Social Media and an Aboriginal Way of Sharing

Craig van den Bosch at Shift Gallery through July 29, 2017

Written by Stephanie Hargrave / Edited by Cynthia Hibbard

In his current show at Shift Gallery titled Meta Memory: Digital Facsimile Retrospection Recontextualized, Craig van den Bosch has devised a way to share his personal memories without revealing too much. This is refreshing, given our online world of shares, tweets, likes and comments! He decontextualizes his personal information visually through multi-dimensional wall sculptures. Photographs of his personal life have been joined and altered so the memory itself cannot be deciphered. The viewers see colorful abstract works that are complex and dynamic but remain unaware of the layered experiences that have gone into each piece until they read his artist statement. The last line reveals that his goal is to “take moments in time and nest them into one memory, modifying and tweaking each image set until the original context is indecipherable, a visual encryption. The outside viewer no longer has free access to the memory even though it is made public.” Van den Bosch is preserving the privacy and sacredness of the moment in a way similar to Australian Aboriginal art traditions called “dreamings” which, wisely and intentionally, leave out aspects of the story.

Having asked a large swath of questions in regard to social media, file sharing, and the nature of the digital world, he sees how easy it is to reveal too much. What is privacy? Who owns the information? Do people reveal too much? The questions reverberate, and some answers seem obvious, but I appreciate how van den Bosch puts artistic stress on the subject. So often, online participants seem unable to exercise their option to edit themselves. As van den Bosch puts it, “combined with social media, digital artifacts can reveal more than some individuals may desire.”

So, while it is theoretically possible to record every single aspect of life with digital technology, this show not only reminds viewers of how superfluous that level of transcription is, it provides a far more creative way of sharing – one a bit wiser and certainly more intentional than the over-sharing, and dare I say, dependence on connecting via quick pushes of buttons. I can’t imagine how much time went in to culling and editing hundreds of images of personal memories. To me, it is the grasping back of the “quick” and reclaiming it as artistic labor. This practice, influenced by both the palette and practice of Aboriginal “dreamings” ends up giving viewers the new version: colorful, condensed, bold, and less revealing personally while still patently, lucidly communicating.

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