Bridge is a curatorial project by Sergio Serrano
- Opening Reception: Wednesday, November 26 2014
- 7-9 PM @ 10149-122 St.
- Exhibition Dates: November 26, 2014 – January 17, 2015
- Open Wed – Friday 4-6 PM & Saturdays 11-4 PM
n. A connecting, transitional, or intermediate route or phase between two adjacent elements.
Photography can offer a unique ability for documentation. Despite the fact that photo-manipulation has been around long before digital photography, photographic images still retain a sense of authenticity, objectivity and immediacy. In Internet forums and other social networks, the phrase “pics or it didn’t happen” is a request for proof of unverifiable claims made by users — and in a time when most people have a camera in their ever-so-smarter-phones this request is easily fulfilled, oftentimes without prompting.
The social networking service Instagram capitalizes on this eagerness to record, to share and to humblebrag. Instagram is an app available for mobile devices that allows its users to take photographs and short videos, add filters or effects and to share them with their friends and followers or, through the use of tags, with the larger Instagram network (since it’s launch in October 2010, its network has grown to over 200 million active users).
A user can follow family, friends, celebrities and institutions and get a constant stream of what they feel the need to share: news, outings, selfies, pets, their lunch, etc. It’s almost become a cliché what to expect from an Instagram account (see the “satiregram” account). But it is this other feature feature — digital annotation, be it by textual hashtags or geotags — that expands Instagram from a purely social network into a rhetorical and spatial network.
I’ve chosen the High Level Bridge in Edmonton as subject matter for this curatorial exploration. The bridge is a non-place, a connecting structure between two distinct sides of the city, which is for most people a transitory experience during their commute. But it is also very much a landmark of the city, and a symbol of life and death (people have followed on the trend of attaching “love locks” to the railings of the bridge; and at the same time it is a destination for people looking to end their lives).The bridge was recently brought closer to the foreground due to the shutting down of the Great Divide Waterfall and the launch of the Light the Bridge campaign on Canada Day of this year.
The images selected for this exhibition represent only a small sliver of the far-reaching world of this social networking application. Rather that looking at the aesthetics of the photographs (a whole other subject of its own), this collection gathers images connected by specific hashtags and geographical locations associated to bridge. Bringing together a mosaic of the many different (and oftentimes the same) ways people record, archive and share experiences with each other in an attempt to connect with each other under this one visual platform.
– Sergio Serrano
Interviewing Sergio Serrano, by Connor Buchanan:
CB: When we first started talking about this project your key interest was Instagram and its dual purpose or function as a data collection site and social media platform. Can you briefly explain your process for developing this concept and how you decided on the High Level Bridge as a subject?
SS:The very initial idea was Instagram and it was the result of a chat we had about potential exhibitions at the space. There are so very many fascinating things to explore about that particular platform, and after delving into it I found it hard to focus on any one of those features given the constraints of the exhibition space. I’m not quite sure I can pinpoint the moment the bridge became the subject — instead I feel like it was alway in the back of my head since the summer when the light the bridge campaign was launched. As well there was a lot of debate regarding the project, both amongst my peers and in social media in general. After that I was curious to see how people documented the bridge on Instagram through photographs and hashtags.
CB: Did you have any surprises or key realizations while you were conceptualizing this project that redirected you or informed your decision making process?
SS: It is pretty much cliché, but we live in a world overwhelmed with information. Almost everybody can be a content creator thanks to technology, and amidst the “big data,” it is easy to forget this fact and take it for granted. It was good to be reminded not only of the amount of information out there, but to also get a chance to have a small glimpse into the creators’ life — or at least their Instagram version of it.
CB: What part of this project has affected you the most?
SS: Definitely going through all of the images on Instagram and seeing how much people were willing to openly share with complete strangers — whether they are aware of it or not. I was really fascinated by the repetitiveness and commonality of certain images; as well as the intimacy and emotiveness of some other ones. There were a couple of images I ended up not using because I didn’t feel comfortable witnessing those moments.
CB: Can you talk a little bit about the differences you noticed in developing a curatorial project from your regular design practice?
SS: I feel that I would need a bit more experience on the curatorial side to be able to discuss this more. But from this one try I’d say that in my design work I usually have a message to communicate with varying degrees of freedom and constraints when working with different elements — sometimes created sometimes pre-existing. I found the curatorial project somewhat similar, but it was great to have a more freedom and self-direction as to what the themes and ideas I was exploring. It was also appealing to feel that the end result didn’t necessarily have to be as utilitarian as some design practices, but could be more open ended and evocative.
CB: For Bridge, is there a feeling or reaction you are hoping to elicit in the viewer?
SS: I hope people look a little closer at all the structures we have in the city and what we are doing with them. We are at a moment where a lot development and construction is happening and it’s easy to get lost in the midst of it all. As well, I hope the viewers become more aware of how they use social media, document the world around them, and how they go about sharing that content.
CB: Do you think that this exhibition is the final stage of this project for you or will you continue to explore this concept and or subject further?
SS: I’m not sure I’d use the words “final stage” but for the time being I’ll let it rest for a bit. I’m still interested in both the bridge itself and Instagram (and social media in general), so I will keep them in the back of my head for future ideas.
CB: Now to shift focus a bit, can you tell me about a talent or skill most people would be surprised to learn you possess?
SS: Hmmm… when I was little I was really into origami and managed to become quite good at it. I’ve forgotten a lot of the patterns now, but I think that the skill certainly helped with some dexterity when it comes to bookbinding and of course paper folding.
CB: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
SS: My dad’s version of “follow your dreams” was “never lose track of your north star” and to work hard to follow it. I would like to think that I’m somewhat on track, even if I glance over at the other constellations every now and then.
CB: What is your dream project?
SS: Every time I work on a project, the scope of the project grows larger and larger the more research I do. Trying to narrow the focus seems futile, and I end up feeling like I’m slaying a Hydra: with every head I manage to cut off, three spring to life in its place. For that reason I believe that — at least for now — my dream project would be some kind of elaborate library, or rather a wunderkammer, or cabinet of curiosities. I’ve explored this idea on a smaller scale, but would certainly like to try it out as a large, immersive installation — creating and collecting various books and objects to create an overarching narrative.