SEARCH: ERICKA – BY JULIANA MONACHESI
The first (impulsive) attitude of a 21st-century-person-immersed-in-digital-culture that I assume before beginning the text on the work “Search: Ericka” (2009) by the artist Felipe Cama is to google the name “Ericka Ehrhorn”, just to know if this character actually exists or if it’s the artist’s sheer invention. The second (reflexive) attitude of someone-living-in-the digital-era that I assume is to doubt all the information tracked by Google. Ericka Erhrorn is as real in the internet 2.0 as in the series of 35 oil paintings made by the artist to tell the story of his character, which are shown on top of a stand that reminds us of a museum of natural history of the future.
This has been the subject of Felipe Cama’s work since 2003, when he presented “One and three pictures (after Kosuth)”, of the series “Pixel”, at the 35th edition of Faap’s annual show, in São Paulo. Bringing up the conceptualism of total abstraction for the context of the virtuality of total digitalization, the artist started in his work (and, along with other artists, launched the discourse in recent Brazilian art) an archaeology of the digital times: he worked with the idea of pixelization of virtual images, with the idea of a new dematerialization through the decoding of real images, and left the scope of the aesthetic and political investigation of the circulation of images in order to enter the field of aesthetic and political investigation of the limits between the public and the private in the society of control, with the work he is now exhibiting in a solo exhibition at the Gallery Leme.
The story of Ericka tracked back by this kind of new archaeology which, instead of deep excavations, investigate the horizontal terrain of the network, results as “superficial” as the internet itself, in other words, superficial in its complexity. Childhood, adolescence, schools, addresses, sports activities, college, jobs, political opinions, marriage, pregnancy, maternity, cultural interests: Ericka is a person like anybody else and she would continue anonymous for the rest of the world (or “for those who do not integrate her circle of friends and acquaintances”) if it were not for the artistic voyeurism – not to say pursue – carried out by the artist for two years and a half (and never making use of tricks of privacy invasion such as logging in sites that provide personal information or social networks).
Pursue may sound a little too strong, but the word tends to lose the psychopathic connotation as more and more Twitter users lead the codes of digital sociability into “real life” (in Twitter nobody is a friend of nobody; in the platform of microblogging, people “follow” or “are followed” – and “follow” also means “pursue” – a way of totally opening the purpose of the personal blogs and the social networks). Out of this investigation and an inexhaustible data crossing to dispose of the “wrong information”, a narrative is created, mixing up fictional and documental elements and recomposing before the eyes of the visitor a feasible chronology of an equally truthful life, but it is not within the horizon of the artist to narrate a particular life story but to unfold a general (and generic) life of the historical existence of the present. If the 20th century was the era of the biographic collections for the great masses, the 21st century announces as the era of the microbiographies for the nanoaudiences.
For having been developed throughout two and a half years, the project ends up by also witnessing the story of the internet, from the boom of the search sites to the advent of the web 2.0: the first “screen” of this other archaeology is the search for the name “Ericka Erhrorn” in Google, and the last one is a print screen of the personal page of the work’s protagonist in the social network “Facebook”, passing through a community of ex-students of the Punahou School (Ericka supposedly lives in Hawaii), the small note on her wedding at the Star Bulletin newspaper , and geographical details of the island where she lives with her husband, Dan Sailer, obtained in Google Earth. “We have a tendency to edit our personal memories according to what interests us, this story is all told by the voices of other people and finishes with the only intervention made by the protagonist and that serves as an opening for her real story”, the artist explains.
Originally published on the catalog of the Search: Ericka exhibition at Galeria Leme, São Paulo, 2009