#Nate&Marni: A Social Conversation

On March 21st, 2014, the collaborative duo Nate Larson and Marni Shindleman took to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat to answer questions by In the In-Between writer Luke Shaw. This conversation began with the question: How can human intimacy can be attained through digitally mediated dialogue?

What we found was an exchange that quickly became obfuscated and scattered, ultimately telling of how social media correspondence can become tangled in a web of tags, likes, comments, mentions, links, images and videos.

The following is a transcription of the conversation.

Luke Shaw conducting the interview #NateandMarni: A Social Conversation

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Facebook (Flak Photo Network)

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Luke Shaw: Let’s lay some groundwork, Marni Shindelman Nate Larson.

You two have been thinking about non-spoken, niche communication for some time: Witness was a collaborative effort where you tried to transfer thoughts psychically, which was inspired by government research on psychic transmission during the Cold War. Semaphore was a play on SMS communication. They’re funny and fitting precursors to your Twitter work because neither of them functionally, communicatively worked that well. So there was failure involved.

Could you give us a general overview of what attracted you to the earlier projects?

Nate Larson: Both of our solo practices had to do with the ideas of storytelling and both intersected with the internet as source material.

It’s interesting looking at the older projects too – with Witness it really became about longing and desire to connect, and we see those same threads running through the Geolocation work

Marni Shindelman: It’s interesting to think about this in terms of this interview– because it’s exactly what we have always been interested in- how do we connect, how do we play across distance and talk about distance at the same time
Nate Larson: I also was thinking recently about how much the Semaphore work had to do with place – for example this one – http://www.larson-shindelman.com/ithaca-farmer-s-market#7
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In that piece we “rebroadcast” a tweet from the point of origin, which seems to share a lot of interests with our current work.

But, as you say, I don’t know that that project was entirely successful – instead it allowed us to consider an art idea as a open ended question and set us up for some good future methodology

Marni Shindelman: I was thinking of the same project as I was driving around today and thinking of this interview

Luke Shaw: I’m happy you mentioned the place of the occurrence because half of #geolocation was about going there and being where that tweet occurred. There’s also a performative aspect too to all your work.

Marni Shindelman: I think of it more as a methodology- like a Fluxus score

Luke Shaw: In geolocation it occurred under the hood, behind the scenes, but you can see a nice build up to geolocation.

Nate Larson: With the performative comment, I do think that it’s important for us to be self aware and acknowledge our role as artists in all of our projects. They don’t come from a presumably “neutral space,” rather they are products of a particular culture and space in the world.

Luke Shaw: Returning back to communication, I’ve imagined you as ghost hunters seeking out the residual spirit of an emotional occurrence. In your process of digging through twitter, finding the right post, traveling to the gps coordinates of that post, and photographing in that location, at what point did you feel the strongest connection with whomever posted the tweet? Did you feel a connection when you visited the place?

Nate Larsonhttp://www.larson-shindelman.com/origin

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Luke Shaw: *back to connection

Nate Larson: That image is the very first one in the project and standing in that place and touching that wall was super powerful, for me anyway.

Luke Shaw: Marni Shindelman did you experience anything similar to Nate?

Nate Larson: That person just lost their job and I just imagined them smoking a cigarette and updating their Twitter account on their blackberry.

Marni Shindelman: “Amy is Dying”

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Marni Shindelman: It was the first time I really felt the person I was photographing’s story. On the top of a parking garage at a local hospital. It was a real moment in the work for me.

Nate LarsonLuke Shaw – I like your ghost hunter analogy – all these moments are super fleeting and then lost to the vastness of the web.

Marni Shindelman:. . . kinda like a photograph. . . Nate

Luke Shaw: Have you spoken with any viewers of the work who have experienced similar connections? Enhanced connections compared to what would have been felt by just looking at the twitter feed?

Nate Larson: That’s one of the reasons we like to make site-specific work now, so that community sees the photographs and perhaps recognizes the places

Nate Larson: We just worked with Sam Barzilay and Laura Roumanos on this piece in Brooklyn – http://www.larson-shindelman.com/dumbo

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Marni Shindelman: The work really gives viewers the thought “These vast things, like Twitter, Facebook, etc.” are full of individual people.

