As Long As You Love Me: A love letter from Dakota to Donna
Leslie Kulesh. As Long As You Love Me: A love letter from Dakota to Donna
Inspired by Donna Haraway’s A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century. Leslie Kulesh’s work, As Long As You Love Me: A love letter from Dakota to Donna, enlightens us about the disconnect from reality that we all share via our digital selves. During the video, Kulesh narrates and describes the multiplicity of our digital personas while images on the screen change about every 5-10 seconds. Most of the images call out society's expectaions for appearances by featuring models or people posing in a glamorous way. She also defines societies definitions of "cute" by showing how the character Mickey Mouse as evolved throughout the years to become 'cute' enough for general audiences. Kulesh counters these 'cute' and glamour shots with images of her "real self" in a casual setting, but even those images make you question whether or not it is the real Leslie Kulesh. This 'questioning' reaction proves how effective the work is and more importantly challenges the participating viewer to:
“look at the unofficial ethics of multiple online identities, documentation weighing in over actual events, and the origin of ‘cute,’ all from the comfortable physicality of our corporal bodies.” “Festivela” at Gallery Vela, London. Mousse Magazine
Kulesh explains that we all have different personas on the net – one for Facebook, one for Twitter, one for Tumblr, etc… and Kulesh’s description of the digital human race as cyborgs is all too real. How much of our digital self actually represents who we really are? Do the pictures we post tell a true story of our lives? Are we as happy as our cyborg counterparts? All valid questions that Kulesh begs us to contemplate.
Kulesh’s description of multiple online identities highlights the fact that we all:
“use technology’s advances to blur the lines between reality and fiction.” “Festivela” at Gallery Vela, London. July, 2012. Mousse Magazine
Going back to Kulesh's inspiration for this work, she challenges her viewers to find answers for Donna Haraway’s questions regarding our cyborg alter egos. Questions that make us look toward our current society where we have all become cyborgs in one-way or another. Donna argues that we have all embraced this autonomous lifestyle unknowingly,
“for pleasure in the confusion of boundaries and for responsibility in their construction.” “Festivela” at Gallery Vela, London. July, 2012. Mousse Magazine
This promotes multiple inquiries regarding digital imagery as escapism from reality, as well as our naivety regarding our digital selves…
“Could the popularity of female face morphing and body augmentation online point to a near future where the digital image of beauty is all that’s necessary for satisfaction? Could an online aesthetic revolution short circuit the women’s beauty industry the same way bloggers circumvented print fashion magazines?” “Festivela” at Gallery Vela, London. July, 2012. Mousse Magazine
A unique work that came to mind while reviewing As Long As You Love Me: A love letter from Dakota to Donna was an exhibit from 1994 by artist Nam June Paik titled Internet Dream. While Internet Dream was long before the subject of online identities, the piece still had many themes that tie in with Kulesh's work.
“The towering “Internet Dream,” from 1994, a stack of 52 monitors displaying jarring abstract images, heralds the current age of digital information saturation.” Sharp, Rob. "Art, Technology and Online Identity". February, 2016. NY Times
This visually depicted overload of digital information was featured more than 20 years ago is a tragically beautiful precursor to our current cyborg identities. Many of the abstract images shown on the screen are geometric shapes that highlight 'perfection' in a digital realm. Although abstract, the images call out the commonality of 'perfect' aesthetics used in digital media.
Another similar artwork that came to mind was a project from artist Tobias Leingruber titled Facebook Connect. In this work Tobias explored the same topic of social identity by creating mock Facebook identification cards. The idea was to challenge the thought of how we would be accepted in everyday society purely based on our online identity. So what sort of uses would a social media ID card have?
"A bouncer could, for example, check how many friends you have on FB via a quick QR scan, and if you have less than 400, you're definitely not popular enough for this club! And of course, everything could easily be tracked and if the passport used "Facebook Connect," it could auto-post your check-in info to the network." Schenker, Dylan. "Online Identity & Privacy with FB ID Cards." March, 2012. The Creators Project
Social IDs make us realize how complex the questions of identity and information sharing in the digital age can be. We’re still contending with how to deal with privacy policies and how to represent ourselves online. Soon we could be seeing real world, perhaps even legal, consequences to how we choose to maintain our social identities.
Schenker, Dylan. "Online Identity & Privacy with FB ID Cards." March, 2012. The Creators Project
These 'social IDs' are yet another example of the volatility regarding our ever-changing online personas. Having a tangible ID that represents our digital self proves how untrustworthy social identities can be. Our multiplicity of personalities on the web represent more than just ourselves, they represent our expectations and perceptions of societal standards.
Leslie’s work As Long As You Love Me: A love letter from Dakota to Donna was featured as part of a online identity exhibit for Festivela at the Gallery Vela in London, England in 2012.
Be sure to check out lesliekulesh.com for more of the artist's work.