Friday, May 4, 2007


As a social medium, the Internet presents new opportunities and new issues into the social realm that are unique to its set up as a virtual and quasi-anonymous venue. The creation of identity plays a large role in how we interact with others through the Internet and how others perceive us. Websites of social networking such as and, just to name a few, have capitalized on our ability to construct our own identities on the Internet and then network with others through the virtual web. Does the Internet provide a way for us to hide behind false identities, or does it allow us to safely show who we truly are in a way that is perhaps more difficult in face to face social interaction?

"FACES OF FACEBOOK" is a project that seeks to explore social interaction and the perception of identity through the medium of the Internet, and specifically the social networking website of facebook. Facebook was chosen over other similar networking websites because of the more standardized format of its profile, group, and event profiles. The result of this standardization makes it more difficult for users to truly express who they feel themselves to be, or conversely to create an identity that is outside of the model of the facebook profile. This presented even more of a reason that we would want to create a group that would allow people to begin to comment on their real and represented identities.

The "FACES OF FACEBOOK" group asked invited members to post one image that they felt truly represented their identity or some aspect of their personality, and then to invite their friends to join, post, and comment on the images. The network was not restricted, so that anyone who wished could join the group and therefore expand the social network being impacted. Through posting and commenting on images of their friends, acquaintances, and even strangers, members of "FACES OF FACEBOOK" could begin to understand how they see themselves, how others see them, and how those identities related through the making of profiles on facebook.

The results of the postings thus far have, for the most part, remained between friends, and often relate to the circumstances of the posted images, but even those comments can begin to reveal something about how we interact through the Internet. A few comments have begun to go a little more into how people perceive themselves and how they are perceived by others, and those images that are somewhat more artistic or abstract have evoked more interesting comments. As this is an ongoing group, if you are a member of facebook, you are invited to join and comment!

Friday, April 6, 2007


Art, and particularly public art, has come to a stage in its history where it is no longer adequate to simply represent our surroundings or our society. Art must intellectually and sometimes physically engage the audience, even if it is only to reveal a new insight or critique of some aspect of life that we simply take for granted. This occurs most effectively when the viewer becomes the participant in the artwork rather than simply being shown something by the artist. If the a person can come away from an art intervention having had something revealed to them through his or her own participation in the project, then the art is successful. To this end, “Private/Public Bathrooms” seeks to make the audience stop and think about a space which they use everyday, yet often do not notice beyond its simple functions of a working toilet and enough soap in the dispenser.

The public bathroom presents a juxtaposition between public and private space. The bathroom, and particularly the stall, is the most private of spaces (a space where we can finally be alone). But the bathroom is a public space as well. It is in fact one of the most public spaces that we encounter on a daily basis. Everyone has to use it. While we may often be the only individual using the bathroom at a single time, there are always remnants of those who have used the space before us. Paper towels in the trash can; a note scribbled on the wall; an empty roll of toilet paper. When we do encounter another person in the bathroom it seems as an intrusion into our most private moments. Can the other person hear me? Will I smell up the bathroom too much? The encounter with another person in bathroom is a brief an awkward interaction that is thankfully over in the brief moment that we must come together in this most private of public spaces.

But what would happen if you knew more concretely who was in the bathroom? What if you knew how many people used the bathroom before you? What if you were forced to stop and really think about this space, who uses it, and how we interact with it and other users? What if there was a reason to spend more time in this space that no one talks about yet everyone occasionally longs for? Private/Public Bathrooms developed as a project to reveal how public this space is that we use privately every day. To accomplish this sign in sheets were placed in the bathrooms of the School of Architecture with a request to “please sign your name and the time that you spent in the bathroom”. The reactions of the users were varied. Many thought it was humorous that we should know who used the bathroom and how long they used it for. Other reactions included complete avoidance of the project because the person did not want anyone else to know how they spent their time in the bathroom. After collecting signatures for four days the results were posted in the bathrooms revealing how each bathroom was used and when they were used the most. At the very least these results revealed when it was easiest to avoid other users in this public space.

As a second phase to the project, to engage the users in the space even further, disposable cameras were placed in each of the bathrooms with the question, “How do YOU see it?” The results of these photographs taken by users of the bathrooms were very much on the disgusting side. Very few people were brave enough to reveal their personal selves in this space through documentation, but many were very willing to show the overflowing trash can, or clogged toilets, or the running water of the sink. The bathroom, which is perceived as a sanitary space where we can dispose of one of the least clean parts of our human existence, was revealed to be dirty.

Documentation of the photographs taken by users was displayed in the bathrooms so that not only the artist could see this revelation, but also the users themselves. A second set of cameras was placed in the bathrooms along with the documentation. If you could know how others see the bathroom, how would you document it for a second time? Would you focus on the same subjects? Would you look for something new? The results of this second round were more prolific than the first, showing that the audience had become to be more comfortable with the idea of documenting this space, and were also more thoughtful in their documentation. The users seemed more specific in what it was that they wanted to show about the bathroom, and many of the pictures moved beyond concentrating on the toilet, which is usually seen as the central fixture of the space. Thinking about what pictures they would take and spending more time in the bathroom to take them brought the users into greater contact with the bathroom than perhaps they had ever come before and even resulted in staged “horror” film style portrait shots.

The bathroom is a taboo place, one that appears to our use to be private, but used by all and therefore becomes a very publicly used space. It is one that we do not talk about, and one in which we usually spend as little time as possible. Bringing a sense of humor to how we view the bathroom and revealing how we see it in new ways, opens of this space to new consideration and perhaps even a change to the way we use the bathroom.