Nate Larson: I love that someone walking their dog might encounter it, recognize the locations, and know something more about their surroundings.

Luke Shaw: I’d like to get to the site specific work in a moment. A question about the individuals: Your process affirms that the person who tweeted this thing has a corporeal body, that there is an actual human attached to this floating idea. The act could be celebrated as humanizing, but the images are so sparse, so lonely. The interpretive openness here imparts a great deal of power to the work, but I’m curious how you think the work relates to the twitter user… Does it advocate? Does it empathize? Does it celebrate? Does it alienate?

Marni Shindelman: It does all in different images– the overall idea of the project is to empathize with the user, but then based on the individual tweet, the pieces function is different ways. The #RIP tweets have more empathy than the #HowtoKeepARelationshipWithMe

Nate Larson: http://www.larson-shindelman.com/howtokeeparelationship

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Nate Larson: http://www.larson-shindelman.com/geolocation#2

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Nate Larson: (trying to include visual references for those following along that may be less familiar with the work)

Luke Shaw: Back to the sites, How did placing your work in physically social contexts (NYC’s DUMBO area (http://www.larson-shindelman.com/site-specific-proposal), billboards (http://www.larson-shindelman.com/atlanta), buildings (http://www.larson-shindelman.com/shift-change-install#2), airports (http://www.larson-shindelman.com/indianapolis) contribute to the relationship that forms between the tweet-er, you, and the rest of the world? Is there a monumentalization occurring?

Nate Larson: can you expand the monumentalization question?

Nate Larson: What’s been interesting for me about those is the capsule nature of our experience with the site. For example, we spent a week of long days in the airport to make that piece and it’s real strange to not be traveling yourself. It was also interesting to see the nature of tweets in the airport – really makes you think about the state of modern travel to dwell on those posts.

Nate Larson: http://www.larson-shindelman.com/indianapolis

Luke Shaw: The scale and the overwhelming physicality of these site specific works contrasts with the smaller scale prints in a gallery. I was just wondering if your goals or reading of the work changed when it became huge.

Nate Larson: For me, it became more about communicating in a new context – those are the forms appropriate to the place itself.

Luke Shaw: attaching monument to the question has something to do with mourning, loss, remembrance.

Marni Shindelman: hmmmm. . . we always think of the site so much more, not much about the size

Marni Shindelman: We have always talked about these as small, virtual memorials

Nate Larson: sort of like a historical plaque on a battlefield

Luke Shaw: thank you Marni Shindelman, memorial is the better word.

Luke Shaw: so just to complete the thought, did the work change when it went on a billboard. or did the billboard simply impart a wider audience?

Nate Larson: For me, it was about the audience.

Marni Shindelman: Oh, the work changed. But it changed, because the audience (cue Nate’s comment appearing at this very moment- #psychic) changed. We were pulling tweets from our audience, not just our communities.

Nate Larson: The billboard company claimed 650,000 eyes on impressions a week for some of the locations

Luke Shaw: This is really wonderful. Thank you. At this point, we’re going to switch over @inthein-between’s twitter feed to discuss the nature and implications of digital communication in 140 characters or fewer. Follow along and comment via #nateandmarni @inthein_between.

Nate Larson: See you there!

Luke Shaw: https://twitter.com/inthein_between

Marni Shindelman: Over and Out.

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Twitter

@inthein_between:  Geolocation began right when Twitter was gaining momentum. What brought you here in the first place? @marnimcfly @natelarson #nateandmarni

@marnimcfly: It was an open platform- and was inherently public, where FB is inherently private

@marnimcfly: Forgot the hashtag #nateandmarni

@natelarson@inthein_between @marnimcfly: It was the public nature of the platform. We’re really curious about what people share in an open forum.

