The Dirty C (2011-13/2015) is a large-scale and very malleable installation with an accompanying video dealing with the lack of interpersonal connection and actual human interaction in the technology age. The installation consists of 1035 different and primarily “dirty” text messages, individually stuffed into 375ml glass whiskey flask bottles. These texts were sent between January 1, 2012 and January 12, 2012. The project came from a chance encounter with a gentleman from Columbus, Ohio by way of an internet dating site.
Initially, as I was logged into my dating site, this gentleman looked at my profile, so I in turn looked at his. We were a 99% match and he seemed witty and intelligent, which is sometimes hard to come by! I sent him a message inquiring how he could appreciate my ample fanny from 2027 miles away. What followed was an extremely intense, expansive and short burst of communication via emails and instant messages, then finally via text. There was no chance of meeting…no consequences. The narrative is fantasy-based due to the distance between the parties. There is a kind of safety in texting intimate details to a stranger 2027 miles away. Filters are dropped, the chase is cut to and there is a full exploration of possibilities.
This work explores longing, unfulfilled desire in our age of electronic devices and instant gratification, the phenomenon of “sexting” and how it has drastically changed relationship communication. Both parties were able to idealize the other…without meeting, flaws are less visible. It is a perfect glimpse at what would otherwise be private and left to memory: the story arc of two strangers feeling each other out.
The texts themselves flit in and out of subject matter, but they are mainly sexual fantasy. There are confessions, jokes and fast-paced interactions, battles of wit, extensive scenario play and more. There is also some discovery of the other intellectually (we are both traditionally “highly educated” individuals), whether obvious or through “tone” and quick-witted, rapid responses. Each message contains a time stamp (Pacific Time) as well as a sequential number and color coding (mine are blue, his are black). When the full transcripts are read via the accompanying video, the absurdity becomes evident. This gentleman and I also frequently talked of whiskey so I thought it was important to choose the proper bottle shape for this installation.
Failure is a big part of the work I do. Previously, I was so afraid of romantic relationships due to past situations that my projects tended to focus inward (this is still the case depending on the idea). This work is by nature relational. It was and is a happenstance collaboration, though the idea for this piece had occurred to me well before this particular encounter. I realized that internet dating had become my work. I ceased production on a latch-hook rug that was to be my last piece for another project. This project forced me to work through some of my fear and in retrospect, discover my skewed sense of relationships through written transcripts instead of memory. I was clearly only able at the time to seek out a place-holder sexual relationship. Because the emails, instant messages and texts were the only communiqué (save two brief phone calls), I could see my unrealistic expectations and flaws more clearly. It was and continues to be a self-revelatory and often emotionally painful and draining experience. That certainly mirrors my experience with internet dating in general. I grew as an artist and a human being in society. I have written proof of my failures, pitfalls and insecurities. I also have written proof of my off the cuff wit and imagination. I have a serious lack of connectivity to the world partially due to mental illnesses, and I still have a strong desire to make work, to love and to be loved. This undertaking is evidence of that.
After re-reading these texts in preparation to have a video made for the installation of the work, I have found it profoundly sad. Ghosts of past lives often upon reflection bring this up for many of us. Especially when there is a damning record of said past life instead of the ever-changing, mood and time dependent memory. It seems like insecurities and desperation is all that remains after 3.5 years. Arcs of lives change. What once was carefree and fun in the moment often can become a source of a kind of emotional distress and can certainly skew present events. Regret, in the form of specters like pushiness, mania, and the desperation to make real human connection. Delusions of something unnamable. But art is not fun. That is not the point. At its best it is real and raw and revelatory. The bottles have become uncomfortable time capsules made public.
Failure in life and art: the two are inseparable. With the video component, a seemingly tragic mirror held up with a bigger audience all seeing what I was. What I may still be. In a way this project attempted to ruin me…things about interpersonal relationships that I still have to control and work very hard on. There are slip ups. It’s that “real shit”, as Angel Haze would say. Exposing oneself is about potential success or failure. I have since come to see texting itself as a kind of perversion. Things are too easily misinterpreted. In getting help to make the video portion of this installation I had a lot of anxiety and uncomfortable feelings, which always means I’m on the right track.
Thank you to A. G.entleman, truly. Thanks also to Ian Lucero for video magic!