Amanda Durepos graduated from Concordia this June from the Art History and Studio Art program. The Concordian sat down with Durepos to discuss her new art exhibit and the inspiration behind her fascinating work.
Q. (A.S) What did you take away from your time at Concordia?
A. (A.D) I learned to allow myself to be vulnerable and to worry less about a finished piece and more about paying attention to the process and experimentation. I initially felt pressure to have a coherent and established style but soon realized that I was (and still am) undergoing a lot of self-discovery.
Q. (A.S) When or where did the inspiration for this project begin?
A. (A.D) I’ve always had a bit of an interest in technology, and a few months ago I began reading a lot about Google and how the company has completely changed the way we distribute and receive information. I also was surprised by the results that came up when I Googled my own name and spent a long time disabling and cancelling accounts on various websites; accounts which were long dormant and no longer representative of who I am today.
Q. (A.S) In your statement you say that your practice often deals with “the paradoxes introduced in our lives through technology”, can you specify what some of these paradoxes are?
A. (A.D) It seems to me that recent history has been marked by a widespread adoption of technology in everyday life. Our increasingly symbiotic relationship with technology yields a paradoxical influence both on the way experience interpersonal relationships and the ways in which we access and process information.
For example, I am thrilled that the internet enables me to connect to my faraway family members. Although I have only met my newborn niece twice, my frequent video chatting with her has brought me closer into her life than would otherwise be possible. Conversely, some days I get home from work and can spend hours browsing forums, Reddit or countless other black holes of content and in the process completely neglect my boyfriend. In this sense, technology has the potential to bring us closer together from a distance, but can simultaneously alienate us from our immediate surroundings.
In my collage Dürer’s Rhinoceros, I am referencing a woodcut from the 16th century by Albrecht Dürer. Despite never having seen a rhinoceros himself, Dürer worked from a written description of someone else to create the woodcut. The interesting thing about the woodcut is that although it vaguely looks like a rhinoceros, there are a many incorrect or invented anatomical features. Nonetheless, the woodcut was very popular in Europe, was used in encyclopaedias, copied frequently and considered for centuries by Westerners as being a true representation of a rhinoceros. Today, we access information from a multiplicity of sources on the web and tend to think of the internet as providing democratic and more accurate and immediately accessible access to information. What we sometimes don’t address is the fact that the way this wealth of information is sorted is not always ideal. When one Google searches a subject to learn about it, the result that rises to the top is not necessarily the most accurate but the most popular, which reminded me a lot of Durer’s woodcut. Could it be that even in an age where we have access to many different standpoints, we could still be exposed to inaccurate information?
Q. (A.S) Could you tell me about how the ‘profile’ or, way we represent ourselves online is represented in the exhibit?
A. (A.D) My boyfriend and I met on a picture rating website when we were 15 years old. Because the history of the forum is stored chronologically, I discovered that I could time travel backwards in the forums and read interactions between us before we had met. It was fascinating for me to see the formal way in which we addressed one another, and how this differs drastically from who we are today and the ways that we interact. In this way, I have found that my self from 7 years ago has left quite a trace online. What is notable (and embarrassing) about it is the fact that I can go back and see quite tangibly who I was at that time. Before the internet, our memories of our old selves or old friends are pieced together perhaps through photos or home videos. When we were 15, we all said things we would be embarrassed about today, but I have the misfortune of having that dialogue in a public cyberspace. And as I have discovered, erasing a blog can be more difficult than the ridding of a diary book!
To have an online profile is to define something static about a self that is always in flux. Although we can update our profiles to match the changes that take place in our lives, some aspects remain, concretized in cyberspace. Anyone who has ever Googled themselves can see that there are sometimes things that you wish were not there.
As an artist, I sometimes feel pressure to establish an online presence, and to plan for exhibits to showcase what I am working on. However, just as I am constantly growing and changing, so is my work. Collage is very playful and when I work with it, I am without intent. It is a very stream-of-consciousness process, very much like living life or breathing. It becomes complicated when I have to frame it or define it.
Q. (A.S) I found the Alter egos series to be particularly striking because it was done with computer technology and all your other pieces were done by hand, a literal cut and paste. Why is this? What made you choose to do this series differently?
A. (A.D) A struggle I face in wanting to work with original vintage material is that it is difficult to come across very large source material. The initial collages for the Alter Egos series were 4 x 6” and were done manually. It is interesting to me, that upon enlarging them and thereby converting them to a digital equivalent, they are likely to last longer. That is to say, my collages are created with source material which is already mouldy and yellowed, and are likely to have a much shorter life, like a fleeting memory. These prints have been digitalized and are therefore immortal!
Q. (A.S) I noticed that the pieces were displayed with little polish, some of the pieces coming off from their backgrounds, curling etc. Was this intentional, if so why?
A. (A.D) Creating a collage is very spontaneous for me and I can work very swiftly. I do not like to revisit collages I make and do not “touch them up”. Additionally, I like the character of curled and yellow paper and want people to be able to see the pieces as more than just flat images, but rather as objects on paper, wherein the paper is an important aspect. I have fun when I create my collages and I do not want them to be seen as precious images.
Q. (A.S) Can you talk about Slowness Japanese bound-book?
A. (A.D) The book was created as an assignment for a drawing class at Concordia. I was thinking about the way the internet affects the way we absorb and process information. Before the internet, one would have no choice but to go to the library, take out an encyclopaedia and read it in a linear fashion, and then condense the information later. Linear, and slow appreciation of text seems to be falling out of fashion.
For my piece Slowness, I cut up Milan Kundera’s novel Slowness, using words from the novel itself to piece together the Wikipedia article. I was taking this idea to an extreme and envisioning a hypothetical time in which even pleasure reading (which is necessarily slow and linear by definition) is fractured, a victim of instant gratification. I chose this book in particular because Kundera suggests in it that speed is linked to forgetting and only slow, uninterrupted appreciation can submit something to memory.
This interview has been edited for length.
Amanda Durepos’ exhibit Cut and Paste is on display at Papeterie Nota Bene 3416 Du Parc until June 1, with a vernissage taking place May 31 from 5-8pm.