Written by Snigdha Bansal
Artist, researcher, and author Bethany Crawford examines the visual in relation to memorial, and how this translates over time, geography and technologies. Originally from Scotland, she moved to the Netherlands to pursue a Masters of Art Praxis at the Dutch Art Institute, and has since then also started a research-based Masters at the University of Amsterdam. For someone whose work revolves so closely around digital culture, Bethany surprisingly has no digital presence — no Instagram, Twitter, Facebook — you get the picture. Or probably don’t. We caught up with the Treehouse newbie on a sunny day to know how she’s liking the place and her plans for her residency.
Hi Bethany, what made you apply for a studio at Treehouse?
I'd heard of Treehouse before, just from coming to NDSM. So I applied along with my friend Dina and we got a really quick response. Both of us work in lens-based media, which is basically a fancy term for working with moving image. It entails a lot of editing, and so it's nice to have a designated space for that. It also helps to be surrounded with creative energy and to have conversations with other residents who’ve all got different practices here.
Are you looking forward to collaborating with fellow artists at Treehouse?
Yeah, definitely! My own work covers topics that are rather serious, so I do like to be playful in my collaborations. Currency, my studio partner Dina and I are co-writing some surreal and absurd sort of stories. I mostly do the writing and Dina animates it. Right now, we're working on a project about a man whose ears fall in love with each other, and he dies when the ears finally move across his face and he experiences an explosion of erotic asphyxiation as his ears merge together over his breathing orifices. So yeah, I’m really open to working with other interesting artists!
Could you tell us a bit more about the project you’re working on?
Right now, I'm doing a collaboration with Aalto University on a project about ownership of data in the digital world and how that's affecting subjectivities. I’m mainly working with the curator on an exhibition, but next semester I’m also going to be teaching a course there called Data vitality. I’ll also be working with the students on producing something for the exhibition set to take place later in 2022.
How did you know that this was your calling?
I did my bachelor in fine art moving image - it was a really cool course but it was very niche and unconventional. It wasn’t about commercial filmmaking but instead about looking at film as an artist’s medium. I chanced upon lens-based media first at art school in Scotland, and thought to myself, “This is it!” To be interrogating concepts like the future notions of digitality, while also working with these kinds of technologies made a lot of sense to me.
It’s interesting that you’re studying the digital world but at the same time, you have no digital presence at all. Is that a conscious decision?
It is definitely a conscious decision, since I’m majorly interested in studying the performativity of digital presence. Of course, there are times when I do go online, but it’s usually as an observer, not as a participant. But my broader research also has to do with death and digital immortality, and technology and temporality also pique my interest. Since I’m aware of how these things work, I don’t want to have to live forever beyond my actual life, you know? If I were to die, I don’t want an Instagram likeness of me to go on existing. So this practice of not being online is both that as well as a way to inform my research.
How is it to be offline in a world where everything revolves around social media?
It’s actually quite easy for me, to be honest. When I was younger, I only had Facebook and Instagram for some time, so it wasn’t a monumental shift for me. Even as a person, I'm just a more interpersonal person, who’d rather do things “in the flesh”.
Could you talk a bit about what you mean by observing life online?
At times, I feel like such a lurker! My research is not really about being on Instagram though, but more about the embedded practices of lifelogging towards an immortality using the platform. But I definitely do feel like an old person who has no idea what’s trending on the Internet.
If you’d like to collaborate with Bethany or even just say hi, write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org