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Life is a Stage…

April 30, 2009

We recently sat down with artist Lee Walton to ask him some questions about Small Plots – his project for SECCA‘s 2009 public art program Inside Out: Artists in the Community II. Small Plots is an extension of Lee’s ongoing Life/Theater project, where he organizes groups of artists, performers, and ordinary citizens into publicly staged performances that look very much like the events of everyday life. Rehearsal and repetition are often the only things that separate a real couple arguing on a park bench, from an argument staged as “art.”

But that got us talking about the publicly composed/performed self, versus the ever more endangered notions of “private” space and a “private” self. People have always “acted” certain ways in the public/professional realm, that can be quite distinct from the person they are in the privacy of their homes. Yet with the massive popularity and proliferation of social media websites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, previously private (re: imperfect & embarrassing) moments of life, are being shared with audiences around the world. Lee himself has recently made a project where he re-creates the pictures posted by his friends on Facebook, turning images they’ve posted (albeit for public consumption) into the subject matter of art.

In George Orwell’s famed novel 1984, the only private space outside the grip of omniscient Big Brother was in one’s head. I don’t want to make this sound too doomsday, but is this the only space we have left when almost every facet of everyday life is becoming a stage?  Moreover, if we compose our behaviors with the thought that someone may be watching (or recording) those actions, or that they’ll one day figure into the TV movie of our lives, have we given over that space as well?

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