Birthday Videos: For Friends I Don't Really Know, 2015
#Awkward, PLUG Projects, Kansas City, MO
Birthday Videos: For Friends I Don't Really Know is a video and social media project I created for the exhibition #Awkward.
This thematic exhibition explored uncertainty and discomfort in human relationships and called attention to the inelegance of social media communication. The show was curated and hosted by PLUG PROJECTS, a non-profit space in collaboration with six Kansas City artists who aim to initiate critical dialogue, expanding the connections of artists in Kansas City as part of a wider, national network of artists. I was motivated to take part in this exhibition as a way to support the mission of these emerging artists and contribute to the dialogue regarding the impact of digital culture on the integrity of our relationships.
Birthday Videos for Friends I Don't Really Know is an ongoing series of intimate videos for people on Facebook that I don't really know. Personal information is mined from the recipients’ social media feeds, then used to create intimate one-to-one videos that create the illusion that we are close friends. These videos are delivered to recipients on their birthday. In the videos, I play a gregarious and slightly awkward character who happens upon the subject of the birthday greeting. During the video, I name drop “mutual friends” or reference “places we last hung out.” In one video, I wear a rock band T-shirt that references the recipient’s favorite band. The humor in these videos disarms them from being creepy and playfully poses questions about what information we put online, who has access to it, and how it can be used to manipulate our relationships and reality in general.
This project is an extension of my research on surveillance, voyeurism and public and private space. Influential pieces include Vito Aconnci’s Following Piece (1969) in which he randomly selected and then followed passersby in New York City, maintaining his pursuit until the person entered a building and Sophia Calle’s The Hotel, Room 47 (1981) in which she was hired as a chambermaid for 3 weeks in a Venetian hotel. In the course of her cleaning duties, Calle photographed the personal belongings of the hotel guests and wrote factual and personal responses about these strangers’ lives.
Happy Birthday Scot
Happy Birthay Cara
Happy Birthday Dylan
Happy Birthday Bill
Happy Birthday Laura