Nobody explores the space between intimacy and technology quite like Miranda July.
The performance artist, writer and filmmaker continually investigates the shapes of interconnectedness in the digital age, through films like "Me and You and Everyone We Know" and art initiatives like "We Think Alone," in which July's famous friends forwarded their intimate emails to your inbox.
Now July has created an app that will blur the line between digital and personal interaction, and it's called "Somebody." Basically, instead of texting your friend, lover or desired text recipient, your message will be sent to a "Somebody" user in close proximity of the intended receiver, who will then deliver the message in person. You can attach personal touches to your text message, adding actions like "crying," "begin air quotes," "kiss," or "scream."
So instead of reading your texts, the sendee will have the message personally acted out... by a stranger.
"Texting is tacky. Calling is awkward. Email is old," the "Somebody" statement explains. But this app is far more than a new mode of communication. It's an improvised performance between two strangers, an unusual form of puppetry or even possession. "I see this as far-reaching public art project, inciting performance and conversation about the value of inefficiency and risk," July explains.
The app, created with support from Miu Miu, launched at the Venice Film Festival, along with an accompanying short film, which you can see below.
Like most of July's films, the short above blends the magical and the technologically enhanced, the banal and the uncanny, the awkward and the sentimental. But then again, this isn't just a short film; it's a trailer for the app. So, in a potential future where everyone has downloaded "Somebody," we'll pretty much be living in a Miranda July film. If that's not incentive to download the app, we're not sure what is.
"Somebody" works best when there is a critical mass of users in the area, like a party, concert or office. July has already set up official "hotspots" for app users at museums around the country, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The New Museum, Yerba Buena Center for The Arts, Portland Institute of Contemporary Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where it will be part of the exhibition "Conversation Piece," starting October 10.
The MFA is hosting the lecture “Miranda July: The First Bad Man” with the artist on Wednesday and Thursday, April 15 and 16, 2015 –– part of the MFA’s Ruth and Carl J. Shapiro Celebrity Lectures: Evenings with Creative Minds.