performing for the archive
Cleaning My Desktop, 2018
I save everything to the desktop. When I’m surfing the web I just drag and drop images straight there and let them pile up until the time comes and I need to move them all into their respective folders. I’ve always been interested in the intimate nature of one’s desktop, the back-end that most of us never get to see. What do the contents of our desktops reveal about us?
In May 2020 I started the practice of regularly taking the contents of my desktop and uploading them onto the Internet, creating these monthly desktop collages or diaries. Every time I would think I needed to clean and sort my desktop I would first upload (dump) everything onto a webpage. I’ve kept up with this ritual for nearly a year now and honestly wish I had thought to do this sooner.
Desktop Dump, June 2020 (PC)
I just finished setting up a browsable version of this Desktop Dump Archive, which I will continue to add to over time. The Desktop Dump itself is not a perfect representation of my desktop, it is stylized and limited by which file types are easier to upload/host than others. For example, a .pdf or large video file can’t always be uploaded as nicely as a .gif can. I actually tend to omit video and audio files completely. I’ve also thought about the way my relationship to my desktop has changed since deciding to make it public. I’m much more aware of what I’m saving to my desktop, even prematurely sorting the things that would have otherwise been saved onto the desktop because they don’t fit the aesthetic of what is currently on there. I’ve become so much more acutely aware of my files, how they interact together, what sort of story they tell, since making them public. I try not to curate or interfere too much, but the act of making anything private public always endures some level of mediation.
Earlier today I made an Instagram post referencing the hundreds of hours of Photo Booth webcam footage/images I have scattered across various hard drives. A decade of my life has been documented to some degree via my webcam(s). It’s important to me to have everything recorded, everything saved, everything archived, because I’m always thinking about how much I’ll value those things in the future. I’ve never really been embarrassed of old content. Sure, I wish I hadn’t said that thing or made that art and yes it might haunt me forever, but I also enjoy embracing my perpetual state of becoming.
For someone who puts a lot of emphasis on saving things and creating archives, I’m really bad at organizing and am just sort of starting to try and tackle that. I don’t know what will become of all of those old webcam videos that never got uploaded to YouTube. My hope is that they can all exist somewhere together in their mundanity. Or maybe I’ll find a new body of work within the archive. I recently watched a screening of Lynn Hershman Leeson’s Electronic Diaries, which renewed my interest in my own video “diaries”. Here’s a small clip that I found on YouTube, but I encourage you to find a way to watch if you haven’t seen them yet.
All By Myself (Pt. 1), 2016
In 2016 I attempted to tackle the breadth of Photo Booth content that was just contained on my iMac by sitting down and doing a screen recording of myself going through every single image and video housed on the program. I wanted to give the most “accurate” portrayal (whatever that means when you’re recording yourself with the intention of maybe uploading it) and I let every single video play through before moving onto the next one. Sometimes this would result in 6 videos in a row of me singing “Losing My Religion” until I got it right enough to then upload to YouTube. The whole process culminated in a 19 hour video. I’m not sure this was the perfect approach at dealing with the archive, but it felt like a worthwhile exercise at the time.
My taking of webcam photos and videos is ongoing, though it has slowed down quite a bit in the last few years. How do you archive something that isn’t finished? As someone whose work is predominately housed online, can my work ever be finished? It’s shifting and changing along with its landscape. An archive of a YouTube video today looks wildly different than an archive of the same YouTube video when it was initially uploaded and tomorrow it’ll probably look different as well.