iExist is an official fiscally sponsored project by the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA). For more information about NYFA and project iExist visit:
"iExist" is an continuing photographic project that I post daily on Instagram, to be presented in the form of an artist book and exhibition. Each image captures a specific moment in time, as I begin my day. Developing a discrete artistic practice for the "iExist" project, I impose a strict conceptual rule. Each day, after waking up I peer through a window and take a photo with my smartphone. Through these photographs I capture a view of the world outside, at a specific place and time. Yet place and time can be variable, revealing the subtleties of my life as it unfolds. "iExist" is a type of photographic diary recording the passage of time, while it is also a confirmation of the self. Capturing a view outside, of the exterior world, coupled with the perceived veracity of the photographic medium, equally serves as a confirmation of human existence.
Starting the project on November 25, 2016 in Basel, Switzerland, I produced photographs for a full year. On November 26, 2017 I decided to pause "iExist." During this interim period I enriched the project, seeking to blur the boundaries between the intimate world of the self and the very public forum of social media. I created a presence on Instagram under the project title. In this public forum I started to post the corresponding photo from the year prior. Resuming “iExist” in this public forum on November 25, 2018 I continue to chronicle my daily existence, and the transition from Switzerland to my life as a recent immigrant in the United States.
Each photograph captures the temporal nature of human existence, and that of our world. Subtle and sometimes not so subtle difference is captured in the variation of light and color, as the weather and seasons change. The window and smartphone are my framing devices that both reveal and conceal my life. These tools mediate my gaze. I believe the view outside is a metaphor for inward reflection. While "iExist" is present on social media, it is in fact a very intimate, personal project about the immediacy of my life and existence as it reveals my daily condition and current phase of life. Focusing on the present suggests an ignorance of the past and future, my past and future. Yet the project transcends the confines of a personal interpretation, expressing issues confronting women. The absence of the self, in the form of my self-portrait, serves to challenge the notion of the “i”. Embracing the smartphone and the public forum of Instagram also serves to challenge this notion, as I seek to engage with a larger audience.
The title "iExist" draws from naming practice of the Apple Inc. In choosing this title I want to confront the viewer with a dichotomy between the individual and the technology of our world today. I encourage the viewer to reflect on her or his own existence and thereby bring the past and future into the present.
Currently I am designing an artist book that will feature both phases of the project in parallel. I will juxtapose the photographs from years 2016-2017 and 2018-2019, allowing them to meet on the pages of the publication. The ability of the viewer to leaf through and compare the images side by side simultaneously (photographs will be situated on one page from right to left and on the other from left to right) serves to create new moments and connections. The pages of the book will be printed on semi-transparent paper designed to reflect the luminosity of the smartphone and reference the ephemeral nature of time.
The exhibition will feature all 730 photographs. With all the photographs displayed on the walls of the exhibition space the serial nature of the project will come into focus. Seriality addresses the fundamental question of human existence, a timeline that is central to the "iExist" project. This exhibition will give the audience the opportunity to experience my unfolding life. To further embroider the details of my life and the concept of the “i” I envision including select works from artistic practice that reaches beyond photography. Here film and select paintings on canvas serve to introduce the visitor to my life. With the addition of these works I hope to expand the dialogue, already present on Instagram. As an exhibition “iExist” becomes a universal message speaking to a broad audience, prompting reflection of one’s own life and the passage of time.
All rights reserved: @Mariejon de Jong-Buijs, 2020