Conceptual: Voluntary Exposure
by Beauchamp Art
These are the full content of the photo response that I received when I asked people on Facebook to send me pictures of themselves, to submit photos to me – as they have done unto Facebook and possibly other websites – without being made fully aware of my intentions as to what I was going to do with the images. As when an image is online, one looses control of it, though may still own the rights to the image, it is difficult, if not impossible, to prevent people from replicating images, and doing with them whatever they please.
Rather than explain in a more typical ‘reflective essay’ format, I have chosen to keep documentation surrounding the piece – the conversations with people submitting images or discussing it online – and my explanations to the individuals, as the background to this project; the motivations, outcomes, and other thoughts.
Nevertheless, let it be noted that the responses were very much staggered, the first of which [Sam Child] came almost immediately, thought the final [C.] came some weeks later.
As part of the unexpected potential consequences for the representations of oneself online, I have also begun converting some of the images into abstract sound files [‘Photosounds’], something which I believe would be totally unprecedented by the people involved. What else I could have done with these images is essentially limited only to my means and creativity. I did contemplate painting each of the images, but I felt that would add nothing, or very little to the project itself, therefore I resolved to present the images is more straightforward manner, that can be browsed and looked over more leisurely and unthinkingly, as one does across the Walls of faces adorning social media websites; the constantly communicating crowds then are permanently connected online, and disconnected from the physical others; choosing to reside in the non-space of the Network, rather than the physical place proximate to those of whom they are in contact with.
One could say that peoples are emigrating to the contemporary phone book [the Facebook], rather than using it as a go-between to the places in which people actual reside.
One can now choose to be placeless, to be faceless; by choosing to be ubiquitous, to be multifaceted in the countless photos shared and the open diary of ones life becoming just a few pages in the sublime library in which we choose to live in; besides the epic narratives and encyclopaedic potential of such an exchange that the internet allows, instead one chooses the trivial, the banal, the everyday. This is not modernity; which sees the past and present as equal, or the post-modern, which makes the historical a spectacle, but rather supermodernity (stemming from “the three figures of excess: overabundance of events, special overabundance and the individualization of references” [Auge, 1995*]).
In this placeless space, we are everything and nothing and various other oxymorons.
“If Descombes is right, we can conclude that in the world of supermodernity people are always, and never, at home.” [Ibid.]
These photos, therefore, can be seen as an extension of this line of paradoxical thought; as they are of individuals’ events shared openly, but with expectation of discretion on the part of the viewer; one does not expect to see one’s ‘Profile Picture’ outside of the social media platform, one expects it to remain both unseen by the masses, but also seen by one’s society – why else would one upload them and make them available for viewing? Pictures of ourselves online, and by extension the photos featured here [though they were directly requested, they were still voluntarily submitted – or for the most part: not] are both simultaneously public and private.
They are ‘shared’ [to use the idiolect of the Internet – though this in tern infers cyber-space as a place in and of itself, rather than a ‘between’ space (‘place’ is the ‘somewhere’, ‘space’, though often used interchangeably with ‘place’ is more accurately the opposite, it is the absence of place; it is the void one must transgress to be grounded – one could argue that all ‘spaces’ are ‘non-places’ when examined in an isolated context, though such deconstructions are somewhat arbitrary, and do not help clarify the difference in terms)]. ‘Sharing’, ‘Liking’, ‘Tagging’ et al., these are the tools of the participator to be included in the illusively placeless social dynamic – to be part of the unfixed collective, one must constantly engage with it, as one is not able to be placed within it automatically or simply by being. To disengage with the expected online interactions is to sever oneself from the server-based society, even more so than by totally abstaining from networking at large. To be half-in/half-out of the placelessness of social media to be half-way to nowhere, half-way to being no one, which could be seen as more isolating than being completely without place or being. This seems to me to be evidence of the growing “ethnology of solitude” [Ibid.] we are all engaging with more and more frequently and unknowingly.
With these pictures and subsequence conversations, they are ‘neither here nor there’; they are documents of non-events, between facsimiles/non-people, in non-places. They are without substance, and wholly nothing, but are slowing becoming everything. One cannot engage with any form of information [news, fact, fiction] without having to transgress some form of digital boundary, unless directly in face-to-face communication with the person or event at hand, even then, the ‘1st hand’ account is altered through the idiosyncratic lens; the history of what one has seen shapes what one sees, and therefore the telling of other happenings.
The same is true with seeing a face for the first time, one has seen other faces, and internally compare it with these previous visions, and as no two people can wholly share a history, then one can never see someone through anyone’s eyes but our own, no matter how empathetic our understanding.
But to ‘share a history’, as has been done since we, as speaking, thinking creatures, have been able to, is to only share a fraction of it, it is never whole, but it is in the personal selectiveness that we interpret facts, retell stories and mythologize.
