Local Tide is charged by the memory of the physical being brought to you digitally.
I am staying at a sublet and there is no wi-fi. There is no television. I sit in the living room, with the other temporary housemate, who I’ve only known a few weeks. Sometimes a record plays on low. We talk, with phones down, sitting across from each other. At first, we talked about how much we wanted wifi. Now, that doesn’t come up. He picks up the guitar sometimes and I watch his fingers on the strings, and we sit.
Thinking about Local Tide, the visual art show happening now at S1 until March 5th, has me thinking about this and other ordinary situations, when a digital device is not present. The exhibit is about place, memory, and attachment as they exist in both digital and physical space.
At S1, the artist-run gallery in the basement below the Rite Aid on NE Sandy, the exhibit, curated by Francesca Capone, occupies a side room. Five screen-like surfaces hang, each projecting images from an iPad on the floor directly below. The only light emanates from those images, but it is not too dark in the windowless space.
On opening night last week, the people crowding that little room — the warmth, the echo of multiple voices — lets you know you’re in a physical space. The images on the surfaces, ranging from landscapes and objects to Oregon Trail video game screenshots, remind you how much time you spend staring at a screen, in digital space.
Local Tide is presented by Parallelograms, an online artist project organized by Leah Beeferman and Matthew Harvey. The project is curious about how images are interpreted by cultures weaved in the worldwide web. And concerning artists specifically, it is interested in how the existence of both digital and physical spaces effect the process of making art. The program given out on opening night for Local Tide is a bonus of good reading. Sixteen artists provide thorough text responses, serving as a compass for the two digital works they were asked to make which represent places that mean something to them. From here, an excursion into their memories begins.
Do we form attachments to digital space, like we do physical? And have you ever thought about what makes a digital image sensual? Courtney Stephens’ close-up shot of tree branches in an apple orchard in Upstate New York — pale pink and brown against bright blue — aroused the memory of cold, tactile air. It was as powerful as a song to transport me to another time.
Joy Drury Cox’s image of a blue shopping cart wins my attention projected in this context. She shot photographs of the mundane sight growing up in Gainesville, FL and here, option buttons pop up and scatter over the image. Facebook menus roll down over another image of an ostrich tied to a cart by Chris Maggio. These features, which exist only in the digital realm, appear as natural as the projection of an empty beach in Maine from another contributing artist, Barry Stone.
At Local Tide, you can interact with the images via the iPad. You can scroll, slide and tap your way through the artist’s work and read the coinciding text they’ve written. I watch two young guys in front of images of a city in Manila, by Eileen Isagon Skyers. They hold the iPad in front of them like a steering wheel for a race-car video game. The experience of the observer mimics that of driving through the city. The scenes keep changing, like file after file is being uploaded, and it makes me wonder if this reflects the memory process of Skyers, when thinking on this first neighborhood of hers, from which she emigrated as a little girl and only recently returned for this footage.
The memory of sitting there in the living room with my housemate is already rich — plainly so. Without the presence of any elaborate visuals, or extraordinary sensory experiences, digital or otherwise, it’s a resonant memory simply because it is a physical space I’ve occupied, wholly. How many of our visuals each day are not from the space we are in but from our Instagram feeds? I don’t ride the Max frequently, but a friend posts near-daily pics of her train rides. When I get on the Max, I feel like I’ve just been on it.
I don’t mean to make this review an editorial/examination of my (or our) detachment from the physical world because Local Tide is certainly not about that. It does not side with the myriad critiques of a hyper-tech world; it doesn’t dismiss the implications of the internet as disharmonious. Rather, there is a genuine interest that comes to the surface here, to objectively investigate the internet’s subjective effects. Without dwelling on the social media phenomenon or our overindulgence in the internet, Local Tide offers a stimulating and interpersonal look into a relationship most of us engage in everyday.
S1 is open on Saturdays, from 12pm – 4pm, or by appointment. Featured image by Alex Ian Smith, courtesy of S1.