Reassessing Intimacy

 

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Presenting my project was something of a fight, with myself more than anyone else to be quite honest. One of my main issues I was grappling with in haraway’s basement was intimacy. What does it mean to get close in the digital age? Does it mean to be physically close, to have the screen right up against your face, on your wrist, in your body? The leading theory is that the digital keeps us apart from each other, lends a chill and distance to relationships. I think as my talk and project makes clear, these are simplistic and often alienating approximations of what it means to have contact with the machine. It’s for that reason that I felt deeply ambiguous about the presentation of my work in a gallery setting. While I did acquiesce for reasons of pure practicality, it still seemed awkward if not wildly inappropriate for my game to be played on display. Not only did it grate on me as a creator to have my own self splayed out, but I also felt protective of player. The experience I meant to create with haraway’s basement was one based in vulnerability and disquiet. I don’t think either of those feelings are easily produced in a public setting. Nothing ruins a horror movie more than an audience too cool to let it scare.

I did not have the opportunity to attend the gallery session for the symposium, and while I regret not having that experience, I did get the chance to see an interaction with my project first hand. The evening on the day of the symposium, I went to a dinner with my classmates of my seminar on Authorship and Women of Color Filmmakers at our professor’s apartment. The professor in question had attended my talk at the symposium and felt enthusiastic enough about it to ask if we could play it as a group at dinner. I agreed mostly because the work had been deeply informed by the work we had done in the seminar, but I was somewhat nervous about the prospect. I shouldn’t have been. The act of going through the game as a group, of witnessing the moments of laughter and the occasional awkward silences, was rewarding. The structure we agreed upon was simply to yell out what link you wanted to click at each part of the game. This was not what I imagined when I was creating haraway’s basement but I think it worked. It created a collective, but not homogenous, voice and experience. There was discussion as we went along, not entirely or even mostly led by me. I tried not to spoil it. But I did answer questions and gave background wherever it seemed warranted. They often didn’t get out of it what I expected and I learned a lot from what they did, where some laughed and others didn’t, who knew exactly what I was talking about and who was completely mystified. This is what I really wanted to create and engage with with my project—a community of queer women, connected in unexpected ways.

Cade Johnson
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Cade (Smith College '14) is one of six 5CollDH undergraduate fellows for the 2014-2015 academic year.

Cade Johnson
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