@marnimcfly: Did @natelarson & I both just use the same words? #psychic rings true today. #nateandmarni

@inthein_between: haha @marnimcfly

@inthein_between: Did you engage in myspace or any pre-myspace communication sites in the earlier days of the web? @marnimcfly @natelarson #nateandmarni

@natelarson@inthein_between @marnimcflyI used a bunch, from Napster to Hotline to Friendster to Myspace

@natelarson: @inthein_between @marnimcfly I think of all those peer to peer networks for file sharing being a direct ancestor to social networks

@inthein_between: absolutely

@marnimcfly: Personally=yes. I think I just closed my myspace. I was blogging in 2001. I started working with the Internet in my work in 2001. #nateandmarni

@inthein_between: So what do you think twitter does to the way twitter users speak? What set the artistic hook for you? @marnimcfly @natelarson #nateandmarni

@marnimcfly: I have always been interested in how people “touch and feel” via the Internet. “I got pregnant via the Internet” http://marnishindelman.com/projects/#itemId=51929e18e4b012e20ee5b957

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@natelarson@inthein_between @marnimcfly: We’re interested in how language morphs and adapts. Here’s an example: http://www.larson-shindelman.com/desertscapes#6

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@natelarson@inthein_between @marnimcfly We also show a tweet by Shakespeare’s house in the UK and loved how he invented the language needed

@marnimcfly: In ways I was predicting how close the Internet would come to making us believe we could touch and talk together. #nateandmarni

@marnimcfly: These were the questions on my mind in 2006 when @natelarson and I started working together. #nateandmarni

@natelarson@inthein_between @marnimcfly (I realized that I was forgetting the #nateandmarni)

@inthein_between: Do you think twitter brings out a tendency for us to emote moreso than a platform such as facebook? @marnimcfly @natelarson #nateandmarni

@marnimcfly: Not at all. The microblog aka the status update brought this out. It changed the Internet in a matter of months. #nateandmarni

@natelarson@inthein_between @marnimcfly I think both have that effect. Twitter is just publicly available to us. #nateandmarni

@inthein_between: @marnimcfly @natelarson to what degree does twitter deliver your desire for internet closeness? #nateandmarni

@natelarson@inthein_between @marnimcfly Personally, I find the whole experience to be very disjointed and have trouble with the asynchronous nature

@natelarson@inthein_between @marnimcfly That is to say that I don’t feel digitally close to Twitter, except when we’re photographing. #nateandmarni

@marnimcfly: Ditto with @natelarson Twitter satisfies how I read and think-lets me skim to see if I want to read more, follow the link, etc. #nateandmarni

@marnimcfly: It’s crazy town here on twitter. But good for insomniac reading in the middle of the night. #nateandmarni

@tanjahollander@natelarson @inthein_between @marnimcfly Isn’t there a difference between feeling close to twitter/someone on twitter? #nateandmarni

@natelarson@tanjahollander @inthein_between @marnimcfly Yes, absolutely. I don’t have strong personal connections to most on here, so that’s a factor

@natelarson@tanjahollander @inthein_between @marnimcflyFB happens to have stronger relationships for me. It’s not the platform, it’s the people.

@tanjahollander@natelarson @inthein_between @marnimcfly Is that intentional, since it is a workplace? #justcurious #nateandmarni

@natelarson@tanjahollander @inthein_between @marnimcfly Maybe. Never thought about it that way, but there’s some truth to it. #nateandmarni

@tanjahollander@natelarson @inthein_between @marnimcfly Yeah, me too. Most of the photo / art world isn’t on twitter. #nateandmarni

@inthein_between@marnimcfly @natelarson @tanjahollander i love the idea of relating and connecting to twitter as an entity #nateandmarni

@inthein_between@marnimcfly @natelarson @tanjahollander it reminds me of the twitter-robot-reader you constructed #nateandmarni

@inthein_between@marnimcfly @natelarson @tanjahollander #nateandmarni http://www.larson-shindelman.com/shift-change-single-channel

@marnimcfly: Yea @tanjahollander I have 700 some off friends on Facebook and I can feel lonely as hell. #nateandmarni

@inthein_between@natelarson @marnimcfly #nateandmarni twitter wasn’t made for this. what about the closeness of sending out something incredibly personal?

@natelarson@inthein_between @marnimcfly – its not how I use the platform, so it’s fascinating for me to see others that do and memorialize it.

