written on the wall (centre panel) part of the interchangeability project by maeshelle west-davies
written on the wall (centre panel)
part of the interchangeability project by maeshelle west-davies

In our modern world technology has altered the way we perceive others and ergo; ourselves. What would have once been deemed unthinkable is now commonplace. When faced with the concept of interchangeability, I immediately thought of online dating. I thought the numbers game would be easier to play from the comfort of one’s home. I also thought those who couldn’t interact well in a social setting would turn to it to lose the burden of loneliness. One click (or several) and you’re out there, walking the walk and talking the talk. Romance: ready for the taking.

The concept that we are made up of our experiences and not who we share them with seems true at first glance. Afterall we can share anything with anyone we want, right? Think about your memories. Do you remember who, where or what? How often do you actually remember all three? What has to happen for you to remember the who rather than the where or what?

I found this scene required a whole new set of tools and talents. First of all, since I was a native English speaker searching in a variety of countries, I was linguistically challenged when conversing with non-native speakers. My sharp wit served little or no use. They either lacked the skills or the cultural knowledge to return my comedic chatter. I found myself talking to other expats. Fair enough, there were plenty there. It seemed that many were new in town and just looking for someone to hang with.

The second skill I needed was to „look good on paper“. The stats had to fit the user’s needs; age, height, weight, education, children, car, job… had to all be IO (in order). Truthfully I’m much better in person, but the only thing I lied about was my age. I knew the guys in the age range I’m interested in would  never respond to me otherwise. Paradoxically, I found myself an ageist in the very ageist society that excludes me and adjusted my settings to stop receiving messages from guys over 35. We will see what the ramifications of this will be. I have made some new chat buddies who I seem to have lots in common with and have done just what my profile said I was out to do. „am looking for new ideas and inspiration through interaction with others….if that led to more, naturally my life would be enriched and more complete.“ Now what? If I want to take it to the next level, I have a problem. Or do I? How much honesty do they expect? Doesn’t everyone’s profile have a white lie or two? What is forgiveable depends on the person granting the forgiveness. If granted forgiveness, will it be genuine or at some point start needling the forgiver and destroy any possiblity of establishing trust?

Perhaps (my online dating headline by the way) this will be what determines if I become the who, where or what. Will I be the friend, girlfriend, partner they met online? Will I be the freak they blocked on skype? Will I be the reason they delete their online profile or the reason they continue to fish?

The project consists of images, sound files and videos created with material gathered from various online dating sites that I merged with memories, texts, images from a failed relationship I expected to last because the who allowed me to be open to what and I didn’t care where.

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