Dear Diary

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Curated by Sophie Lynford

This is the text for my exhibition

Click here to see the exhibition on Rhizome


In the past, people have turned to writing in diaries as not only a means of expressing one's thoughts and emotions but also as a channel for documenting one's own existence. Writing as the primary, if not exclusive, source of daily reflection, is one step removed from the actual experience itself. Even if the descriptive language is especially evocative of all the experiences one has, an outsider reading will never truly grasp or be able to imagine the intensity of the sun or facial expression of the drug store clerk. New technology has reduced the gap between the experience and the recording of the experience. A lot of daily experience is interpersonal; revolving around one's interaction with people and places and concrete objects. With digital video we can record our interactions and people can observe us in our element. With online diaries and blogs, interactions between events and tangible items, like going to a movie and buying a ticket or going to a play and getting a program, can be integrated into our record of daily life. The artifact itself, which has in prior times provoked the reflection, is now integrated into the actual reflective piece, an action that results in the creation of a genre of art specific to this type of documentation. Digital photos can be uploaded into online blogs, ticket stubs scanned, an image from google earth posted. Dear Diary presents works of art that have an element of the autobiography but also attempt to tell a personal story. This project does not just search for online journals and blogs; it strives to find works of art that radiate diary-like reflection when they are examined. Artists Ana Carvalho, Chris Reilly, Richard Vickers, Florian Thalhofer, and Neil Sorenson document personal experiences in diary-like manners that reflect the presence of the blending of diary documentation and new execution techniques that employ digital and interactive media.

Diaries Book

"Diaries Book" by Ana Carvalho is much more complex than just a normal diary or blog. The project is a website that composes diary entries and recordings of people reading the artist's palm. Her purpose is to convey different views of herself and her daily life; from her perspective and the perspective of those around her. "Diaries Book" includes results of palm readings because Carvalho believes they represent the way she is viewed by outsiders. Since none of the palm readings were done by people who were knowledgeable palmists, the predictions made about Carvalho's life are totally fabricated and based on the information they already knew about the artist. Additionally, the work incorporates six diary entries that present some of the artist's daily activities and the attitude with which she tackles them. The diary entries appear in different formats, one is actually a scanned image of a hand-written journal entry, others appear as animations, and some are quotations and reminders on how the artist would like to live her life. The juxtaposition of the non-traditional diary entry with the information gleaned from the palm-readings presents a story of the artist that is different than the typical autobiographical diary entry. The work requires the viewer to go looking for each entry and must piece together information from all sections of the website to comprehend the story and image Carvalho is painting of herself. Once each section of the work has been unearthed, the viewer is an expert on not only the mundane but also the most personal aspects of the artist's life.

10 days of categorized activity arranged in ascending order of importance

"10 days of categorized activity arranged in ascending order of importance" by Chris Reilly is a video of hundreds of digital photographs the artist took of himself. He carried a digital camera everywhere he went for ten days, keeping himself in the frame at all times. The camera was set to take exposures on intervals of two minutes in the daytime, and ten minutes at night. The silent video is composed of twenty six chapters, the first two are titled, "1. Taking out the trash" and "2. Riding in elevators," while the last two, his most important daily activities are, "25. Medicating" and "26. Sleeping." This piece of art is a diary-like work for more than one reason. From the standpoint of the viewer, "10 days of categorized activity" exudes expository journal. Although the video never includes, "Dear Diary, today I woke up and took the bus to work," the viewer is under the impression that some of the chapters portray the personal and secret emotions that might be divulged in a private journal. Additionally, a statement from the artist reveals the individual goals he had for his project. He hoped that his video would reduce his own need for any extreme attachment in his life, whether it was in a romantic relationship or the bond with his computer. Similar to the purging feeling one experiences when writing in a diary, Reilly believed that documenting himself visually in all stages of his day would help him to establish the distinction between his actual experiences and his current emotions.


Richard Vickers's "15x15" is not at first glance autobiographical. Vickers and two colleagues, Oliver Dore and Greg Brant, have arranged hundreds of fifteen second video clips of strangers across the world. The clips appear in boxes organized in three rows of five, apropos with the work's title and inspiration. At first it is unclear whether the clips are playing in a loop or in real time, but it soon becomes apparent there are not an unlimited number of video clips. If one watches long enough the same clips begin to be recycled but they usually appear in a different box than they had before. The work is based on a statement Andy Warhol made in 1968, "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes." With Vickers's project, people of the world can now use fifteen seconds of their predestined fifteen minutes to achieve their deserved fame. And while this work seems biographical because artists are telling stories about other people, Vickers, Dore, and Brant are not the only artists involved with this project. The people who submit their videos, who record fifteen seconds of their most tedious, most thrilling, most passionate moments of their day are also artists. These people are sharing private moments with the world, admitting that they sing into the mirror and dance in the kitchen. However, to the viewer, this work seems almost like a locked diary. The secrets are right in front of us, but without the key we will never truly know what they are. The videos in "15x15" are silent and many people chose to film themselves "confessional" style, just a head and shoulders shot of themselves speaking to the camera. The viewer wants so desperately to know what the strangers are saying, to be privy to perhaps their most confidential stories, but without sound, we must use only the visual images to construct the story each artist is delivering.

[kleine welt] / [small world]

"[kleine welt] / [small world]" by Florian Thalhofer is a collection of fifty-four stories about the author's Bavarian hometown. The work is composed of many photographs of various places and people in Thalhofer's village. A voice accompanies each image and tells a story, sometimes the story relates directly to the image, or sometimes the image serves as a jumping point for a slightly less related story. All the stories are autobiographical involving Thalhofer associating a memory with a specific image. After the voice finishes telling an account, small boxes appear on the image. The viewer must click one of those boxes for a new image to appear with a new story playing in the background. Because each image provides the viewer with multiple choices to click on different boxes, the stories Thalhofer presents are non-linear and it is very difficult to listen to the same stories in the same order more than one time. Because many of the stories are incredibly random and have no connection to the world outside the artist's Bavarian town, this work is reminiscent of a diary. Diaries are purely reflective and do not take into account that an outside reader might feel completely disconnected to the personal narratives. This detached emotion is one many viewers may experience when they encounter Thalhofer's work, however interesting his stories are on their own.

dreamjot 2001 05

Neil Sorenson's "dreamjot 2001 05" is most aesthetically like a diary out of all the works in this exhibition. On the screen, dreamjot looks like an old fashion scrapbook composed of "note scraps from a dream." Sorenson's work is a scrapbook that recounts the details of a dream he had on May 11, 2001. As the viewer reads the details of the dreams on scraps of paper, the scraps start to disappear from the page of the book until the dream is over. The dream is about a high school field trip, and appropriately, images from old high school yearbooks line the scrapbook. The last dream scrap disappears suddenly and the viewer wonders if there is any more to the dream. The last scrap of paper vanishing most likely represents Sorenson abruptly awaking from the dream. Like diary entries, people's dreams are secret; the dreamer has to choose if he wants to share his reveries. There is a duality to Sorenson's work. The artist is literally granting viewers access to his private dream, much like someone might permit a friend to read his private diary. Additionally, the layout of Sorenson's work visually takes the form of a scrapbook or diary. In the past, reading a recollection of a dream in an actual journal was a one-sided, experience. With new media technologies, Sorenson has integrated the experience and has created a dynamic relationship between the actual recollection and the words that embody the recollection. His work not only tells the story of his private dream, but also allows the reader to explore his scrapbook.

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