The ‘Timeline’ of ancestry and communal knowledge [science, etc] is just derailed from reality as the ‘Facebook Timeline’ of one’s actives one chooses to inform others about online, both are filtered and told with intention [it is impossible to speak without intention or some form of motive behind what is being said, even if that intention is to inform, one must question why one person/group wishes to inform another].
One could see the digital world as a falsity, an artifice, as unreal, or one could see it as just as real, if not more so, than the ‘physical’ world, though both are limited humanist perspectives. One may be more accurate to say that the digital world, the world online, is just a part of the world at large [from a sociological and physical perspective; the Internet is not wholly unreal, it is access through computers, transmitted by servers, reflected off satellites], but one must be aware that is without place; its kinaesthesia renders it so, but at the same time it can be perceived as concrete through our interactions with it. It could be seen as being like a dream; though without substance, beyond the electrical signals without our brain or the computer, it is essentially unreal, but as it can be perceived, than it is real to some extent, though what value we place on this half-life is debatable and prone to flux. With the speed of the Contemporary world, the supermodern world, the world itself is unfixed, and in its lack of fixity fed by exponential technological change and development in the means of carrying and transmitting information; change can come faster than every before, and will continue to do so, until the information we receive overloads our synapses and we grow ignorant to an ever increasing percentage of what is available to us.
We are in a crowd, we recognises the faces, but we do not know who they are, we simple know everything about them instead.
To be some one is to be some one else. To be somewhere is to be somewhere else.
To be no one is to be alone [all one]. To be nowhere is to not be going anywhere.
To not be is to be alone going nowhere.
*Auge, M. (1995) Non-places: introduction to an anthropology of supermodernity. London: Verso.
ArtistExposure, conversations surrounding and in response to my request for photos.
This social media experiment was hosted on Facebook
Though I have amending these transcripts of the online conversations to only contain information relevant to the photo submission, it is worth noting that the first people to respond, and actually engage in discussion with me about the project/piece/investigation where not my university peers, but rather other individuals, such as friends from home, some of whom I had not spoken to for some time, and this social media experiment and subsequent responses resulted in conversations with peoples I may have otherwise not spoken to, and whom I had not spoken to for some time [then again, they may have been more likely to inquire, as I have been in more frequent communication with my fellow students]. This positive aspect of social media cannot be overlooked; it does enable peoples to be brought together, and in moderation, this is an advantage of the technologies of the modern age, allowing distant people to stay in contact. This was intended as a look at the potential negative aspects of sharing information online, but resulted in highlighting the positive aspects; of communication and contribution.
The first 4 transcripts, from Thorley, Bristow, Harewood, and Rugg are non-peers, subsequent contributors are fellow students, approximately organised into chronological order, though some events and communications may have been simultaneous, so are not ordered thus. I have also just use the individual’s latter names, to give them some anonymity but are still accountable for their uniqueness. They vary in length from the extended, to the brief or non-existent. And it is curious to note how many people ask if they are sending the right kind of image, as they want to help out, but do not wish to make a mistake, despite them being in the position of being asked, rather than asking. By me inquire for other’s assistance, I put myself in a negative power position, but also am in a positive position as I have the power to decide or dismiss contributions. Of course I would not dismiss any of the images sent, the varied submissions are what make it an interesting investigation.
Moreover, the number of people who said they would contribute, when asked in person or passing, was disproportional to the number of people who actually did send an image. Altruism, commitment to one’s word, and assistance online is a cheap imitation of an already shabby practice. I was somewhat disappointed with the turn out – especially those individuals who I have helped in their work, but did not respond – nevertheless, it still posed an interesting study.
It may also be worth noting that Harewood studies some aspect of English Literature and Language, and we were previous fellow A-Level Language students; so her comment “And is me telling you that [going to] be part of the investigation too?” is poignant, and a motivator in the inclusion of these transcripts in my work.
This makes for an interesting inquiry into how people choose to represent themselves. Comparing how they do so online on sites like Facebook, when asked to select an image to represent themselves as part of art piece, in the artificial social context versus the ‘real’, non-digital life.
The total list of contributors is as follows:
Thorley, Bristow, Harewood, Rugg, Child, Lees, Barkus, Ward, Goose, C.
Given I did not receive many responses to my first request, I therefore repeated my inquiry, rewording it each time in order to attempt to provoke more people to contribute that may have dismissed, forgotten, or not wanted to send an image in the first instance.
The requests and subsequent responses are presented chronologically and unedited.
Beauchamp – 11 April
Hello, as some of you may know I am currently doing a project on social media; social norms, interactions, and public/privacy; and a current piece requires some help from you nice people.