@inthein_between: do you think we can construct a fulfilling connection given the right combo of diffrnt platforms? @marnimcfly @natelarson #nateandmarni

@inthein_between@marnimcfly @natelarson #thesisstatement

@marnimcfly: Not sure at al. But if we don’t try, we’ll never know. #nateandmarni

@natelarson@inthein_between @marnimcfly I’m having trouble figuring out which is the current conversation thread #nateandmarni

@marnimcfly: But really- connecting with someone via text can be simultaneously exciting and make one feel lonely. #nateandmarni

@natelarson@tanjahollander @inthein_between @marnimcfly Hey look, Tanja is geotaggin her tweets! xoxo

@tanjahollander@natelarson @inthein_between @marnimcfly Hahahaha, you noticed! #nateandmarni

@inthein_between@marnimcfly @natelarson this has been a brain scattering experience. lets move to instagram #nateandmarni

@marnimcfly: Oh yeah…#nateandmarni

@tanjahollander: This is me@larsnateson and the blue dot has me where I am in the house, too. #Socialmediaartists #nateandmarni

 

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Instagram

larsnateson: Maybe. But I still find the images as disjointed as twitter text. #nateandmarni

mmarnimcfly: Absolutely!! It goes back to memorials and we think our photographs do serve to reframe tweets.

Comments:
mmarnimcfly: @inthein_between
tanjahollander: @mmarnimcfly amazing. #nateandmarni
katepalbers: Thanks, Marni, I needed that.

Comments:
mmarnimcfly: @inthein_between #nateandmarni

mmarnimcfly: We both do not have picture ready hair. . .
inthein_between: Very true
marshallnick: Haha


intheinbetween: @larsnateson @mmarnimcfly what’s with all the selfies? I see a lot of narcissism going on here. Do you think the tweets you sought out had strains of narcissism? Or were they desperate for a different sort of attention?

Comments:
larsnateson: Wow, hello!
larsnateson: I think any interaction has an element of narcissism, the “broadcast” aspect just amplifies it
mmarnimcfly: I am still LOLing about this one Luke.

Comments:
mmarnimcfly: #totes #ivereasmoretweets #myeyes #nateandmarni@inthein_between


intheinbetween: @mmarnimcfly @larsnateson #marniandnate

Comments:
inthein_between: @jhnylake photos twirling in the background
mmarnimcfly: check yes or no. Let’s write a letter.

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Snapchats from Nate Larson

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Letters

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Dear Nate,

Many thanks for participating! I think the content we produced was really fantastic.

I have never held a continos continuous conversation with anyone in that fashion before. The lags, the interrupting posts, and the disjointed nature of the whole experience lead led to a fair amount of pacing about the room between posts.

How was the experience for you? Any closing comments?

Here’s what I have to say:

1) Please accept this lock of hair as proof that the entity you connected with for a 90min was a living, breathing human being.

2) I think until the time comes when “plugging into the net” becomes a more literal action, @huggyythependuin  @huggythepenguin will just have to stand the disappointment.

Few things are worse than being in a hug position with no one to hug.

Miss You!!!

Best,

Luke Shaw

(and the In-Between crew)

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Dear Luke…

I like to imagine Internet people, friends, relationships, like our relationships to starts. We feel connected, we feel we “know” them, we follow them, but yet we can’t touch them. Or it can be likened to my relationship with my dog- I can touch him, talk to him, but he can never talk. Internet relationships are like that- always missing something and yet so much easier than real life

-Marni

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Bio: Nate Larson and Marni Shindelman’s collaborative work focuses on the cultural understanding of distance as perceived in modern life and network culture. Their projects have recently been featured in Wired Magazine, The Picture Show from NPR, The Dish, PetaPixel, Fast Company, Gizmodo, Hyperallergic, the New York Times, Hotshoe Magazine, the Washington Post, Utne Reader, Flavorwire, Frieze Magazine, the British Journal of Photography, the BBC News Viewfinder, and on the radio program Marketplace Tech Report.

Nate Larson is full-time faculty at the Maryland Institute College of Art. He received his MFA from The Ohio State University in 2002. Marni Shindelman is Lecturer in Photography at the University of Georgia. She received her MFA from the University of Florida in 2002.

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Interview by Luke Shaw

Introduction by Gregory Jones

Special thank you to Andy Adams for allowing us to conduct the first portion of this interview on Flak Photo Network