Exposure Therapy is the story of a semi-fictional alter-ego, Alexi, including both online and physical information and performance. It is strongly recommended that you explore before reading. This text is to serve as documentation of the project, not explanation.
It is a multilayered project, an exploration of the nature of anonymous information as produced and distributed. It hopes to entice visitors to view seemingly banal content and to force them to ask themselves, among other questions, “Why am I watching this?”
Alexi does not talk and does not smile (almost a polar opposite of Ian.) He offers no explanations for his actions and at times it is unclear if he is documenting or being documented. He exists in a barren and utilitarian setting and has no clear nationality. The accounts created offer no location or contact information besides an email at the domain, though they all leave the content public and able to be commented on.
About the Information
The files are named in a predictable but generally uninformative manner, such as day_001_file_l001. They are posted daily to a flickr and youtube accounts and selections are posted weekly to a livejournal account. Statistical data is collected and formed into graphs posted at the main domain, though it is not clear exactly what they are tracking.
Several initial goals were made at the conception of the project. Some of the goals can be thought of as the character’s goals and some can be thought of as artist goals, though the distinction may blur. The term “document” is used loosely, since the work is arguably fiction.
- Reacting to the online proliferation of snack-media (extremely stimulating shortform media)
- Reacting to other created online personas through a more banal and less attractive mirror
- Examining the dynamic of anonymous content broadcasted in public using the internet
- Creating a character who creates information for reasons other than to create art
- Existing as someone who looks outwardly strange and different on an obvious level
- Viewing the reaction of people, both in person and online, to strange appearance, unflattering visual information, and general gradual dishevelment
- Tracking uncleanliness and general changes over time
- Creating content to document through several different media (words, statistics, video, photography)
- Working as if an untrained person, coming from a much different mental viewpoint than a classically trained artist
- Working under limited circumstances (only within institutional setting, same clothes every day, no speaking in video, no explanations or response allowed, etc)
- Exploring different arrangements of information (embedding content, creating multimedia internet presentations, interactive, tiling, etc)
Here is a basic timeline of the project.
- Day 000 – 3/25/08 - Head and facial hair shaved, nails trimmed, white clothes set up, and podium built. Domain, email, flickr, youtube, and livejournal created. First video and picture data posted. Physical journal created to log dirt over time in character. Data file created and web statistics start to be gathered.
- Day 001 – 3/26/08 - White clothing is put on. First podium data recorded and posted. First weekly livejournal post.
- Day 007 – 4/02/08 - First subscriber on Youtube.
- Day 010 – 4/05/08 - Data from first ten days made into first graph, embedded in domain. First embedded content page created and uploaded, as file_03.
- Day 020 – 4/15/08 - Second graph and file_04 uploaded.
- Day 023 – 4/18/08 - First subscriber on Youtube unsubscribes.
- Day 030 – 4/25/08 - Third graph and file_05 uploaded. First comment on livejournal. It asks in Russian, translated through babelfish, “what here does occur???“
- Day 035 – 4/30/08 - A livejournal user posts about the project to the indiefucks community. The post states: “wut is this as far as i can tell some dude just shaved his head and put on some white clothes and hasn’t left his room for ~ the past month and has been documenting it.” Unique website hits quadruple. In under five hours the connection is loosely made between Alexi and Ian. Two hours later a comment is made offering “proof.”
- Day 036 – 5/01/08 - First flash content is posted publicly, as the entry page for alexi768544. It is a time lapse of the podium photographs with four looping podium video files, accompanied by steadily building and degrading sound. Other pages with created flash content or embedded youtube video configurations are online, but not clearly linked. A small portion of the website visitors find them by changing the file number in the url bar or by clicking on the trackbacks from the youtube videos.
- Day 040 – 5/05/08 - Fourth graph and file_06 uploaded.
- Day 041 – 5/06/08 - Site is linked to on stumbleupon, resulting in a small amount of pageviews.
- Day 043 – 5/08/08 - First person adds as contact on Flickr.
- Day 046 – 5/10/08 - First comment on flickr, from a man who lives in Lisbon, Portugal. He inquiries in English “will it be sustainable?“
- Day 050 – 5/14/08 - Fifth graph and file_07 uploaded. Links added under graphs to content pages.
- Day 058 – 5/23/08 - A comment left on flickr states in Portuguese, translated through babelfish, “I liked this work very.“
- Day 059 – 5/24/08 - Street sighting by Rebecca Nolan.
- Day 060 – 5/25/08 - Sixth graph and file_08 uploaded. New content page (4 image random slideshow) changed out for intro page flash content. The looping time lapse will be saved for file_09, the last planned content.
- Day 070 – 6/03/08 - Seventh graph uploaded and file_09 posted. Week ten reached, the goal point for the project.
- Day 071 – 6/04/08 - Final content created and posted at day 71 in order give an unfinished and awkward look to the upload pages.
- Post Project - Documentation of class discussions scanned, this page created, flash pages tweaked to load quicker and work in more browsers and resolutions. All still images created during project added to random slideshow. Time lapse updated. Project documentation made public.
This project was brought in for critique and discussion for two classes at Savannah College of Art and Design: Experimental Video and Installation Design and Photography Project Seminar II. The in-class discussion was heated and very useful but unfortunately not documented. I do have the final critique from my photography class, which was my first introduction to the Darko Maver project, something I found extremely interesting. I also was able to convince my video class to do my final discussion online.
Influences and Similar Projects
Here are some creative works that were influential during the conception of the project, were found while working on the project, or are closely related in theme or content. This list is by no means comprehensive.
- Waiting For Godot by Samuel Beckett
- The Burrow by Franz Kafka
- Valis by Phillip K. Dick
- The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
- Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
- 1984 by George Orwell
- The Vanity of Duluoz by Keurac
- The Performance Art of Chris Burden
- The Performance Art of Teching Hsieh
- The Performance Art of Joseph Beuys
- The Sound and Installation Work of Ryoji Ikeda
- Sleep by Andy Warhol
- Darko Maver by 0100101110101101
- MRirian by Maggie Lilian
- EveryDay by Noah Kalina
- LonelyGirl15 by Miles Beckett
- DaxFlame by Theodore Patrello
- Abortion Art Press Release by Aliza Shvarts
Credits and Thanks
- Cody Greene for helping with video processes, editing, and shooting
- Elizabeth Heppenstall for various still and video shots throughout the project
- Labeebah Beruni for shooting the shaving scene
- Rob Speed for web help and troubleshooting
- Michael Chaney‘s Experimental Film and Installation Design class
- Lynn Wright‘s Photography Project Seminar II class
- Ryoji Ikeda for giving permission to randomly remix/layer/degrade his sound track data.microhelix, taken from Dataplex CD [Raster-Noton], as an aspect of one of the flash files for the project, juxtaposing the organic degradation of sound over time with the layering of filth over time.