Our most recent visit features artist Megan Snowe in conversation with Cameron Schiller. Snowe discusses her current exhibit at SOHO20, “The Ambassadors” (on display through February 28, 2016) and how she uses text as a way to examine human interactions, past what is verbally communicated. With her work, Snowe forces her audience to reconsider what is “real.”
All images courtesy of Debbie Rasiel.
Cameron Schiller: How did you get started with this idea for your current exhibit at SOHO20?
Megan Snowe: It was only recently that I developed an interest in writing. Over the summer I was invited to SPACE Art & Technology Residency in London starting July 2016. My proposal for the residency was a play. I’ve never written a play before, and frankly, writing is one of the more intimidating creative processes for me. But, I felt at the time when I submitted my application, that I was ready for the challenge. Now, what I realize in hindsight is that I’m interested in complex spaces within the worlds that you can create with text.
For the last few years I’ve been dealing with projects that have had to do with social interaction, the intangible experiences we have as social beings, as well as the communications that we are apart of. If we do make an effort, how can we comprehend these experiences that are intangible?
From this, I’ve been looking at the reproduction of a “real” thing. So for example: breast implants. So often it’s a reconstruction of “real” or what could be “real”.
CS: It’s a semblance of the real thing, but not actually.
MS: Exactly. I’m interested in that process, and the effort to understand what is real. So related to that, and related to social interaction and communication, for this project I thought about how we represent ourselves. As social beings we represent different sides of ourselves to people. Through face to face interactions, there are many different sorts of communications that we give and receive that can’t be articulated with words. Like body language, or smell. Different sensory experiences that contribute to one’s impression of another person, or oneself. Those types of intangible communications are as valid as the words that are spoken, but how do we quantify or comprehend those? I was excited by the idea of trying to translate those thoughts into words.
CS: I’m curious about your process while creating “The Ambassadors”.
MS: I tried listening to passing thoughts after my own interactions, as well as guess what might be going through the heads of others. So each text comes from an interaction that I had.
CS: Why are some of your texts overlayed with each other?
MS: I wanted the installation to be more than just text on a wall. I wanted the way that it was installed in the space to be visually compelling. So, I connected this re-creation of the real (the idea I had mentioned earlier) to these inarticulated communications happening via other senses. When we interact with someone, these communications happen simultaneously – which we are not in control of. But when we try to take control of these simultaneous inputs and outputs, it’s impossible.
For example, when I open up my computer, I will have so many tabs open. There’re so many different texts, and so much going on, that I can’t really get myself too close them because it feels unfinished.
CS: Are you relating this to unfinished thoughts?
MS: I’m relating this to the impossibility of recreating the simultaneity that happens in other circumstances, which happens beyond our control.
CS: Like the thoughts inside your subconscious?
MS: Right. We can’t always harness all that is happening. So I wanted to use text in this exhibit as a way imitate this. Like the multiple windows on a screen, you can’t see everything when there are multiple tabs open.
CS: Which sort of non verbal communication that you represent in your exhibit do you consider to be the most honest way of communicating?
MS: I think in many ways that there is a language in every sort of expression. There’s a vocabulary with words and with body language.
MS: For instance, like me standing a certain way. Or slouching. In New York City, or in a certain context, how you carry yourself will imply something. Even if someone isn’t consciously doing it… So I think in this sense, and I briefly speak to this in one of the texts – I find myself imitating whoever I am interacting with. I will very quickly take on characteristics of the other person. In that sense, I am a bit suspicious with myself and my honesty.
CS: Do you think someone’s self is dictated by the conversations they have? Or in the way they carry themselves?
MS: I think so. That’s actually something I’ve been exploring in past and future projects – how we produce ourselves.
In a past project, I did a “self brand launch”, it came from this assumption that we as social beings are constantly producing ourselves and the experience of ourselves as a commodity. And our identities within the workforce – we have to be so flexible and freelanced in a way where we have to develop our “professional selves”.
C: You say “professional self” because what you’re showing to your employer isn’t necessarily you, but a product?
MS: Exactly. You are an experience that a company or organization should invest in.
CS: A product. Which feels inauthentic.
MS: Right. And while inhabiting social media, I am producing a brand of myself. If i’m doing that anyway, how can I do it so it feels genuine and honest, or that it’s rich and beneficial to me?
CS: How much can you afford to honestly be yourself when society creates such benefits to carrying yourself a certain way?
MS: For me it was also a question of what even is being myself. I spent a lot of time looking at self help theories and strategies – so often it was like, “we help you be your better self, or your primal self”, but I doubted that entire thought. Like what even is “a core self”? […] So, from that, I decided that if I’m going to try and understand me as a being in the world – seeing myself as more of an intersection, or a collision of spaces instead of one single entity – then I can see myself as almost a venn diagram existing in different spaces.
CS: This is a new direction for you, do you think you’re going to continue?
MS: I definitely want to keep writing. This feels like a first step towards something bigger. What I think is a newer revelation for me coming out of this project, is that I want to work more with text and space and figure out ways to install it in new ways that communicate more than what is written.