Video, sculpture, and words by Lena Gavenas
“Art 8, an introduction to visual thinking, is a very open-ended class. There’s no fixed medium we work with and the prompts for our three big projects are nebulous. The only requirement for our second project was that it deal with appropriation, recontextualization and integration. At first I wanted to do something else entirely. I had it in my mind that I was going to build a functional porta-potty, decorate its interior with junk from my room, set it up outside a building on campus and lock myself inside until I worked up the nerve to pee. There was a point to that. I won’t get into it.
One night I was hanging out with two friends of mine, Christina and Sofie, who are best friends with each other and share most things comfortably. But somehow it came up that there was something Sofie refused to reveal about herself to Christina, who it seemed had been trying to pry it out of her for a while. She told me it was something weird that she used to do on the Internet as a kid, but wouldn’t say what it was. Getting into it further, we agreed on two things: we all did strange things online when we were younger, and none of us wanted to be the first to admit what those things were. I found that interesting, and decided it would be the focus of my project.
As the first wave of children to have grown up with the Internet, our generation is on the vanguard of the digital evolution. The question of how a child interacts with the Internet is essentially still brand new. There’s a study by Genevieve Marie Johnson titled “Internet Use and Child Development: Validation of the Ecological TechnoSubsystem,” published in the International Forum of Educational Technology & Society (IFETS). They found that, “In general, indices of home Internet use accounted for more of the variance in children’s cognitive development than did indices of socioeconomic status.”
I also discovered that if you search the web, though there are a lot of fun lists and forums on things that parents have found in their kids’ search histories, there’s no desire among the kids who grew up online to discuss our own naïve or embarrassing Internet explorations. After all, there is yet no precedent for it.
True to the spirit of the web, I sent out an anonymous Google Form simply asking that respondents recount their strangest or most “shameful” childhood Internet experience or habit in as much detail as they felt comfortable with. Using a free online text-to-audio reader, I then recorded the forty stories I received, and converted them to MP3 files that I could play off of my phone, which I hooked up to a speaker I hid inside the sculpture itself (so that the voice would come gently out of the body of the computer, from the other side of a decorative grate, reminiscent of a church confession booth).
I wanted to reflect our use of the Internet to compare ourselves to each other, despite not really knowing who’s on the other end or if anything they’re saying is true. But there is something in the average of all that noise and confusion that speaks to some true common experience. I guess I was hoping to start a dialogue about shame, the act of anonymous confession, and our common developmental experience in conjunction with the Internet.”
Lena Gavenas currently attends UC Berkeley and completed “Confessions from the Ecological Techno Sub System” as part of her Art 8 class.