We shoot texts into the ether every day, tweet meaningless gossip and confess transgressions in digital thought bubbles as we mill about the world. We’re skipping work, finishing at the gym, running late, losing jobs, buying shoes, having breakdowns and fighting with lovers. We hit “send,” then move on.
But if our words lingered, suspended against the backdrop from whence they appeared in an otherwise breezy moment, we’d have a deeply personal and revealing snapshot of a social climate. We’d have the work of Nate Larson and Marni Shindelman, whose exhibit, Geolocation, is showing at Contemporary Arts Center.
Larson (from Baltimore) and Shindelman (from Rochester, New York) use GPS coordinates embedded in Twitter to track public tweets. They photograph a tweet’s location of origin and overlay its text, creating poetic and sometimes haunting images on 30-by-22-inch C-Prints they refer to as “historical monuments to small-lived moments.”
The collection includes random tweets and tragic snapshots, compositionally compelling and devoid of humans.
From an urban sidewalk: “Will try my best to live life the right way, morally and ethically. I can’t keep living the way I am now …”
From a car wash: “While I was there a woman WELL into her 70s came in wearing a sweatshirt from ‘Bada Bing,’ the strip club from The Sopranos: Day made!”
The project emerged from the artists’ process of working together, collaborating over long distance and relying on the technology they see changing the world. Larson teaches at the Maryland Institute College of Art; Shindelman at the University of Rochester. The process is ongoing and the two will continue documenting while in Las Vegas.
“We’re fascinated by the sense of lingering presence,” Larson says. “There’s something about these social tools that make people more willing to share. And something about being in that location and imagining what it felt to be like in that location … We think of it as man-on-the-street social documenting, a way to look into the world.”