So if you want to participate in an art project, please e-mail a photo of yourself in whatever context to email@example.com
The pictures will only be used for art purposes.
The only requirements of the pictures is that it contains you in the frame, is unedited, and preferably a JPEG image below 5MB, beyond that, it is up to you.
If you require any further details, please feel free to contact me.
Any submissions would be greatly appreciated, and thank you for participation.
[I realise that this a bit of a strange request, but it is all in the name of art and anthropology]
Sam Child likes this.
Beauchamp – 12 April
If anyone has any pictures of themselves to be used for an art project, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org – any submissions would be greatly appreciated.
Cecily Boon: feel free to use any of my facebook pics benj xx
Benj Beauchamp: Ah, I’ve been using facebook photos for the majority of the last project, this is about seeing whether people are willing to participate, and give a picture of themselves when asked directly.
Cecily Boon: ok
Benj Beauchamp: But thank you anyhow. If people don’t want to go out of their way sending an email with an image attached, you could send me a message with a URL if that would be any easier.
Hannah Tink: I don’t mind if u wanna use my water effect ones. Or any infact especially it its for art!
Benj Beauchamp: Send them my way then! Thanks
Hannah Tink: Well I can’t right now as I’m out. But just take them off my fbk thats fine! X
Benj Beauchamp: Ahh, I can’t take them, they have to be given – I’m being taking things from online all term, now I’m flipping things around. Whenever is convenient.
Hannah Tink: Oh ok… sure I’ll send them tomo
Benj Beauchamp: Thanks!
Beauchamp – 14 April
If you want to be featured in an art piece – send your photos to email@example.com
Beauchamp – 17 April
Any more of your photos please send to firstname.lastname@example.org – I’ve only got ones from 4 people so far! Any more submission would be greatly appreciated.
Kennedy Wardle likes this.
Benj Beauchamp: The piece will still work with fewer, as I say about how requesting such things as a person to another person has a different response to a person to a faceless organisation, the interloper is antonymous, privacy is volunteered away when the consequences are indirect, but direct exposure of some aspect of oneself to another individual is less socially acceptable. That and altruism is invalid, and helping another person implies that one will get something in return – in this case, a passive form of fame; to be part of an art piece. Whereas in social media, the exchange of information and images is just an extension of standard social practice, therefore is frequently unquestioned as another part of ‘normal’ contemporary social practice.One is expected to have Facebook, to share pictures of themselves, and information on their day-to-day life, their friends and connections to others. But one is not normally contested to give an individual similar information directly [or more directly] online – no doubt I would have had a different response if I had simply asked to take pictures of people in person, I predict that there would be fewer objections – and know from previous experience with taking photo series, that people are often more willing to spare a moment of their time when asked in person, for something in person. But when it is abstracted on the internet, the emotional connection between peoples becomes representation, and more unreal. Because of this digital disconnection between persons, minor requests seem more mechanical and less likely to be responded to, yet conversely, the authentic mechanical requests are completed automatically – how often does one log on to a website that asks for one’s details; one’s name, age, email, phone number, mother’s maiden name, where we grew up, who our friends are, what are interests are, what we like, what we look like, where were you when this picture was taken, how are you feeling today, what have you been up to? The casual greetings of the synthetic society, taking these details unquestioned, storing them for targeted advertising purposes, the illusion of intimacy and security; the new community.
Hannah Keturah Harewood: Just any pic?
Benj Beauchamp: Any picture with you featured in the frame/of you would be ideal. Anything else is up to you. If the email is too much hassle, one can be messaged to me on here directly. Thanks for the support
Beauchamp – 20 April
There’s not long left now, so any more photos you have of yourself, please send them post-haste to email@example.com or message me them.
Thorley: I saw your status and I’m happy to help! What is it you need?
Beauchamp: Ah, thank you. It’s just a simple photo of yourself, taken by you or somebody else. I shall probably just compile them in some way, though I may try to take them further later on. I’m interested in exploring the social boundaries of the Internet, and how we expose ourselves online willingly, under the illusion that there is some sense of privacy; privacy that people will give up voluntarily in the name of the social network.
Thorley: Okay sure! I’m spoilt for choice […] What are you thinking for the final piece?
Beauchamp: Indeed. And I have no idea, to be honest; I never have a clue what I’m doing. […]
Thorley: Well you always painted awesome stuff so I’m sure it will be pretty cool.
[…] Do you need anything specific?
Beauchamp: Oh, nothing specific, just whatever you [and other people] are willing to share.
[…] Having spent an ungainly amount of time going through people’s profiles [for art sake, it was tedious and creepy], most people don’t represent themselves in a positive way online. The photos we select and keep are usually of us on a good day; the ones people put online at parties are more often then not, not flattering in the slightest.
