1. Intimacy & Internet Let's be clear: as of this writing, I don't know these artists personally. I met Ted and Zach once, long ago, at a lunch organized by a mutual friend (I doubt Zach remembers me), and I hung out with Ted a couple of times when I was last in New York. Such is the intimacy that exists between Ted & Zach and myself. This show is replete with intimacies: the display of intimacy, the performance of intimacy, the documentation of intimacy. I will therefore list the intimacies that exist between the rest of the artists in this show and myself:
Steven & Dylan: emails back and forth from Steven, mostly requesting work-related things from each other; a drawing I made of a Facebook photograph of Steven as part of one of my ongoing projects. Dylan and I were in the same room once, at a mutual friend's birthday party. I recognized him from Steven's photographs, and because I did not know what Steven looked like, thought, "oh, it's Steven Beckly." I did not introduce myself. I don't know what either of their voices sound like.
Colin & Oisin: some very charming Facebook messages when we first became Facebook 'friends', due (I'm assuming) to the aforementioned drawing project; subsequent drawings of both Colin & Oisin. I have only a vague idea of how to pronounce Oisin's name, and am thus intimidated to meet him because I might get it wrong and sound like someone with linguistic pretensions. I only know what Colin's voice sounds like because he was interviewed for a social media study that was circulated on the Internet.
In another sense, I have known them all for a while now. I know their work; I've become intimate with it. And because their work is autobiographical, I can harbour the illusion that I know them (I know what most of them look like naked, anyway). The Internet led all these artists to one another. The Internet led me to all of them. The Internet led them to me. In both Colin & Oisin's and Steven & Dylan's case, the Internet led them to each other. The Internet makes best friends and lovers of us all. We 'browse'; we 'chat'; we exchange emails; we exchange photographs; we meet; we see through the smokescreen of an Internet persona, and are repulsed, or fall in lust, or fall in love.
2. Bodies & Faces Armpits, torsos, nipples, cocks, bums, semen: an anatomical commonality across this particular collection of work. Cropped into compositional singularity, they become signifiers of lust; whether urgent and new (Colin & Oisin), exploratory and trepidatious (Steven & Dylan) or shadowy, obscure and fading (Ted & Zach). What do faces signify? Colin's & Oisin's faces regularly share a frame. Steven's face is never seen; indeed, faces in general are largely absent throughout. Zach's & Ted's faces are never entirely in the same frame (it occurs once, and Ted's face is obscured, cyclopsed by the camera).
3. Eyes & Cameras Eyes see and brains record, but a camera documents, preserves. This is, at its core, an archivist's show. There is a hunger for preservation here: lusts and tendemesses that have been captured; proximities and awkwardnesses that have been paused and formalized; distances, absences and fading sunsets that have been frozen.
4. Past & Present The moments represented here no longer exist. Colin & Oisin are no longer in the first flushes of long-distance romance . Steven & Dylan have exchanged "I love you"s. Ted & Zach are no longer together. But photography, or at least the kind of photography that's happening here, warps time and collapses past and present. It is simultaneously a memorialization and a resurrection. These pictures document a bygone moment, and they depict that moment as it happened. This frozen instant continuously plays itself out, is perpetually dragged into the present on that sheet of exposed photo paper.
5. Me & Them I am also part of an '&'; I have been so for the better part of 12 years. I have gone through each of the phases that these photographs represent. Neither my boyfriend nor I are photographers, and so, while our relationship has undergone scrutinies of various intensities time and time again, it has never been documented in this way. Thus, to a certain (and specific) extent, these images represent a kind of nostalgia by proxy. I want to identify; I want to filter my memories through these three sets of lenses. But I know too little: I do not know these people; I especially do not know the contours and dynamics of their relationships. What I do know, I know courtesy of these photographs. And I know too much: I know how art is made. I know that these moments are carefully constructed, edited and therefore fictionalized by an aesthetic process. I know the obliterating distortions of nostalgia, and I know the difference between Truth and a truth.
6. Ampersands These works are about ampersands, tying yourself to someone: the giddy process of mutually creating that ampersand, of putting all hands on the same marker and slowly drawing the upward slope, the top loop, the bottom curve — together; the slow, awkward process of living in those slopes and loops and curves, exploring their comforts and wrestling with their crosses and knots; discovering the spaces on either side of the ampersand, realizing perhaps that there is, in fact, too much of them for that symbol to continue to make sense as a conjunction.
Written for At the Same Time