CryptoTherapy is an installation by Los Angeles-based artist Tim Schwartz that utilizes the front windows of Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (BMoCA). Covering each windowpane with a white sheet, Schwartz has created an opaque layer that blocks any view inwards or out. During the day, the installation exists only as a grid of white rectangles. At night, a series of projections give virtual function back to the windows, opening up a new view into the museum from an entirely different perspective. Illuminated by a succession of moving text and images, the window’s white spaces become portals into another dimension that appears zoomed-in and cropped. Peering inside, we find ourselves scrolling through a string of addresses, maps, profiles, and records trolled from the Internet. The visual process recalls the ubiquitous and habitual motions associated with surfing the web, yet the initially random text and images start to divulge direct connections to BMoCA.
The projected content, sourced from a series of basic online searches, follows the cyber trail of BMoCA and its social network that comprises individuals from around the world—artists, museum staff, arts professionals, members, donors, tourists, etc. Tracing the digital footprints left by those connected to the institution, Schwartz gives us a data snapshot of the museum and its evolving communities that reveals the online and often unseen construction of BMoCA.
The simple gesture of “whiting-out” the windows emphasizes a clean slate, and within the context of Schwartz’s work cannot help but reference “black outs” linked with government censorship and privacy control. In the projections Schwartz directly employs the technique, blacking out names to make each profile seemingly anonymous, while also referencing an invasion of privacy. We cannot help but feel vulnerable. Like tracks in fresh snow, we realize the individual trails might be our own. Yet, any urge to feel like a victim is overcome by the fact that all of the information projected is not simply public, but it is information we have all willingly provided. More unsettling is that Schwartz has merely skimmed the surface of the information that could be uncovered if someone had the desire to dig deeper.
Zooming in and out of individual profiles, Schwartz has created a new style of portraiture not linked to a specific person but a composite of a whole network. Assembled from impressions we may not realize we are leaving, Schwartz has rendered a portrait of BMoCA and its community, uncomfortable in its familiarity. We are forced to reflect on the virtual landscapes built and sustained through willful sharing of information and the network created through connections between constituents and communities. We are all responsible as individuals and organizations who voluntarily expose themselves and their data online. As our virtual reality becomes more and more of an actual reality, we must ask ourselves: what impression are we leaving for a future society? What portrait are we painting?
Tim Schwartz (b. 1981 Boston, Massachusetts) is a Los Angeles-based artist, technologist, and activist who makes works of art focused on technology, information, privacy, and how our culture absorbs changes in these areas. He received a BA in Physics from Wesleyan University and an MFA in Visual Arts from the University of California, San Diego. Schwartz has spent the last five years investigating what is lost as archives become digital. In 2010, he developed technology to help reunite missing people affected by the earthquake in Haiti and now organizes a group focused on family reunification after disasters.
Tim Schwartz: CryptoTherapy is an BMoCA Present Box exhibition curated by Mardee Goff and presented at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, Colorado, as part of MediaLive 2016. Present Box is a series of temporary exhibitions that invite artists to transform BMoCA’s lobby and front entrance into innovative installations, performances, and events that last two weeks. Presented three times a year, the site-specific projects are intended to encourage artists to create work outside their comfort zone and to foster interactive participation. The exhibitions encourage experimentation and urge artists to test ideas and explore different approaches. Present Box exhibitions are always free and open to the public. MediaLive (May 16–22, 2016) welcomes the most compelling contemporary artists and thinkers working internationally in new media. This year’s week-long festival of performances, workshops, and events explores the theme of corruption. Visit bmoca.org/medialive for the festival schedule and information.