Sam Rosenthal first used the Internet as a confused and closeted gay teen who longed for an online escape from his offline reality. Rosenthal explores the alienation he experienced socially and the refuge he found on the Internet by appropriating images from real-time network cameras, known as “netcams.” The cameras are accessed through unencrypted servers on the world wide web and are available to anyone with an Internet connection. Information such as geographic location and ownership of these netcams isn’t provided, leaving the cameras without identity or clear intention. Yet, still, the artist sees them as an escape. “I believe I’ve visited these places even though I don’t know where they are,” he says.
For Here Nor There, Rosenthal sought out camera feeds displaying uncanny scenes; the ones familiar and mundane, yet unidentifiable and dreamlike. The book features fantastical imagery of palm trees, pastel colors, and vibrant sunsets that conjure up feelings of an idealistic world. But Internet connections are imperfect and data loss often translates into visual flaws of pixelation and static, breaking those idealistic illusions. This assault of dropped packets disrupts the fantasy and grounds the images in reality. The Internet can never provide a permanent escape, leaving both the artist and his viewers lost somewhere in cyberspace, neither here nor there.
Vigil is an eloquent and elegant story, told from the afterlife by a cast of dead teenagers who were victims of a school shooting. Bevins’s poems give voice to the souls who can no longer speak for themselves.