My current work involves putting myself out there on the internet on a daily basis,
like many of us do. I’m interested in the nature of compulsive sharing – of wanting
to be seen, to be heard, to be admired and remembered, by people we have
never met, and may never directly communicate with.
Since the beginning of my practice, and even before it, in Myspace days, I have
been part of this strange digital compulsion. For me, on the surface at least, it is
about documentation and preservation – and of course recognition, remembrance.
As a teenager, I began taking ‘selfies’ and sharing them online, to gain attention
from those I knew. Nowadays, I share my work with the world – with those I know
nothing about – in hopes that I can communicate something about this human
experience – that my images connect and resonate – maybe even inspire others
to self-document. My practice is archival and there is much to explore.
Finding Katherine April is a new project. I have never created physical copies
of my work and dispersed them in this way before. The reason I am doing this
is because I want to play with the nature of ‘putting myself out there’ – of sharing
these glimpses of my work, which I often do online. Doing so in the ‘real world’
is psychologically affecting. The act of selecting, printing, and crucially,
dispersing the polaroid-style prints takes more courage, thought and effort
than posting online. It makes one look at the work in a new light.
The prints might be disregarded, lost, thrown away. This is much like the world
of digital consumption, in which we share so much that we are saturated by it
all, and most things will be overlooked, skimmed past. Yet sometimes, quite out
of the blue, something will draw an audience, will beckon a second glance.
Sharing in the physical world cannot be undone. I will put one of these prints into
a space, walk away, and it will become out of my hands. This mirrors the nature
of sharing on the internet, which many people do not appreciate. It is easy to think
that we share images and are free to delete them at any time – but once shared, a
footprint is created. The work is out there – saveable, downloadable – perpetually.
It is this mirror between my physical project and the digital world that fascinates
me. It will be interesting to see the level of engagement that comes with the print
sharing. Many of the ‘polaroids’ may be missed or thrown away, but some will be
found, shared and potentially even kept. Where is yours?
Online, there is a certain void between viewer and artist. Who is viewing the work?
We may never know. And we may never know its impact, because an online viewer
is almost entirely undercover. We may receive lots of hits and likes, but this can still
feel like zero engagement if the work is not passed on, discussed, or dare I say,
critiqued. Plenty of viewers can mean little, as a number and a set of passive clicks
are not human modes of communication; they are machine-like, automatic and cold.
Within this project, once the work is dispersed, it may be similar to this: I may never
know who found the prints, or what they did with them or thought about them. But the
internet offers the chance for those who stumble upon aspects of the project to become
part of the dialogue – whether looking up the hashtag, discovering more about the work,
or sharing pictures of their found print, telling a little story of how they found it and what
they make of it. This will be a responsive project, and I will gather and share your
engagement with it.
In truth, much of my self-portraiture has so far been about reaching those I know, or
may have lost along the way. A digital artistic practice gives this incredible power to
create work – to document life, to engage with other artists – but crucially, parallel to this,
it offers the power to communicate something of yourself, with those immediately out of
reach, who you may no longer talk to or see. Much of my work, particularly that of 2010-11,
was sparked by emotions, memories and thoughts that I wished to convey to those
from my past, who might still seek me online.
This project is a signal that my practice, and indeed my life, has moved past this;
pushing new, more vibrant work out into the wider world, beyond personal concerns. In
a sense, it is a cleansing project, and a celebration of the process of moving past things;
of the bravery of looking to the present moment for inspiration, and practicing self-
documentation for its own sake. My new body of work, much of which is shared
within #findingkatherineapril, pushes colour, strength and fortitude to the surface.
I’m keen to see what the project may spark for my future work.
Let me know what you make of it.
For further information about this project and images
please contact firstname.lastname@example.org