Intimographies mines the volatile terrain of the forms of intimacy transacted through handheld, instant photographic technologies that bypass the darkroom—from the vintage SX-70 Polaroid of the 1970s to the iPhone and its “Polaroidizing” apps such as Polarock and ShakeIt. The installation situated in the library of the Charles Allis Museum in Milwaukee approached the question of what, if anything, is new about new media. The installation consists of digital photographic images produced by the iPhone camera and altered by the iPhone apps “Shake It” and “Polarock” that recreate the SX-70 Polaroid effect for the camera phone. These are displayed as cycling slide shows on the glowing screens of iTouch devices set in specially designed cases next to original Polaroid prints shown in their tiny 3x4 inch delicate and glossy format. With this inter-nested side-by-side presentation of Polaroids and Polaroidized digital images, Intimographies sets up an experiential navigation of the ways in which new digital media are haunted by the old. As condensed agents of a temporally and spatially volatile form of intimacy that crosses time, the Polaroid emerges not as the opposite of the digital images in handheld devices but as one of its internal, animating ghosts.
To affect a palpable sense of co-presence, the velvet-lined box display of these small images evokes the nineteenth-century Daguerreotypes enclosed for circulation in tiny protective cases. These image-boxes are not just intimately scaled to the size of a palm and, thus, activate a close encounter but are also doubly intimate in their promise of an exposed content, revelations of self and forms of relation that they perform and yet only partially. This exploration of forms of contemporary intimacy functions as a kind of “ontological laboratory.” By restaging the contemporary captivation of images across the ubiquitously reflective screens of lives virtually lived in and through the digital, the touch-based scale of the digital and Polaroid images endeavor to open up a space for a kind of queer extimacy (or the estranging, volatile and unknowable even in the most intimate—including ourselves) within the relentless exposures of the public sphere by catalyzing that exposure as a device of becoming.
A radical not-knowing extends through the felt intimacy of the photographic encounter and its unexpected and ongoing results from the so-called “taking” of the image through scenes of reception that are also part of the work’s continued making. And this radical not-knowing opened up by photography even in scenes of exposure echoes queer theory’s challenge to the knowability and legibility of identity and desire as well as to the open-ended and creative practice of possibility, to the potential actualization of forms of being, ways of relating, radical modes of sociality that are not just beyond certain norms or beyond conventions governing representation and the visible but also enacted and shaped experimentally in anti-communal practices of forging connections not based in pre-existing communities that might bring out the queer or the extimate in all of us. After the darkroom, photography may well persist as a practice of volatilizing desire in what I call performed intimographies.