Cecile B. Evan’s website is minimal, it adheres to the art world’s digital aesthetic. A brief bio, a summary of work and awards, black text on a white background; in many ways, it is how one expects a contemporary artist to present their work online. However, in addition to these conventions, the Berlin based digital media artist features a page called “Notes.” Embedded in her tasteful website is a public Google document that invites viewers to interact with the artist, to leave a digital address.
Active users dwelling on the artist’s webpage are suddenly identified, assigned visual icon such as “anonymous fox,” or “anonymous antelope.” Most visitors who leave a note on the website write in black text. A few select different colors, perhaps to be distinguished from the anonymous blob of unknown authors, perhaps in the pursuit of aesthetics—though the former seems more likely given the clinical blues and old blood mauves populating the page. A comment from the filmmaker Andrea Sisson, who must have eschewed anonymity by logging into her Google account to edit the document, reads “all of this is fire.”
People write their own treaties on the artist’s work, write notes following up on brief encounters at galleries, post links to films and essays referenced in Evans videos, or simply remark on their visibility. Occasionally the viewer can follow conversations between anonymous profiles and Evans. Other notes sit on the page awkwardly, unaddressed. Many comments have been dyed blue by an embedded hyperlink to a conversation on HTML giant between two friends discussing the applicability of Deleuze to the everyday. Despite any obvious connections, this hyperlink underlines sentences like “start of beyonce's pretty hurts///rihanna 'stay'--- same chord progression?” and “Omg this is amazing. “ Evans describes her work as assemblage, salvaged disparate elements. “Dumb collages…” she recalls first starting to experiment with deconstructive and spliced work, “–that’s still how I work, just not in that exact form.”
One visitor to “Notes” wonders if Evans recalls a craigslist misconnection entry someone had once posted on the document. She replies to the query, written in bold red, with a response in blue, “Yep, I turned it into a character in my last video! Called “A Memory from 1972”- <3 THANKS! https://www.craigslist.org/about/best/bos/5237173491.html?lang=en&cc=us.”
In her 2014 video, “How Happy a Thing Can Be,” Evans writes consciousness into the experience of inanimate objects. Unlike a Disney film, where candlesticks find delight in their subordination, Evans’s objects tailspin. Her comb, screwdriver, and pair of scissors crumble in an existential fugue that sends them staggering out of their Suburban home and into the streets. Somehow “Notes” is similar, the website, personified by all who chose to interact with it, receives culled information that it cannot make sense of, cannot synthesize into a whole thought. The animation of the artist website reveals discord, half-thoughts, and nonsense. Something schizophrenic, frantic, is composed anonymously. The word document becomes the subject of the disparate sentences contributed by unknown authors.
At stake in “Notes,” is the idea of access to intimacy with artwork. There is a shift in authority at play in new media. In an editable internet, people can immediately change and interact with visual resources through mediums previously inconceivable. In a piece so ephemeral and fleeting, assimilation into the larger art market is challenged by its digital presentation. The role of the artist, or the critic, as guardian of the art world begins to crumble as encounters become more self-guided and self-referential.
John Cage advised that, for great composition, “what counts is to put the individual in flux.” “Notes” does just this by posing the problem of identity on an internet that is disappearing and morphing constantly without archive. Who am I? is a tenable question in an open source document constantly being written and unwritten, influenced and changed, made and unmade. One can be a part of Cecile B. Evans digital collage practice simply by visiting her website.