Interview regarding I Through Proxy, video work, 2014.
Cover image via @LILINTERNET
AA: I Through Proxy splices together stories of people from different social and cultural backgrounds, with the common thread being their real world isolation and depression. Broadcasting these experiences, they are creating for themselves not only a coping mechanism (talking/venting) but a public identity that can be further judged and scrutinized. Considering YouTube can be a vast black hole- with thousands of videos not being seen by anyone- does this public-yet-private element further add to their isolation? How do you think social media has changed the value of a single person, when the single person suddenly has access to the thoughts and experiences of millions of other people?
@LILINTERNET: I Though Proxy is more of an exploration of dissociation as opposed to isolation. But when you mention the value of a single person- I think that certainly it’s devaluing to be immersed in this voyeur-exhibitionist loop world that exists online where fame and views are the barometer of worth. Once people start projecting their concept of “I” as existing primarily in the online world, the direct experience of real life starts to drift away- and you start to see videos like the ones in “I Through Proxy” being posted. The way these people talk to the camera, the fact that most all of the videos in “I Through Proxy” have literally under 10 views- these videos exist primarily for the creators of them to experience themselves through the video they make. The way they talk, always self aware of the camera- they are acting the role of themselves- and then by watching what they recorded, that’s how they process the feelings they have. Thats the dissociation- they are experiencing what should be a direct experience through the video they make of themselves “acting” their direct experience, and processing it without this “proxy” becomes difficult.
AA: Do you think these people are hoping to be found? Are they just looking for someone to understand them?
@LILINTERNET: Some obviously are, there is an exhibitionist element to it, and of course a need for recognition, a need to feel “known.” Some are just attention whoring, for whatever reason people need attention. The thing that intrigued me is that these are extremely personal videos about extremely personal feelings, and they are just put out there for anyone to see. These people NEED these videos to validate their experience- the video makes the feelings real.
AA: We live in a society where depression and “bad behavior” has become glamorized in mainstream media, and is brought to us virally (think: the public meltdowns of celebrities, pop-fiction, #selfie culture). Do you think this has anything to do with furthering the youth’s obsession with digitally documenting their every thought or action?
@LILINTERNET: Well yes, there’s been a big shift in general away from privacy. I think it’s smart from a government control point of view- make people complacent in giving up their privacy and you don’t have to force them. Also, I think the over-mediation, the reality TV obsession, the celebrity obsession… Young people are fame crazy. Your social worth is quantified by friends and views. Its extremely easy to feel inadequate. Depression and suicide rates are growing. I just think that many people are overwhelmed, have a poor connection to themselves and their emotion, and feel devalued as the internet opens up the world so wide that it’s easy to feel totally insignificant, unimportant, that you are nothing. This is extremely depressing for people. Whether its negative attention, encouraged by the things you mention, or positive attention, I think people just need to SCREAM in some way just to validate their existence.
AA: The young boy “trying to get famous on YouTube” added a little comic relief to your video, but also made a strong statement on the youth’s expectations of the internet. Sometimes I feel blessed to be in the last generation that grew up “pre-internet”. How bad are we fucking these kids up? Like, why does an 11-year old boy have a longing desire to be famous on the internet?
@LILINTERNET: Him asking the audience “Please,” saying he’s just trying to get famous… I found it really sad, although it does make me laugh in a schadenfreude kind of way. Again I really think in the past, your world was really as big as where you lived and who you encountered every day. Your worth was really based on your contributions to your immediate environment. But now, you are connected to the world, and in a way competing with the world. That’s a very overwhelming and heavy game to play. I think we are totally fucking these kids up. I think we are going to see a massive increase in terrible things done for attention, and the dissociation caused by the internet also makes the repercussions seem less real, especially for young people.
AA: Another moment in the video that caught me off guard was the woman speaking down to her camera as if it was a human, saying “I mean, it’s the first time we’re really talking, and you’re not really even talking back,” because it makes me think about how much love we really do have for tech objects. It’s like, we’re in these unrequited relationships with our iPhones, and we can’t picture our lives without them. Do you have any thoughts on the fetishizing and humanizing of technology?
@LILINTERNET: That video particularly bothered me. The way the person talks in this dramatic way to the device, as if it was this magic best friend. I didn’t think they were addressing the camera though, more addressing the viewer. But the way they were addressing them was like as if it was love at first sight. That was an extremely disturbing example of dissociation. I think in this one, as in a few of the others, there was actually dramatic music playing, and some of the things they said were kind of timed to go along with the music, to make it even more dramatic- turning authentic emotion into twisted theater. THIS to that person is an authentic experience. It’s entirely insane.
AA: Where do you think this gigantic archive of thoughts and actions will be in 20-years? Are we going to have to build a new internet?
@LILINTERNET: I have no idea. The amount of space it will take to store all of this is staggering, hopefully technological advances will take care of it. I hope the entire internet is destroyed some day soon and has to be built from scratch to be honest. It isn’t that unrealistic. It’s a huge energy drain as it is.
AA: What are you hoping to discover about your own digital identity as you continue making video works like this?
@LILINTERNET: I’ve always treated my digital identity as something that is meant to be distorted and malleable. I make sure that my real feelings and emotions are never accurately depicted online. It’s an avatar and I want to keep it that way. The moment you project the “real you” online is the moment you step on a very slippery slope. Once you become dependent on the online version of the “real you” to experience the real “real you,” well… That’s what I Through Proxy is about.