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Evan Roth Reflects on 'Since You Were Born'

Evan Roth Reflects on 'Since You Were Born'

June 21, 2019 // by Caitlin Swindell

This weekend is your last chance to see Evan Roth's Project Atrium exhibition, Since You Were Born, which is an immersive and visually striking inundation of images spread across the floor and walls of the Atrium Gallery at MOCA.  Roth's largest installation to date, Since You Were Born captures roughly four months of his website browsing history since the day his second daughter was born on June 29, 2016. The exhibition at MOCA will close on June 23 - just a few days prior to his daughter's third birthday.

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Artist, Evan Roth in his site-specific installation at MOCA Jacksonville, Project Atrium: Since You Were Born, 2019.

Here, you'll find some of Roth's reflections on this series and the exhibition in particular. The first part is taken from an interview I had with Roth before the exhibition was installed, and the second part is new-providing Roth an opportunity to reflect on the installation now that it is coming to a close. 

This work, like all of your pieces from the “Internet Cache Portraits” is almost entirely uncensored. How much are you looking at the imagery once it has been generated? Are you interested in looking back and seeing trends or different moments from your life?

I try not to look at the imagery too closely because the more I start looking at it, the more I want to start censoring it, and that's a big part of the project, that I'm not censoring it. Part of my process with this work, and part of the reason why I do the portraits of myself more often than of others is that it is an invasive request. It has taken me years to kind of forget as much as I can that I'm recording. That's a huge part of the project, and it speaks to the culture of security with the Internet. We all have a sense that we're being watched, but even when you have nothing to hide, it does affect the decisions you make.

So, I try to actively forget as much as possible that I'm recording this data and it's gotten easier since I've been doing it for so many years. I do look through them but not with a fine-tooth comb-looking for bank information for example. I'm trying to look away as much as possible not because I'm not interested in seeing what's there, but because I don't want to obsess over it enough where I start wanting to censor it.

But then on the flip side of that-my favorite experiences with this series have been more informal. I had leftover material from it that I ended up using as flooring in my last studio in Paris. Just the floor of my studio was all papered with an old cache print, and so that became one I was really close to (physically close to). I would sit in it every day, and I would drop my pen and I would look down and would be confronted with images from my browsing history and at that point-a lot of time had passed.

I enjoyed looking at it because they were memories for me. I'd see bits and pieces of projects that I was working on from a year or two years ago that had either since turned into a project that existed in the world or ended up being a project that I threw away. It was interesting to be confronted with these little bits and pieces of my artistic process.

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Visitors of Evan Roth's Since You Were Born, 2019. Site-specific installation at MOCA Jacksonville.

Now that the exhibition is almost over, what is your perception of Since You Were Born? It has been one of our most highly visited installations to date and one that many are actively engaging on social media.

One thing that struck me is how much this series changes with scale. Having the piece shift from an object to a space totally changed people's experience of the work. Both in person and online I saw a lot of joy, which I wasn't necessarily expecting, but was great to see. There are darker ways to interpret the piece (which I don't think was lost on people), so I really loved just seeing people excited to share space with each other and with the work.

The other thing that was new for me with Since You Were Born is that I've never had a piece have quite so much interaction and engagement with people through social media. I was kind of sad to leave after the opening because I didn't get to spend a lot of time in the space after the installation was complete, and so it was a wonderful surprise that I could follow along with the daily updates visitors were posting (I think I saw the majority of them). And there will be a really nice moment at some point in the future when I make a new piece, and all of those photos people posted on social media will show up as bits and pieces of my browsing data. 

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