Getting digitally intimate

What can one say about a show called Projected Intimacy? Perhaps that it sounds singularly intimidating and cerebral. You might also say that it a collection of live streamed performances at Gallery One One One in the Fitzgerald Building. Or that it took place last week.

Paradoxical though it is, the name is appropriate for an artistic exploration of social media and the Internet. The creators of the exhibit are certainly not the first to note how the Internet — particularly sites like Youtube, Facebook and Twitter — allows and even encourages us to make our personal affairs public (and publicized) business.

The question is whether fine art can say anything about the social media phenomenon that other commentators have not said already, and furthermore, whether Projected Intimacy is up to the lofty challenge of finding something new to say about it.

According to Dean Robinson, co-curator of Projected Intimacy, it is. “It’s sort of the nature of art to explore how that resonates with people,” he said. For Robinson, the finding of this exploration has been that “these [digital] relationships are valid.”

Helga Jakobson, the show’s other co-curator, says the exhibition is also about reconsidering our use of technology. “Right from when we had fax machines, artists were using fax machines for performances,” she said, “and I think it bends the idea of what these already-implemented sites like UStream can be used for.”

Projected Intimacy, as the name implies, is particularly focused on the more intimate moments the Internet makes possible. On the third day of the festival, for example, viewers watched two artists — one in Brooklyn and one in Montreal — reading to each other over Skype video chat. The artists were enshrined in bed-sheet forts and lit by candles and flashlights. When considered along with the fact that these images were shown on a large screen in Gallery One One One, the title is almost comically literal: the show is actually intimate moments projected.

Even more intimate was the fourth day of the show, which followed the activity of two artists in Berlin on the iPhone application Grindr. Grindr is an L.A.-based service that allows “gay, bi and curious guys” to connect with similarly motivated guys in their direct vicinity. The application is said to be often used for “hooking up,” that ultimate symbol of the ambiguity of contemporary relationships. Viewers were able to watch the artists chat with others in their vicinity, exposing the performers and the men they interact with at their most intimate but also in a very public context. After all, users are opening themselves up to countless strangers.

The show featured video streaming both in and out of the gallery. On its final day, the show concentrated more on recording activities within the gallery and broadcasting them over the Internet, while on the earlier days, video was mostly streamed in. When no stream is being projected within the gallery, still digital works by Ben Clarkson are shown.

Projected Intimacy is the brainchild of University of Manitoba fine art students Dean Robinson and Helga Jakobson and features the work of Manitoban alumnus Ben Clarkson, Gallery One One One director Cliff Eyland, Kelsey Eliasson, Zoe Koke and Molly O., and Travis Lycar and Przemek Pysczek. Robinson and Jakobson were influenced by another Winnipeg artist. “We were very much inspired by a performance we saw last year by Freya Olafson, and it was called ‘AVATAR,’” explained Jakobson.

Olafson, also a U of M alumna, is an intermedia artist whose most recent and lauded work incorporates dance and a projector. She is also scheduled to perform “AVATAR” on the second night of the Cluster festival (see page 22 of this issue).

Projected Intimacy will conclude with a panel discussion on March 24.