult to underestimate the enormity of the Internet, although little is known concerning its social and psychological ramifications. The more time people spend using the Internet, the less time spent with others and engaged in social activities. However, time spent with others in social activities has long been known to be important for physical and psychological health. If America has experienced a decline in civic engagement, as some have claimed (e.g., Putnam, 1996), and if Internet use perpetuates this civic decline, then Internet use may have negative social and psychological effects”  (10).

A recent hot topic and example of the repercussions of this behavior has been the onslaught of cyber bullying.   In many recent cases, the victims have been so publicly/globally humiliated that they’ve committed suicide and ended up as global news stories.  It is my belief that these “bullies” were already predisposed to some kind of violence or abuse which crystallized into a disregard for social responsibility. These young people are growing up with all the normal insecurities and tendencies toward irrational behavior magnified and made easier through global communication. 

These cyber assaults make being mean or vengeful easier than ever before.  The use of the Internet affords these kids the opportunity to surround their target with as many insults and embarrassing imagery as they see fit, all the while remaining anonymous and physically removed from the situation.  This removal makes their actions feel less real; allowing them to justify their actions more easily than if they were getting into a physical altercation.  This makes their actions all the more appealing and the repeat occurrences of these crimes are ruining many lives.  This is yet another example that the have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too promise that Internet communication provides proves to be a dangerous falsehood that is indeed affecting us in as much negative ways as positive.

The YouTube Phenomena:

On June 23rd 2008, anthropologist Michael Wesch gave a presentation at the Library of Congress called An Anthropological Introduction To YouTube.  This presentation was very much focused on the history of what have become the YouTube phenomenon and the social ramifications of such a cultural movement.   In his presentation, Wesch states that YouTube surpasses television in that it has 200,000 three minute videos uploaded daily to the web; this equals 9,232 hours of programming a day, all of which is viewer produced content.  Wesch believes that YouTube’s mass media free programming has created a virtual environment for people to feel free to express themselves without the fear of censorship, and with the comforting knowledge that this is a site by the people for the people so to speak. 

Wesch attributes YouTube’s explosion in popularity to the dynamic of recording your thoughts on a camera and sending it out to the world.  He states that out of the 200,00 videos downloaded daily, 10,000 of them are videos that are addressed to the You Tube community.  This community is possible largely because posting video diaries bypasses all social awkwardness and enables people to feel freer to express themselves without being judged in a real way.  He acknowledges that YouTube provides a loss of community in the traditional sense but believes this is part of a social evolution that has been building since the mid fifties with the isolation of suburbia and television. 

This long and gradual history of isolation has brought us to a place where we seem to collectively long for independence while at the same time wanting community and stronger relationships (having and eating the cake). He describes this disconnect between what we seek out (isolation) and what we value (community) as “cultural inversion” and it’s a common symptom amongst YouTube users.  YouTube is the perfect place for these social issues to present themselves.  What other place in the world can there be so many contradictions?  You can be anyone you want to be with no social responsibility and yet have real human connections that have emotional ramifications in a completely public and private way.  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPAO-lZ4_hU)

While Wesch comes to the conclusion that these new communities in cyber space are places where lasting human connections can be formed and are thus a positive influence on our society; I have other ideas.  I think we need to acknowledge our primal and innate need for a physical experience of the world, a change is which requires an evolution of man.  I also think that this site is a perfect place for people to perpetuate false identities and contribute mixed signals to an already confused generation.

Krzysztof Wodiczko:

One artist who addresses these social issues is Krzysztof Wodiczko, a Polish born public-works artist who uses new media to bring people together in private and public spaces. His current work directly investigates the current social issues of feeling alienated and unable to conduct physically personal discussions.   In his new project called the Dis-Armor Project, he has created a suit of armor based on traditional Japanese armor in which the viewer is able to communicate with their backs turned to people.  This is possible because the wearer has headphones, a microphone, and a video camera all located on their headpiece.  The video camera records and displays just their eyes on two small TV screens located on the backpack piece of the armor.  The person on the outside of the armor must talk into a microphone also located on the back of the suit and the armored one will respond into their microphone and out their back speakers.  

This project specifically is being conducted amongst teenagers in Japan.  According to the project site, “Dis-Armor is the newest in a series of psycho-cultural prosthetic equipment designed to meet the communicative needs of the alienated, traumatized, and silenced residents of today's cities. It connects contemporary research in two fields: wearable communication, technology and prosthetics. In doing so, it counters the dichotomy of the present explosion in communication technology and rampant cultural miscommunication” (http://web.mit.edu/idg/disarmor.html).

