"thoughts and prayers", 2017-18
Multimedia installation with Twitter bot
First Year Graduate Review
Art Lofts Gallery | Madison, WI, USA
February 5 – February 14, 2018
The Void() Looks Back
Commonwealth Gallery | Madison, WI, USA
December 9 – December 12, 2017
"thoughts and prayers" is a modular, multimedia installation comprising a wooden altar shelf with embedded LCD screen, an arrangement of 'flickering' LED candles, and a backlit acrylic window rendered in the style of narrative stained glass.
The altar shelf's screen displays a real-time feed from the @thinkpraybot Twitter aggregator, which is programmed to retweet all mentions of "thoughts and prayers". Since its launch in October 2017, the bot has posted over 25k times; it's output a mix of official statements by politicians and raw sentiments from 'regular' users. This flattening—mirrored in the installation's minimalist design language—asks us to consider the limitations of language, particularly our ability to convey grief or sympathy in times of trauma. Are clichéd expressions like "thoughts and prayers" a form of virtue signaling by cultural elites, or a kind of cultural default we all turn to when facing unspeakable tragedy? Furthermore, as human interaction increasingly occurs in digital spaces, what does it mean to bring intercessory prayer and other collective rituals of mourning into these highly mediated environments?