The phenomena of on-line social networking, and the website draugiem.lv in particular, has inspired Profiles: friendship in the digital age (2006-09). This series of small painted portraits of friends’ friends are taken from their images posted on the site. Attracted by the photographs people choose for themselves online – funny, serious, sexy, quirky – I have been drawn to their rhetorical clarity, their earnestness and amateur-ness. Together, these portraits represent my extended social network.
I joined draugiem.lv in 2005. Initially quite sceptical, I was worried about privacy, unwanted attention and the time commitment it would require. However, I quickly reconnected with family and friends, some I had not seen or heard from in years. I also became intrigued by the newfound network of people on the computer screen who fall within ‘two degrees of separation’. Each time you log on, a new selection of friends’ friends appears at the top of the page. At the moment of this writing, 6431 strangers, my friends of friends, fit into this category.
What is the boundary between friendship and social networking? Does the search for online ‘friends’ indicate a positive desire for community, or are ‘friends’ merely a new kind of status symbol? Typical sites, after all, clearly post up-to-date banners of a member’s statistics, like a mark of that person’s popularity or success.
This project addresses the explosion of technological mediation in our relationships with one another, the possibility of meaningful human interaction and the places it occurs. Online, in a café, in a gallery – where and how do we interact? In public, private, or virtual space? And what is the role of portraiture – the careful considered representation of others – in this current climate?