“It’s a classy event. There’s Franzia in the kitchen,” Michelle Kusold told attendees as they entered the opening of The Gallery’s exhibition “The Snapchat Collaborative.”
“The Snapchat Collaborative” has been a year-long project for Kusold, a fourth-year in computer science & engineering, and her housemate Janelle Bouchard, a fourth-year in psychology.
They took hundreds of screenshots of their friends’ “snaps” with a plan to make the normally temporal memories last more than 10 seconds. The two then paid for 4-by-6 inch matte prints of their favorites, 358 in total, and “curated” them into an exhibition. Kusold said they spent four days whittling the collection down from about 800 photos.
The Gallery, which houses the collection, isn’t a hip showroom in the Short North — instead, it’s the nickname Kusold and her housemates have given their house on Tuller Street since planning out the project.
Their friends filed in Saturday night in various states of semi-formal dress. Women wore black dresses and men donned black pants (with an occasional tie). Kusold sliced cheese onto crackers and poured cheap wine into red Solo Cups for guests. Music played from a playlist titled “High Stylin’ Cocktail Hour Jazz.”
“Is that a tit?” one man asked as he passed through the living room, noticing an acquaintance’s pierced nipple exposed in one photo.
“The best part is that there’s no context. You just see the picture and the message,” Kusold said.
The pictures on the wall aren’t that different from typical snaps college friends send each other: There are goofy faces, shoddily-drawn cartoons and the not safe for work pictures you wouldn’t put on Facebook.
Snapchat photos aren’t typical fodder for an art gallery, but this was aimed at being more than just a joke — it came from genuine reflection on the part of Kusold and Bouchard.
“Some of the Snapchats that we get from our friends … are like really amazing photography and they disappear after like five seconds — and so someone just took that for nothing,” Kusold said.
That got Kusold to think about the different aesthetic value society assigns to different types of pictures.
As with any exhibition, “The Snapchat Collaborative” includes “curator’s statements” by Kusold, including this one: “Why are some forms of photography treated as disposable pixels while others are revered as valuable expressions of art? This year-long collective art project seeks to explore photography’s evolution through the aid of technology as an art form accessible to the everyday person. It defies the fleeting brevity of photography via Snapchat and exposes the vulnerability of artistic self expression.”
Kusold and Bouchard acknowledged the inherent humor of the event, and the balance between sincerity and mockery was “50-50,” they said.
“When you think about any real gallery opening, the description is usually so pretentious and ridiculous,” Kusold said of the curator’s statements she wrote, though Bouchard said the sentiments are genuinely how they feel about the pictures.
“We just upped the language a little,” she said.
Kusold said she expected friends to not be compelled by artistic concepts, but instead to have fun being reflective on their past year with photos they didn’t expect to see again.
“Even the ridiculous ones — the ones that aren’t the most amazing photographs in the world — when you put them all together, you remember every aspect of that year through these pictures,” she said.
Kyle Brown, a fourth-year in business, had his snaps well-represented on the wall, and said each one brought back a memory.
“Each one is very evocative of a specific instance. This bottom one — I remember very vividly being drunk and climbing a electric pole right before that was taken,” he said.
A collection of pictures sent between Kusold and Bouchard were mounted separately on one wall, accompanied by a statement that the documentations of the year “show the ability of photography to better communicate the nuances of life … (and) the interconnectivity of lives and the need for self-expression even on a small scale amongst friends.”