Second Selves

Date: January 1, 2017 Category: ,

Invited Curator | Distillery Gallery, Boston, MA | January 2015
Curated the exhibition “Second Selves,” loosely formed to provide a critical take on theorist Sherry Turkle’s book The Second Self, published via MIT Press. Artists in the exhibition included Leah Schrager, Blake Hiltunen, Philip Fryer, Julie Nymann and Sam Metcalf. The exhibition was featured as a Critic’s Pick in The Boston Globe. I wrote the exhibition text below:

Text me back, I want to feel you vibrate in my hands*

When it’s late, you’ve been drinking, and you happen to find a dead iPhone in the back seat of a cab, you have a few options:

1) Return the iPhone to the driver, and trust they find its owner
2) Take the iPhone home, charge it, and promise to mail it back the next day
3) Steal the iPhone, remove its sim card, wipe its data, claim it as your own

You decide to take it home, though, you’re not quite sure what to do with the device yet. You look at your own phone and imagine it must be impossible to be selfish enough to steal someone else’s. Its sleek glass body holds so much personal data that you’ve come to identify as integral to your being; lengthy text threads with a former lover which you enjoy reading when you’re feeling lonely, a history of your endearing plights to receive attention on various social media channels, and thousands of photographs, of yourself, of your naked body, of your “experiences,” however you wish to define them. It is as personal as it is detached, and as romantic as it is cold. Willingly and habitually, you provide this device with as much attention as you would something sacred.

I found an iPhone last night. I took it home and charged it, planning on trying to return it. It was unlocked. It hadn’t been updated, it was still running iOS6. The last text message was from 4 months ago. The owner had gotten a new one. There were less than 100 photos. It had been discarded as obsolete, cast off, shut out, forgotten in a cab. In that moment I felt bad for it. “Is it healthy to feel more sorrow for this object than for the owner who may be wondering where it went?” I thought to myself. “It’s better off with me.” I’ve justified being naughty by instead deciding that I would become a godmother to this sad little iPhone.

It’s almost impossible to discuss intimacy without also referencing the role consumer technology has in orchestrating it. My own former devices, while rarely activated, serve me as cherished diaries; I turn them on and flip though their contents in an effort to retreat to a distant past, some archived secondary self that I can never quite remember unless prompted in the present tense. I inadvertently associate the soft vibrations of my current devices with passion, touching its glass becomes as sexy as touching skin, waiting for updates as emotionally taunting as longing to feel loved.

A few months ago, I was invited by Pat Falco of the Distillery Gallery in Boston to organize an exhibition around networked culture. Having just uprooted my known existence and moved to New York, I had found myself in a tumultuous state of both utopian freedom and nostalgic sorrow for what I had just left, both selves fighting against the other. The artists I approached for this project make work that project a certain exposed duality of being, altering their publicly preserved image to portray inner struggles with sexuality, placement, mortality, and undecided fate, often mirrored against their private ideal self.

The exhibition, Second Selves, is a minimal group show of six artists—Leah Schrager, Blake Hiltunen, Julie Nymann, Sam Metcalf, Philip Fryer, and myself—with each artist presenting one work from a larger series. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with these artists, outlined below, and look forward to bringing these works together in Boston.

Second Selves
Distillery Gallery
516 E 2nd Street
Boston, MA
Opening: Thursday, January 15th, 7pm.

Exhibition photography by Matthew Gamber.