Also on the project site is a video documentation of a teenage girl using the suit.  It follows the girl as she awkwardly takes the subway to school and shows her armor to her friends.  The whole time, all we can see is the embarrassed expression in her eyes and the reactions of the people she talks to.  The girl then walks into what looks like the school cafeteria and turns her back to some teachers.  She begins to talk in Japanese and I can’t understand what she’s saying but I know it’s hard for her to say it by the shifting eyes and her shaky voice.  As she talks, the teachers’ expressions turn from that of jovial confusion to one of concern as the girl begins to cry.  All of this has just happened in the most stressful public place any teenager can imagine. 

See figure 2

In 2004 Wodiczko put together The Saint Louis Project, which utilized the commonality and public nature of the Saint Louis Central Public Library to create a sense of community and catharsis.  He did this by creating a space inside the library where crime victims and former prison inmates would go and sit in front of the microphone and camera.  As they talk about their deeply personal experiences with street and domestic violence, the people outside of the building can see the movements of the person’s hands projected on either side of the building’s facade and hear them tell their story over the loud speaker. This takes a building that everyone feels comfortable and familiar with and humanizes it, taking away the difficulty of a face-to-face interaction.  This dynamic creates an extremely public arena (the city of St. Louis) where passers by and spectators feel comfortable enough to share their deeply personal and heart breaking stories of violence and loss in an open mic style with the person being filmed inside the library.   This creates a caring and deeply personal conversation between two anonymous people in a very public space. 

See figure 3

Wodiczko’s project in Saint Louis was featured in the PBS series Art:21 in 2005.  This documentation of the event was vital in my understanding of the actual impact it had on the people of Saint Louis.  This video opens with a view of the library, either side of which has the projected hands of an older woman.  Her wedding ring looks like it has become a part of her finger from years of perpetual wear, her hands look small and chubby and her nails are nicely manicured.  As the camera pans out, we see a crowd of a few hundred have gathered on the lawn in front of the building.  In front of this crowd stands an older woman, she looks like someone’s loving grandma and she is standing next to a shy teenage boy.  As she speaks into the microphone she says, “We never expect to bury our grandchildren, and when we do it’s the most horrible feeling in the world and when I see Rodney’s two little children growing up with out their daddy it just breaks my heart.”  The hands respond as they delicately rub the side of the building, she says “Yes, when it’s your loved one it’s not an easy thing, you don’t forget” (Wodiczko PBS 2005).

I see this video not just as a documentation of a very moving work of art but also as proof that people still crave real life connections.  This situation is very similar to the YouTube phenomenon in that there is a fairly large group of strangers speaking to each other publicly in a physically removed way about very personal and heart breaking things.  The differences lie in that there is a very deep sense of responsibility to each other within the group of spectators and participants.  These people are talking about issues that affect their community of Saint Louis, a real place with real life threatening issues.  The fact that this artist can create a scenario that strengthens the sense of community and understanding simply by magnifying face-to-face interaction in a public environment is an incredibly socially relevant task and perhaps even an anecdote to contemporary social issues. 


What do we have if not connections with one another? This is why it’s important for my work to be accessible for the many through physical experience.  Because the world is so immersed in the digital realm, I choose to incorporate the common vernacular of  the mediated experience within the physical experience of an installation as a means of integrating the two worlds.  I still use Images of my family, but I use them as I actually remember them with the many holes intact.  By recreating a specific moment in time and taking out some of the specific imagery, I am presenting a frame, an invitation for you to insert yourself.  By using digital media to fill in these holes I am talking directly to the masses’ sense of visual language.  By making it an installation, I am making it a physical experience and therefore a real memory.  If I’m lucky someone will have a real interaction with another person because of this shared experience and they will have unknowingly become a part of my memory.

Whether you’re on the train or in the comfort of your own home, the public isolation people impose on themselves and each other is evident.  It has become clear to me that this degradation of intimacy and social aptitude are a result of a society full of people whose memories and identities are in constant flux and being re-contextualized and shifted every second with the changing tides.  Because of this shaky ground, they fear true intimacy with one another and rely on the Internet to be the safety barrier through which they communicate to one another, contributing to a lack of engagement outside of this digital forum.  As Katarzyna Paprzycka explained earlier, perhaps these “postmodern” individuals are doing the best they can with the chaotic digital world they’ve been dealt.  They are afraid of intimacy and so they prefer fake intimacy, they are afraid of being forgotten so they plaster the Internet with their images.  This “postmodern” individual is overwhelmed and is in conflict between their innate humanness and the non-compatible digital box they’ve put themselves in.  They are cemented in this box, reaching out in desperation, as lonely people do, fearing every moment that they may actually touch someone.   


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Figure 1


Happy Birthay Monica 1979 from

Participate commissioned public art project

UArts, Philadelphia, 2010





















Figure 2


Dis-Armor Project

Krzysztof  Wodiczko,

Adam Whiton,

Sung Ho Kim,

Jurek Stypulkowski,

Brooklyn Model

Works  2001














Figure 3


Krzysztof Wodiczko

The Saint Louis Project