Thorley: Why thanks! I’m eating jellies and look awkward, but I like it […] you can see from my photographs on here I’m not much for being bothered at what I look like: some are of me pulling faces hideously, but I like it, I feel like it shows more of who I am than if I sat and chose them all, but no I like the sounds of your project! It’s interesting.
Beauchamp: […] Yes, the unexpected qualities of naturalism. And thank you, hopefully it will go down well, though I’ll probably keep on this sort of theme for a while longer, there’s still much to be explored! […]
Thorley: It could be interesting to compare the appearance of someone online and the real person on one piece, I don’t know how you could do that but it’d be very interesting. […]
Beauchamp: Yes, that does sound like a good idea actually, I shall note that down.
Bristow: Here you go […] two lovely pictures of me wearing my knitted crown for you art project!
Beauchamp: Thank you very much. Fabulous.
Bristow: Hope they’ll do for your project I can send different ones if not
Beauchamp: They’re perfect, thank you. I’m just gathering as many as I can, then I’ll figure out how to present them
Bristow: […] I can get some of my family if you like?
Beauchamp: Well, it’s more about the individuals sending themselves, but you could suggest it to them.
Bristow: Ok, I’ll suggest away!
Beauchamp: Thank you!
Bristow: […] Here’s a picture of my turtle face.
Harewood: Sorry if they’re boring. Just took the 2nd one now […]
Beauchamp: Thanks ever so much. It’s strange; it’s mostly people from before uni or ones I’ve talked to less that have sent pictures. […]
Harewood: Hmm, funny. I do like the sound of this investigation though sounds very interesting. […] I did actually see your status the other day, but didn’t really know what you wanted I suppose!
Beauchamp: It’s interesting, just finding what to focus on is hard […] and I know it was a bit vague, I can’t do clarity.
Harewood: Yeah I get you. […] Me neither but [not, it’s alright] I just thought you meant other artists for some reason, and I’d feel stupid if I was wrong […]
Beauchamp: No worries. Hell, its art – everything is ridiculous.
Harewood: For some reason FB wasn’t letting me send anything earlier!
[…] The first picture of me is be being very bored by the way, just realised the puppy dog eyes […] or are you not meant to know that? […] And is me telling you that [going to] be part of the investigation too? […]
Beauchamp: We shall see…
Rugg: In response to your latest post, you have my permission to go forth and steal photos of me if you want
Beauchamp: It’s not about taking photos that you have already put online, but seeing if people are willing to share some aspect of themselves, as they would for Facebook, but for art.
Rugg: I see.
Beauchamp: If you could participate, that’d be great, but don’t feel obliged.
Rugg: Do you want me to take a brand new photo specifically or send one I’ve already taken? Which would you prefer?
Beauchamp: It is entirely up to you. Just think of it as you putting a picture of yourself online, on Facebook or tumblr. […]
Rugg: There you go. Might prefer the unfiltered one, hang about. […] There we are then. Have fun.
Beauchamp: Thank you for your contribution
Child: Alright mate, here’s my submission to help out. Look forward to see what you do with it (if anything)
Beauchamp: Thanks for send the photo, much appreciated.
Child: No problem, hope you can do something with it and not cover me up again.
Beauchamp: […] Shall do.
Beauchamp: Thanks for send the photo, much appreciated.
Beauchamp: Thanks for your photo contribution, much appreciated. Hopefully I’ll be able to present them in an interesting way.
Lees: […] Its okay, hope it helps
Barkus: Is this the kind of thing you want?
Beauchamp: Thanks for your photo contribution, much appreciated. Hopefully I’ll be able to present them in an interesting way.
Goose: Do you want me to send you one?
Beauchamp: If you would be so kind. […]
Beauchamp: Thank you. I’d much rather paint that than half the photos people have of themselves online
Goose: […] Thank you
Beauchamp: […] Young, fair faced people do not look fair when half smiling in a club, with the flash from the camera right in their face
Goose: Club photos are always so bad
Beauchamp: Indeed, they’re brilliant; I might focus on them more for my next series.
C.: Check out these bad boys! What will you use them for? There is an extreme mixture of images for you.
Beauchamp: Thank you. I am still not quite sure how I will present them, but I will probably just display them in some straightforward way. I was originally intended to do some sort of painting/montage/collage, but I think just displaying the images as they are [in a list] would get the point across; seeing what happens when one asks someone else to send their picture, and the other responses to the slightly strange request. It relates to how people choose to represent themselves online; what they show willingly of themselves, what they consider private and public, as the internet is ambiguous in that regard. So your contribution is greatly appreciated.
C.: No worries, hope it helps.
Beauchamp: It shall be, thank you again.
Since the resolution of the piece, some of the images and information has been removed by request, though cannot be guaranteed to be gone for good; the Internet’s history can never be fully cleared.