Oftentimes an artist makes a story unfold, but sometimes an artist captures a story evolving all on its own. For his installation "Stelen (Columns)", Marc Adelman collected 50 profile pictures from an internet dating site catering to gay men in Berlin. The catch: all of the photos were curiously taken in front of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, aka the Holocaust Memorial.
The collection confronts what we aim to keep separate: the public and private, sexual and religious, historical and digital. The seemingly innocent snapshots leave an unsettling aftertaste when we see that the flirtatious, seemingly nonchalant poses are taken beside a sacred site of mourning. This begs the question: What remains sacred and what can be reappropriated?
The illustrious profile picture is familiar to many of us thanks to internet sites where our private desires are broadcast for all to see. The camera quickly erases the history of its subjects and turns everything into an aesthetically pleasing backdrop. In this case, most of us would be fairly ignorant of the significance of the architecture from many of the photos until we read the artist's statement. We find that at the Holocaust Memorial, desire flourishes, rather than being erased.
Instead of making snap judgments, Adelman suggests that we should pause and consider the tension between immediacy and history, image and presence. Are our identities defined more by history or by a virtual profile? How do we honor what is sacred to us?
This collection of photos will provoke different questions for each viewer, and privileges neither the 'traditional' nor 'modern' response. Through his work, Adelman suggests that we take the time to think about identity, politics and sex, and the radical strangeness of our current age.
Adelman's installation is part of the installation "Identity, Politics, Sex" which will show at the Jewish Museum in New York until June 30. Adelman will give a gallery talk at the Museum on Monday April 2 at 1pm.
See some of the profile pictures here, and let us know your thoughts in the comment section.