Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Is There Intimacy in the Internet?

DIGITALIA: Intimacy in the Hyperreal

curated by Evan Garza

Deborah Colton Gallery

Meant for lovers and confidants, intimacy is a function of the human condition. With all the wires and waves connecting us today, many wonder if it can survive in the face of tantalizing distractions and superficial replacements for physical and emotional contact. There is a great debate ranging across philosophy, psychology and politics, but the battles are being fought with every text message and online video. In an effort to fight the pessimistic tide of those who believe we are less able to connect with others today more than ever, DIGITALIA has gathered different views of our new world which address intimacy as either facile pandering or a true and deep connection.

Through the spoken word, writing and mass media communication has successively moved away from personal touch. Steven Miller channels the disconnect that successive layers of technology bring to relationships in a series of surreal photographs. Wrapping his subjects in a vacuumous black void, Miller presents everyday figures- not models or actors- as tied in knots, their heads or bodies wrapped in thick white ropes that carry connotations of bondage, enslavement and subservience while the ropes’ ends trail off the edge of the image or between figures, linking them in a torpid stupor. In a denial of media’s ability to carry weight, Martin Creed’s FEELINGS is a neon sign of rigid sans-serif letters that fails to carry a hint of meaning in its content- with tongue firmly in cheek.

The march of technology has pushed into a new world with the advent of the internet, and common sense dictated that in this new evolution even less intimacy was to be found. Charles Cohen takes this assumption to its logical conclusion by manipulating pornographic images, removing the object of desire with surgical precision, and leaving only an evocative white hole where the phantom of sexual desire once stood. Taking the essential absurdity of instant gratification to its bitter end, Graham Guerra used CGI technology to create monsters out of breasts and legs to maximize the insatiable sexual desire that pornography fails to placate.

The investigation in 13-year-old
Megan Meyer’s 2006 suicide case

has not reached its end.

In the last decades of the 20th century the theories of the hyperreal explained that we were moving so far away from intimacy that we “cannot tell the difference between reality and its fake.” Today we have begun to see these theories fall to pieces in the face of ever more real consequences for actions in hyperspace. Sexual encounters have a firm place in the business of popular classified advertisement website Craigslist, and the story of one teenager driven to suicide over a mean-spirited farce on Myspace has lead to calls for jail time in response to online harassment.

Sean M. Johnson, Beard Love, 2007

Breaking through the challenge of intimacy in the hyperreal is Sean M. Johnson’s Beard Love video series, which is a tantalizingly disturbing look at the digital age. Johnson spent months searching online for partners for his work, where he sits on a bed with an anonymous man that he contacted through the internet. In a charming reversal of the intent of pornography the men engage in slow and sensual mutual beard-rubbing; their vulnerability is a shock to viewers, torn between an innocuous reality and the charged emotional connotations. For the oversaturated industry of sex and fulfillment the work is a devastating rebuttal, tackling the ways we can be intimate through technology, transcending the pessimism of the hyperreal and discovering that we are still the same fleshy bodies that desire nothing more than the presence that intimacy brings. through March 1st, 2500 Summer Street, 713.869.5151,

via Artshouston Magazine