Fan Mail

Fan Mail: Gala Knörr

For Gala Knörr, the world of social media is a labyrinth of communication that never ceases to pique her curiosity. She finds inspiration in connecting with random strangers on Snapchat, an increasingly popular app that enables users to share photos, videos, or conversations through private and public messaging without leaving a permanent record. With its informality and speed of sharing, Snapchat has become a hotbed for millennials and celebrities alike; for Knörr, it is the humor and the immediacy of establishing connections that is the heart of its appeal. Her practice is a reflection of the everyday exchanges that occur between people—friends and strangers alike—in the era of the internet and its (dis)contents.

Gala Knörr. Threesome, 2015; phototransfer and oil on linen; 7.8 x 13.7 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Gala Knörr. Threesome, 2015; phototransfer and oil on linen; 7.8 x 13.7 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Knörr’s medium is painting, but she sources her material from interactions with people on Snapchat. The artist spent a few months following and amassing followers and creating an archive of images of the snaps people were posting. Knörr’s technique is simple: She screen-grabs a succession of images from the content people post on Snapchat, then sifts through the footage to select what she will eventually re-create in painting. In doing so, Knörr defies the temporary quality of the app, creating a permanent record of the ephemeral images she captures. In combining technological resources with traditional mediums, Knörr also responds to the transience of the digital through the tactility of the physical.

Gala Knörr. Women Who Eat on Trains, 2015; phototransfer and oil on linen; 18.1 x 22 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Gala Knörr. Women Who Eat on Trains, 2015; phototransfer and oil on linen; 18.1 x 22 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

The ironic twist to Snapchat’s stalking potential is the app’s inbuilt system of notifying users when their snaps are being captured. Knörr’s online activity generated interest within the Snapchat community, and in turn a flurry of communications occurred between the artist and a number of curious users. Threesome (2015) is one instance of an interaction one Snapchat user sent to Knörr, a humorous take on dinner with a significant other. Knörr found the simple and witty composition an evocative reminder of the simplicity required to create a connection between two strangers on the internet. “Painting is a way of beautifying and magnifying the humor of the ephemeral,” the artist says. It is also a way of commemorating a lighthearted exchange between two people who may never engage with one another again.

Gala Knörr. Jew Chainz, 2015; ink and pen on paper; 18.1 x 22 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Gala Knörr. Jew Chainz, 2015; ink and pen on paper; 18.1 x 22 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

What do these fleeting correspondences say about the state of relationships today? Does the “faux engagement” signal a communication breakdown? Any existing merits in the ease with which people can connect with one another can be illustrated in one of Knörr’s “weird but fun” encounters with people. Jew Chainz (2015) is a painting depicting a snap that Brooklyn-based filmmaker Samuel Gursky sent to Knörr in one of their Snapchat exchanges. The painting is unmistakably a rendition of a snap, which Snapchat users will recognize from the timer symbol and the text bar, both trademark features of the bizarrely ubiquitous app. The self-portrait shows Gursky in the car with his sister, the text bar reading “Jew Chainz” conflating his own identity with the rapper 2 Chainz. Knörr was inspired by Gursky’s self-deprecating humor and what she perceived to be an empowered expression poking fun at the difference between rap culture’s portrayal of rappers as excessively masculine alpha males and his own contrasting appearance. When Gursky’s mother saw the painting on Knörr’s Instagram account, she subsequently contacted her with a request to buy the painting of her son (and daughter in the background). For Knörr, these random occurrences are a testament to art’s inherent power of connectivity, and a manifestation of people’s desire for recognition in the milieu of complex and advanced technology. “There’s a basic need for validation that persists,” Knörr admits—a need that underlines the “oversharing” tendencies and social anxieties that exist in the digital world.

Gala Knörr. Fuck Yeh, 2015; phototransfer and oil on canvas; 25.5 x 45.2 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Gala Knörr. Fuck Yeh, 2015; phototransfer and oil on canvas; 25.5 x 45.2 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Citing John Baldessari as one of her inspirations, Knörr professes a fascination with the potential depths that exist in the mundane. Perhaps an artistic engagement with social media might strike fine-art connoisseurs as lacking in seriousness and meaning, but Knörr’s exploration is acutely aligned with new modes of communication and the evolution of language. Describing emojis, for example, as the “hieroglyphs of today,” the artist finds that this new language we consume by virtue of social media is one worth examining. “There is a certain fragility and vulnerability in the humorous exchanges on these social apps, and a willingness to share that is surprising,” Knörr explains. What is art, if not an exploration of these human qualities?

Gala Knörr. Dreamboat, 2015; ink and pen on paper; 18.1 x 22 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Gala Knörr. Dreamboat, 2015; ink and pen on paper; 18.1 x 22 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Gala Knörr is a multidisciplinary artist who has worked in painting, photography, and video. She obtained a BFA in Fine Arts from Parsons School of Design in Paris, and her MA in Fine Art from Central Saint Martins, and was one of the 3,000 artists crowd-sourced by Nicola Formichetti (DIESEL) via Tumblr to be exhibited at Galeries Lafayette in Paris. In 2014, her piece Debaser was selected for the Columbia Threadneedle Prize, and Knörr was awarded a residency at Cité Internationale des Arts during their 50th anniversary year. As a self-professed third-culture kid, her practice focuses on the concept of desire, identity, and interconnectivity, exploring the youth underground and the many different ways we communicate and portray ourselves through technology and media. She is currently a Creadores 2016 Fellow at the La Térmica Cultural Centre in Málaga.

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