Nate Larson and Marni Shindelman’s collaborative work has been featured in solo exhibitions at United Photo Industries in Brooklyn; Light House in the UK; the Contemporary Arts Center Las Vegas; Marks Center for the Arts in California; and the New Gallery in Calgary. Selections from their collaborations have been shown in the FotoFestiwal in Poland; Athens Photo Festival in Greece; the Houston Center for Photography; Baltimore Museum of Art; the 2nd Moscow International Biennale; RAIQ in Montréal; Peloton in Sydney, Australia; the Center on Contemporary Art Seattle; City Without Walls in New Jersey; and the Conflux Festival in NYC. Their Geolocation project was recently featured in Wired’s Raw File, NPR’s The Picture Show, Vice Magazine, Fotograf, the New York Times Lens Blog, Marketplace Tech Report, Utne Reader, the British Journal of Photography, BBC News Viewfinder, and the Washington Post, among many others. They recently completed a site-specific series of billboards for the 2012 Atlanta Celebrates Photography Public Art Commission.
Nate Larson is faculty at the Maryland Institute College of Art. He received his MFA from The Ohio State University in 2002. Marni Shindelman is a lecturer in Photography at the University of Georgia. She received her MFA from the University of Florida in 2002.
I whispered an offer softly in the ear of your playful heart.
I closed my mouth and spoke to you in a hundred silent ways,
you know what’s on my mind, you’ve heard my thoughts.
— Rumi, Kolliyaat-e Shams-e Tabriz
Photographers Nate Larson and Marni Shindelman have been working together for over six years collaborating on site-specific images, contemporary street photographs, charting the topography of connected media. Consistently their work centers on diverse modes of communication, from semaphore transmissions of translated text and psychic readings to GPS led walks. This series fits into a wider body of work in which the artists use GPS, text, and photography. It was made in and around the edges of New York City in July 2012 during a residency at Light Work. For the residency Nate and Marni produced a set of sensitive images of places that engage with public / private visibility, our emotional engagement with social media and urban space. Their process for navigating the city generates from the trending topics on Twitter, and final works are photographed in a fifteen-mile radius from the site of tweets, using the hashtag #HowToKeepARelationshipWithMe, a tag that speaks to both the daring and vulnerability of personal relationships.
The age of Photography corresponds precisely
to the explosion of the private into the public,
or rather into the creation of a new social
value, which is the publicity of the private.
— Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida
The artists often seek out tweets that resonate with meaning, be it melancholic, poetic, humorous, or agitative in relation to the duality between our online and physical relations. Using GPS metadata they track and photograph the locations that the tweets are generated from. The artists travel to the site often on foot through suburbs transecting the city, akin to the Situationist International practice of the dérive which involves subverting the normal reasons for movement through a place. They let themselves be drawn, tweet in mind, by the public realm, photographing the encounters found there.
Our walking is virtual; the photographs are the evidence of this walk — in the editorial project we are also telling of our experience of wandering on Twitter. We are desperately trying to make real this wandering of the mind, of the eye on the web.
— Marni Shindelman
Social media is ubiquitous, integrated into the fabric of our lives, normalized to the extent that with almost the same impulse as breathing we use our devices to share thoughts. Through this unrelenting drip feed of contact online we can feel near to our contacts and sense their mood through a kind of digital relation like body language which social scientists call ambient awareness, an invisible dimension homogenizing everyday life, twenty-four hours a day. We tweet from any place as long as we are connected to the web, we tweet anywhere, at anytime.
Representing evidence is a common practice within photography; like Weegee who followed the short broadcasts from police radio (I’m sure he would have been fascinated by Twitter), Nate and Marni create images from the site of the incident, in this case the place where the thought had been transmitted from. These images are a visualization, cystallizing the data stream and providing us with an echo in the footsteps and mind of the protagonist.
Merely looking at a stranger’s Twitter . . . feed isn’t interesting, because it seems like blather. Follow it for a day, though, and it begins to feel like a short story; follow it for a month, and it’s a novel.
— Clive Thompson, Brave New World of Digital Intimacy
The public realm online and in the city blends and overlaps within the curious minds of the photographers in a collision of polarities, both at once observers and participants. The artists create important images, not only because of their creative reading of the on / offline landscape and our position within it, but because in a context of mediated news and arbitrated representation, individual voices are increasingly more critical. If it is true that the soul of a nation can be read in 140 characters, then their photography is key to understanding this.
Louise Clements is the artistic director of QUAD, a center for contemporary art and film in Derby, UK, the founder and artistic director of FORMAT International Photography Festival, and editor at large of 1000Words magazine.
Nate Larson and Marni Shindelman live in Baltimore,MD, and Athens, GA, respectively, and completed a residency at Light Work in July 2012. www.larson-shindelman.com