The seed for this project originated from a phone call I had with my sister about a year ago. The highlight of that conversation was a discussion about Craigslist as a cultural fixture.
I think the general perception of Craigslist is that it serves as an odds-and-ends marketplace for the internet. The things you might need, but may not always be in a store, or easily accessible or affordable, can be found on Craigslist. It’s catch-all functionality became a point of fascination for us.
It is a place for you to find a roommate, a new bike, firewood, sell some old tires, buy a sofa, get rid of a microwave.
We commonly think of Craigslist as a place for things.
But Craigslist is also a place for people. During my phone call with my sister, she told me about the Missed Connections section on Craigslist. After we ended our call, I began looking, and was fascinated. Missed Connections is famously an area for people to call upon handsome strangers on the train, or beautiful people at the grocery store that you were too shy to speak to. But the further I looked, I found very intimate glimpses into the emotional lives of strangers. People talking about divorces, being pregnant with the child of a former lover, reminiscing about flames from decades ago, looking for people who have gone missing. The earnestness is palpable in so many of these strangers’ posts. The longing, the obsessiveness, the restlessness, the hesitation, the doubt, the bitterness, the sadness, and the joy. The content and tone of these people’s posts are spectral in variety. And they often read more like confessions than inquiries.
This is what I came to love about these writings. In all their simplicity or complexity, they come together as a crowdsourced diary of sorts. And they come together on a website where you can also sell your old vacuum. Or your mattress. Or you car. And the nonsense of that coexistence is compelling to me.
I chose to recreate this strange coexistence visually by constructing small tableaux that incorporate text from from the Missed Connections section with imagery from the Free Stuff section of Craigslist. I chose to use content from unrelated sources to create tension and invite the viewer to consider the relation or lack of relation that the components have with each other. With this work, I want to advocate the idea that people should share their emotions and intimate selves as easily as they share the mundane aspects. And if they can’t share it, I encourage people to be at the very least be more aware and engaged with that part of themselves. It is so vital, and it should live as freely in real life as it does in virtual space on Missed Connections.
This series was shown at the Herbert Sanders Gallery at SJSU in September 2018. It also exists online on Instagram as the account @craigslistcallingcards. Select pieces from this series will be included in a retrospective show curated by Al Preciado at Citadel Gallery in San Jose, CA on December 15 from noon to midnight.