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School of Art exhibition translates Snapchat streaks to the physical realm

Isan+Brant+looks+through+a+display+book+of+drawings+at+the+473
Selena Quintanilla / The Daily Wildcat

Isan Brant looks through a display book of drawings at the “473

What happens when Snapchat goes physical? “473 [Flame Emoji],” an exhibition at the Lionel Rombach Gallery at the School of Art, explores this idea.

Wren Gardiner a photography senior, and UA fine arts graduate student Maya Hawk translated a digital form of interaction to the physical realm.

Hawk is resident photographer at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tucson, and Gardiner expects to graduate this December. Both artists favor fine art photography and enjoy working in a variety of mediums, which explains their gravitation toward Snapchat.

“As far as subject matter goes, I am very interested in things that have to do with technology, health and trendy things, and just things that I feel like are very millennial,” Gardiner said. “I am very of this age and I love it.”

The two friends have communicated via Snapchat since June 2015. The title of the exhibition refers to a 473-day Snapchat streak, which the app notates with a emoji.

“We are currently at a 489-day streak,” Hawk said.

Snapchat has become a primary mode of communication for the two artists.

“We pretty much have had a streak since we became Snapchat friends,” Gardiner said. “We were both always really fast to respond to each other.”

The artists have collected close to 10,000 photos and 500 videos from their Snapchat interactions. The exhibition pulls bits and pieces from the duo’s extensive library of interaction.

The varying forms of media within Snapchat make the app unique.

“[It] combines traditional ways of communicating into one app, which only now other apps and social networks are starting to incorporate,” Hawk said.

“473″ isolates each form of communication within the app. This includes photos, text, videos and illustrations.

“We wanted to isolate each piece, because that makes them even more devoid of the app and makes them tangible objects of their own,” Hawk said.

The physical deconstruction of a Snapchat feels foreign, yet recognizable to users.

“It’s also interesting to see them as their own object because they don’t really make sense that way, but, all together, they do,” Gardiner said. “It’s fascinating how little we notice each thing when they’re all together in one Snap.”

Looking at the collection of communication feels voyeuristic. Viewers are looking at something that wasn’t intended for their eyes.

“I don’t think I realized how very personal the show was, which in hindsight is silly of me,” Hawk said. “However, everything is fragmented, so no real information can be gathered by the photos, videos, text and illustrations. It’s intimate and about a relationship, but I don’t think it’s specifically just about just Wren and I. It could be about everyone who interacts in this way.”

The artists feel that Snapchat empowers digital natives to express themselves.

“I do think that whoever designed it is insane and just knows how people communicate,” Gardiner said. “Another thing about Snapchat, especially within our show, is that it’s a time based app, which isn’t how most social networks are. So everyone can express themselves more freely—it never keeps you bored because it’s ever changing, it’s ahead of everyone.”

“473″ shows at the Lionel Rombach Gallery at the School of Art through Sept. 22. Gallery hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The exhibition’s closing reception will take place on Sept. 22 at 2 p.m.


Follow Nina Ulloa on Twitter.


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