Public Access Me
October 18 – November 17 2012
In 2012, the New Museum presented “Public Access Me,” a newly created project for the New Museum’s First Look online exhibition series by Swedish artist Jonas Lund (b. 1984).
“Public Access Me” was an advancement of a project Lund launched earlier the same year called Selfsurfing that allows viewers to watch a live, auto-updating clone of his personal browser. Through Selfsurfing, viewers can follow Lund as he surfs the web—reading the news, working, shopping, etc. “Public Access Me” was differentiated from Selfsurfing by an additional layer of access that Lund opened up: in this version, viewers could watch Jonas as he participated in social media (Facebook, Twitter) and even as he emailed—all live. Since the stream of pages available for viewers corresponded to Lund’s actual activity online, this radical reveal of his personal networks and online activity unfolds in an often mundane experience that the artist likens to “watching TV.” Encountering “Public Access Me” at different points during the day, viewers might see an article Lund is reading, details of a sandwich shop where he has just gone to pick up lunch, or a shot of his email inbox in real time. Reminiscent of the durational works by performance artists like Tehching Hsieh, “Public Access Me” involved an intense commitment from Lund over a concentrated period of time: opening and free sharing all his information to a boundless public.
By directly engaging the new level of openness and visibility present in contemporary culture, “Public Access Me” presented privacy not only as a contested and changing concept but, possibly, an outmoded option. Today, we participate in third-party platforms—be they social media services, online shopping networks, or privately-hosted email—to which we regularly, often unthinkingly, surrender our personal data, by signing up, registering, posting, and uploading details of our lives. “Public Access Me” took this new era of unconscious surrender to an extreme, by literally offering up everything the artist is doing without question or permission. For Lund, “Public Access Me” was also an experiment in what kind of new behaviors or activities this level of openness will create. Would Lund show us everything? Or would he develop strategies to shield certain interests or activities?
“Public Access Me” drew on Lund’s previous works in addition to Selfsurfing that create public trails or archives of his activities. I Am Here or There (2011) broadcast live every URL the artist passed through; the project is preserved as a long list of links that records his time online. The Paintshop.biz (2012) encouraged anonymous users to collectively create a work of art, which was finished when a signature and purchase was made. Collectively, Lund’s prescient works reflect on contemporary networks and question the conventional behaviors we adopt in a culture quickly adapting to new technologies.
Established in 2012 and co-organized by the New Museum and Rhizome, First Look is a digital art commissioning and exhibition program representing the breadth of art online—from interactive documentary, to custom-built participatory applications, to moving image-based works, and art for mobile VR. Encompassing a substantial array of work that continues to expand, First Look explores the formal, social, and aesthetic possibilities of emerging technologies on the web.