- Wellington Terrace Foundation Studios
- South West England
When Sir Tim Burners-Lee gifted the World Wide Web to us back in 1992, perhaps none of us suspected how quickly technological convergence would occur, and in particular shift the ways we communicate and interact with each other. Email, Gmail, Skype, Chat Rooms, Yahoo Chat, ICQ, Second Life, are all ways we choose today to stay in touch with or indeed reach out and contact people from all corners of the world.
In a small arts building in Falmouth, on a balmy Saturday morning Holly Bodmer was stretching, toying and crossing boundaries of the virtual, real, personal and most certainly sexual framed within an art context. This placed I Come in Peace within a fascinating and addictive format, examining and marking visible human social behaviours in virtual spaces in all their glory. Sitting behind a desk and madly typing away, flicking between various chat modules and programmes, a camera projected Holly’s face onto a large white wall, whilst adjacent to this we read her words as she frantically types away online and switches between screens to keep up with the pace of her communication.
Sublime, followed by perverse, are my first reactions as I begin to pick up on the various threads of conversation she is having.
“Are you horny?” enquires one such somebody from does-it-really-matter where.
“Write me a song” deflects Bodmer quickly, providing relief from a further cringing string of pick-me-up lines – but then again, we’ve all been there in this day an age… haven’t we?
“parrots, pirates, pollys and eye-patches” become the rather more uplifting communication with ‘LongJohn’ – once again failing to stretch conversation to anything of substance but proving light relief against many of the other users who wanted little more than sexual gratification.
Holly Bodmer has identified her own intrigue as being anchored within “a place which is conceptual, abstract and maybe not so tangible…that place in all of its many classifications, is a receptacle of practices of identity”.**
As an onlooker, Bodmer implicates us in this fly-on-the-wall scenario, uncomfortably locating us somewhere between the real textured world in which we can watch Holly in front of us, and the world of the ‘other’ from Baltimore, Istanbul, New South Wales, or indeed anywhere on the other end of the screen.
The complexity of the work arises in situating us as the knowing spectator, whilst the unknowing ‘other’ is blissfully unaware of their growing audience across the other side of the Wide World. It’s a tricky and uncomfortable web of watching and being watched. We laugh at being in the know, as the dramas unfold against the gallery wall, but cringe with unease as we experience various exposures of sexual prowess from the unassuming virtual buddy.
This unease if further exacerbated when Bodmer invites one guy from the comfort of his living room in the US to join her in a web chat. The anticipation in the room increases as we watch Bodmer turn her webcam on and position a Pinocchio-esque miniature wooden doll in front of the tiny camera, projecting life-size and somewhat life-like, this inanimate character into the horny man’s world.
It takes the guy a short time for the penny to drop at which point he cracks a slightly Candid Camera style smile and continues to tap away:
“Your personality didn’t seem to be so wooden!?” He enquires.
“Maybe my personality don’t match my looks if you know what I mean” Bodmer coherently replies.
Indeed, in the virtual world Bodmer cleverly shows us that we can all be anyone we want to be: identities can be merged, shaped, shifted and web life can be a space for the complexities of identities, desires dreams and fantasies to be played out, navigated, or perhaps sometimes, avoided.
Bodmer’s success in this work lies in her ability to outline the subtleties of intent in the way we reach out to others in this world. It’s all about the intent – isn’t it?
** Bodmer, Holly. (2008) ‘Introducing Falling To My Practice Happened Accidentally. I Fell Over. This Initiated The Interest.’ in Post – The Journal for Arts Culture and Research, Third Edition, Spring 2008. Falmouth: University College Falmouth.