In “Preservation,” I combine two series of paintings – “Timeline” and “While They’re Still Here”– to discuss how the internet and social media distance us from our physical environment. As we transfer more of our lives and personhoods online, we effectively remove them from their physical surroundings. This transference into the online realm coincides with drastic changes in the environment that physically surrounds us. We are living in an era of rapid, human-generated climate change, and the fastest mass extinction ever; yet, we are disconnected from it, choosing to spend more time in virtual environments.
In the virtual world, our experience of time is constantly in flux, as we experience both past and present events simultaneously. Scrolling through my “current” Facebook feed I “react” and “judge” content, clicking “like,” or “wow.” A transient experience, yet the paradox being the permanence of my decision. Facebook documents the physical and measurable time I now spend on the internet. Seemingly eternally, our Facebook profiles, and all of their content, live on. After we die, a banner switches on, revealing the words “remembering,” above our name.
Alive, and in the present, I utilize Facebook as a tool to “remember.” “Timeline” consists of portraits I painted referencing photographs that popped up in my facebook notifications, announcing themselves as “a memory.” As I’d once have thumbed through the physical pages of a scrapbook, I now scroll through the images of an old facebook album.
Yet when I choose to exist virtually, where time is elastic, I feel more removed and disconnected from my physical environment, where, unlike the internet, time passes predictably – one thing leads to another. There is a beginning and an end.
Climate change is a massive, time-sensitive global issue; we need to feel its urgency, and act now. And yet precisely due to its “doomsday feel,” it’s psychologically easier to distance ourselves from it. And what better way than to seek refuge in virtual spaces-- when we scroll online, there’s no end in sight.
So now, I leave footprints through my cookie cache, not on the mountain trails.
And each year, the glacier melts another few feet back, as each year, it once grew, and then found stasis. The glaciers are dying. And the internet, unnaturally “alive,” advances forward, year after year, its power cords sprawling.
I feel the push and pull, between on- and off-line, between virtual and physical environments. In this constant state of environmental flux, I find solace in remembering the past. Ironically, I cling to the “facebook memory.” Painting the glaciers of “While They’re Still Here,” based on photographs I took hiking in the Cascades, where I grew up, I acknowledge their limited lifespans. I preserve what I know.
I present to you the people of “Timeline,” together with the glaciers of “While They’re Still Here”-- memories of their (physical) world. How we choose to interact with both in the present, and remember them in the past, now, that is up to you.