For the Love of Sam
By Matthew Herzog
For the past six months, New Boone has been in pursuit. From a series called ‘How to Survive Presents:’ - a look into contemporary ways of hacking our indifference - to their most recent exhibit, Intimacy and Abnegation, they’ve expressed a clear intention to negotiate what we want as it simultaneously exists with what we got.
In their newest exploit, New Boone focuses on the disconnect of being plugged in. Despite LinkedIn representing irony at its best, the platform often appears as our only option to stay professionally relevant. Though Facebook and Twitter have forged new online political strategies - becoming the fear for governments/tool of citizens, the power behind social activism, and the reason why getting in bed at night won’t mean you’ll sleep - they’re not replacements for touch, mannerisms, or a solid embrace.
Although images of intimacy may be as pervasive in our online culture as those of violence and erotica, they’re nothing if not the ghosts of such. But again, if we’ve learned anything from horror movies, we must warn against underestimating our hauntings. Ghosts often feel real when being ghosted at a restaurant.
In play with this double bind, as New Boone defines the conflict, I’ve written an open love/rejection/creeper letter to, and inspired by, one of the artists on view.
Since the digital voice is all I got, I’ll pause on the plural audience and speak directly to you, Sam Metcalf. Your piece, Black Box, will be the center of our discussion. It’s tricky blinds that shut using sensors triggered by my heat played too much on my need to deny being denied.
In this online sphere of dank memes, R.I.P. Vines, and the perpetuity of the mainframe landscape, let’s steal a moment for ourselves, absurdly stun the Spiral of Silence and have some fun with Intimacy and Abnegation.
I know you still love me. Why else would your box be windows when they could be walls?
I went to see your piece and, though I recognize it as an office, it appears a pantomime to our relationship. When I stepped close the blinds shut, denying me the content of its interior. I waited and waited, believing if I stayed your machine will acknowledge I’m worth what lay inside.
I was an idiot watching a fern leaf poke through. Was it meant to remind me of us? How you never smiled when I observed you sleep at night?
I stood in the gallery with everywhere to go yet nowhere to be.
I was so muddled. I appeared a crusty vagrant paused from transience by an anticipation for your love. If an officer were to pass, I’d have been arrested. They’d have said, ‘Move along. No loitering near what you don’t deserve.’ I would want to scream and protest the fantasy. ‘This is my new tent city. Unpack my flag, my tarp, my clothesline and cardboard. I’m staying until this box let’s me in!’ To which the arrest would have been prompt. ‘I am not an animal in need of muzzling!’ I would have contested. ‘No waxy canines. Nor remorseless violence. There is no vicious propensity here. Don’t touch my pots! Leave my shoes and mattress! I am not that which disrupts the public order, being poor of affection is not a crime!’
Ok, I grandstanded on someone else’s stage but the point is, I only want to know what you withhold from me. Why all your sides should open yet none reveal you.
Your piece was cold. It felt like an attack - a harsh representation of where my career is going yet never wished to be. Department steel, Home Depot blinds, HR ashen void, a fern under fluorescent bulb no less dystopian than dolls in a nuclear bunker. I work in a place like that. Insipid modernity as dry of spirit as Paul Ryan out-of-beat with Otis Redding. I am not Paul Ryan. You can’t compare me to him. There are acid washed jeans in my closet. Sure they’re next to a copy of The Fountainhead but so is my vibrator and soft maternity sweaters.
I do not want what you present yet oddly yearn it all the same. Is this a punishment? Do you think one should be warey of their souls in such conditions? That I am meant for a life of multi-line phones, staplers, excel sheets and oxford white on beige? I am white. I am a male, yes. But that's a trap as much as your cubicle.
Maybe, I'm wrong. Am I inside or outside? Is it not a cage for ferns or the tiniest walls keeping me from the only real place left? I am pure enough to be inside. I took a shower and actually used the loofah. I douche before a date, therapy before seeing family, a cigarette now and then but pot smoke heals that, right?
Now, I'm confused. Do I hate the inside or wish for nothing else?
The circuitous experience of defining ‘in’ and ‘out’ is not far from feeling like a voyeur to something I fear to see.
Though, I wished to see you.
After I left, I looked through your Instagram, searching for reason behind our distance. FamilyTreeNow told me where you've lived. That someone else with your name was born in 1920 and passed in 2010. They lived in Verona. I have their landline and wireless number if you want to see it.
Facebook told me where you studied, who you've met, that you've been to the Delaware Water Gap too. I know your mom's name. I didn't mean to know. It wasn't something I sought. Am I really to blame for what the Internet told me? I clicked on this then that and soon I was on Google Earth looking through your window. The date on the picture overlaps with FamilyTreeNow’s data. I know you were living there at the time. Do you think that was your shadow upon those curtains just like the fern’s upon your piece’s blinds? I just want to be close to you is all. Sure, this doesn’t feel right, but all of this was on there. I touched the screen. I hope you didn’t feel it. I smelled my phone in faith some beta pheromone might transition from circuit to scent. I hope you didn’t hear me sniff. But you’d be glad, I guess. Technology’s separation reflected a reality I didn’t wish to admit. I am not with you, never yours thus never entirely me. I see you there, smiling with your friends, but it isn’t you, is it? It’s just a stand-in like your piece.
I'm normal. I swear it. I post images like everyone else. I just know where to find the ones you've deleted. I read articles and scroll through Buzzfeed lists. I just hacked Google to make sure they were the ones you read too.
This took a turn.
How could it not when the only items I have of you are as physical as light and data. And the only firewall keeping me from getting close is learning the technology that'll display you. This is what I have. There is nothing else. I sit in the shadows of social media hoping the next photo you share will be of me and you.
I don’t know who I am if not surrounded by what I want.
Can you blame a boy for being deprived, Sam?
Waiting in the interim,