Continuing with this self portrait series, slowly but surely after falling ill for the last few weeks. The reference images span more than 20 years. For example, the leftmost painting uses a 1996 cam shot as reference, and the rightmost image is from a 2008 cam set, and I’ll be using 2019 references to complete the work as I once again travel the spiral of the same themes of preemptive rejection, prolonged solitude, and sense of unbelonging that has punctuated much of my life.
I don’t often get all arty about context while actively working, as half the time I don’t know what the fuck I am doing or why until long after a piece is done. But in this case, there is clear motivation; In this body of work I am exploring themes of depression, isolation, performity, and loneliness in the context of identity, and from the perspective of a person suffering manic depression and BPD, while growing up online before it was common.
I am exploring this span of my life in paintings while re-re-re-revisiting my early online journaling, mining for gold to supposedly use in the fabled ‘Book’ I have intended to write in part about running one of the first webcams online to cope with profound mental illness and isolating substance abuse, and participating in (and rejecting) the mid-late 90’s hacker culture turned tech industry.
But as I lumber into the thicket once again, what I am finding are mostly the lies I have told myself about that time in my life. Lies about my importance, about why I was referred to by some as internet famous, about what drew people to follow my awful coredump of a site. I have the receipts uncovering lies that had somehow followed me throughout my years as I have struggled to balance my disdain for our profoundly sick, inequitable society -- magnified by the rise of the internet -- and my only-human need for community and connection and trust that I have only felt in small spurts of what feel like hallucinations.
I thought I was smart and brave by pioneering a way that became a future.
I thought I was modeling empowerment and innovation and independence.
I thought I was doing something that would matter over time.
I thought I was resisting.
But what I was actually doing was crying incessantly for help I refused to accept, attempting to fight fire with fire, and literally warning others in my juvenile, offensive writings that my way -- which included social and emotional isolation and living my adolescence on IRC before computers were familiar and cool and fit in your pocket -- was not the way to do it. How did I remember being empowered when I literally wrote for years about the opposite?
Now, it seems nothing exists without the same receipts I’ve packed on my back with me all these years, heavy with stress and sadness and many near misses when I thought it had all disappeared forever in some drive failure or another, my precarious sense of self gone along with it, because fuck compound PTSD and fuck BPD. No one seems to matter unless they're leaving bread crumbs online, now, the same way I didn't think I mattered unless I was online. And part of me, as ridiculous and untrue as it is, feels responsible for that, in both what I did, and didn't do back when it was a thing that was only first starting to happen.
It seems I've done nothing but work mercilessly to improve, only to drag myself back down, trying to find meaning and value in what I went through and documented and put on public display for all those years. So I am going back one more time, processing it visually after multiple failed book attempts, working it through my body and my perception differently, honoring it differently, selfishly, so I can, hopefully, finally let it go.
This is the art project coinciding with the first phase of my ‘blogging’, from 1995 until 2004 or so. It's called "Attention Economy", will include some short quotes from phuqed.org that were the least mortifying, and if I ever show it publicly, will be an interactive installation encouraging people to add their own receipts.
As I'm working I notice the black and white symbolizing the supremacy and binary thinking that, while privileging me socially as a white, cis-passing woman who happened to know unix in the 90's, is a form of profound trauma in and of itself; a trauma that, though we can get very good at intellectualizing our demons, my community has virtually no ethical tools to genuinely heal among ourselves, disconnected from our bodies, our ancestors, our planet, our social responsibility, and one another.
Black and white also strikes me as the contrast I've gone through over the years, starting as what would be considered these days as a nasty alt-right edgelord troll, swinging wildly into the realms of a therapy journaling social justice warrior anti-oppression personal development healer (That'll be phase 2), and eventually settling into a grey area where I limit the harm I perpetuate upon others, help teach what I now know about wound care, but also give myself room to authentically exist.. somewhere.
In this work I am also exploring the violence I wielded while attempting to resist patriarchy, the harm I perpetuated in my raw, unfiltered, somewhat honest but mostly brutal public writing, and attempting to honor these ugly, injured people I have been to some form of enduring rest. But really, here I am two decades later, still just... posting pictures of myself, along with long paragraphs of self involved bullshit, on the fucking internet. Much as I scramble to be better than I am, some things may just never change.