TXT ME L8R
by Michelle White
I wonder what Marshall McLuhan, the godfather of media studies, might say about the blurry photographs that we take with our camera phones. A form of shorthand image making, and an even quicker way to transmit ask if the format of those grainy shots of my friends in bars that I never know what to do with, or my cousin's kid doing something historicized, or even critically analyzed, they spend most of the time living in the limbo of a phone's memory.
For this year's SPIN, a one night event this past August called Txt Me L8r, Aurora Picture Show and the Houston Center for Photography harnessed this ubiquitous and undefined medium. The premise, to capture and display photos made with the camera phone, was a celebration, and more importantly, an affirmation of | the beautiful irreverence of the fleeting format. In the gallery there were two projection screens. One flashed camera phone pics by selected artists who had been asked to respond to an assignment. For one series, the elegiac idea of "say goodbye" was translated with hands thrown in front of the phone, a bowl of miso soup and rumpled pink sheets. A simple melting ice cube in the sun look like?" Quotidian stuff was suddenly compelling, and poetic through the microscopic lens.
The other screen showcased the assignments guests were asked to complete on their own phones that night. At thekissing," was one. Other instructions requested that you capture an image of a funny dance move, the interior of someone's handbag, the trash, someone who looks like a celebrity. After taking the mobile photo, you sent it to a flickr-uploading site. The images were projected as a slide show in the middle of the gallery and the site was continually refreshed as contributions came in throughout the evening. People got into the groove, and the seduction of the big screen compelled some to even send in latent photos of their cats that had been lying dormant in their phone's hard drive. Here, everyone one was the artist and the subject, and the activity provided to some of the most enthusiastic guests that I encountered (including myself) thrilling moments of artistic glory.
My assignment was to "take a photograph of your best exercise move." I had some friends pose for me under the parking lot lights outside of the gallery. Gina clung to her boyfriend's shoulders, and in an exaggerated gesture she threw her left knee in Seth's groin. Thanks to the fingerprints and grime of collected dust and ink on the bottom of my purse that collected on the tiny lens of my Motorola Razor phone, the projected result was | an erotic and dreamy dance. I was quite proud an effect I would like to call the intended romantic and atmospheric haze of my technical mastery.
While some of the arty-party-goers learned they could easily be apt art-stars with a medium everyone keeps in their pocket, images moved across the screen as magnified versions of | how we typically see them on our computer screens through digital photo sharing networking sites, the installation became a collectively produced work of art in a white cube, the domain of the individual artist. The shift of context was ironic and hilarious. Our daily participation in a communal way of experiencing and processing images, and the way we are all implicated as outsourced anonymous producers of cultural forms in a complex network of information, was paradoxically amplified by the interactive experiment.
The event came only weeks after the release of the iPhone. Some exceptionally (and suspiciously) crisp photos slipped into | to the show. Prophetic of the advent of yet another obsolescent technology, their clarity and lack of magical and unintentional low-fi effects that comes from technological magnificence, was boring. I was suddenly nostalgic for a medium I always thought was superfluous, and that I suddenly learned to love.
Txt Me L8r was on view at HCP from August 24-26, 2007. For more information on Aurora Picture Show, visitwww.aurorapictureshow.org.