I MAY BE CRAZY BUT NOT THAT CRAZY
OLIVIA JOHNSTON + JENNIFER STEWART
MAY 12 - JUNE 4, 2017 | HASHTAG GALLERY
Featured Exhibition in the 2017 Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival
I May Be Crazy But Not That Crazy consists of photo-based work that explores issues of mental health, identity, gender, and online behaviour. Drawing from their own virtual and real relationships, Olivia Johnston and Jennifer Stewart have created visual representations of the bridge between constructed and authentic identities. Johnston’s works are a response to a long-term experience of receiving strange and distressing online messages. Her pre-existing mental illness intensified the ongoing immersion in feelings of isolation, self-loathing, and fear. Working in the spaces between digital and analogue photography, she explores the cracks that exist in our virtual selves. Stewart’s work explores the intimacy of a romantic relationship and the struggle with mental illness that occurred within it. Hand-printed images paired with text portray a complex and convoluted duality between two people and several identities; additionally, her audio works connect dreamlike imagery to reality. Both artists channel art as a means to reconcile broken trust, deception, and encounters with the fabricated self.
It began in January, the first message lying like a predator in my Twitter notifications. As I read it I laughed, then the jaws of it settled into my throat and parched me. The first weeks I felt afraid, every man walking down the street before me a possible enemy, the words ricocheting through my head continuously. As time went on, those initial words lost their aggression, settling into a sadness and confusion that I continue to carry with me, despite now knowing the identity of the perpetrator.
Cyberbullying is a strange term. It launches visions of children taunting one another through glowing blue screens, silently shouting schoolyard insults. When I’ve attempted to share my experiences with friends and family, often the impact is lost, unexplainable. This has led to a feeling of isolation, placing me on a strange sort of pedestal.
At its worst, it launched me into a period of deep self-loathing, mistrust of friends and strangers, and an inability to walk down the street without feeling afraid. At its best, I shrug it off and it itches gently at me like the healing bite from a strange and terrifying insect.