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Why I Love Kate Durbin

Kate Durbin works in mediums that are delegated by her connectedness to the internet. One of her more well-known artworks is the ongoing “Women As Objects” blog, a tumblr-based project for and about teenage girls, where Durbin re-blogs notes and images from real girls in real time in order to create an archive gallery. Tumblr’s platform is based in the rapid relay of visually engaging images that are more often than not completely devoid of any kind of context. These images (usually fashion/beauty-centric) are stripped of their meaning and reblogged by users endlessly. Durbin follows this trend, but by titling her blog “womenasobjects”, she gives these previously meaningless images a subversive new context.

Her work exploits the willingness of young people to exploit themselves online. It could be considered mean-spirited by some, and perhaps the argument that the young people she is exploiting “asked for it” by baring their innermost souls to an unforgiving Internet holds just about as much water as when people say that rape victims “asked for it” when they went out dressed like that. It is definitely controversial and thought provoking. I think Durbin’s work is an unquestionably important foray into pioneering the creative terrain dictated by the Internet, as a new media resource.

Here’s an excerpt from an essay I wrote, in which I discuss the juvenile nature of our dealings with hyperconnectivity and the Internet as a new kind of technosocial space:
“Confronted with all of these dramatic re-evaluations of the makeup of time and space, we are all challenged with the task of re-evaluating ourselves in social cyberspace. We are all going through a second adolescence together with the internet. As if our first physical adolescences weren’t awkward enough, this internet-born one is even more uncouth, due to the existence of a digital log of the history of that development online, which can be readily accessed by anyone. Your Myspace and Friendster pages are relics. Even with the deletion of a Facebook page, the images remain in the system, ready to be reborn with a simple login. Everyone using online technology is an adolescent regardless of age, because, as we tend to forget sometimes, the internet is still relatively new.” - The Mimetic Image as Avatar, by Zoe Burke

But Durbin’s blog is not just comprised of visuals, a huge element is reblogging the text posts of bloggers. Here’s a bit of net theory: everyone who blogs or has any kind of space dedicated to social networking and/or archiving of pleasing images on the Internet is playing a theatrical part, whether they are conscious of it or not. By agglomerating all of these visuals and thoughts into a database, they are projecting an idealized version of themselves, or what they aspire to compare themselves to, to the general public of the network. Due to this consequence, every text post (even if it is just a fleeting thought) that a blogger posts onto their public profile becomes a contributing element to this performative facade of self. By reblogging the fleeting thoughts of these bloggers which are a part of their constructed identity, she is turning the thoughts of these people into a visual commodity. The thoughts serve the same purpose as the image, and become images in their own right.

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