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From White Box to Inbox

By Rhizome

On the last Friday of every month, archivist Jesse Aaron Cohen 'opens' a new email exhibition. The shows are delivered to subscribers' inboxes, in the form of thematized collections of digital images. (Below is the root directory for these images.) Cohen is based in New York and many of the shows in his series revolve around immigrants to the city and diaspora Jewish culture. The current one, number 28, is called 'Dr. Z's' and features scans of ads for 'health, beauty, and wellness products and practitioners as they appeared in programs from various Yiddish theaters in New York between 1890 and 1928.' The title is inspired by dermatologist Dr. Zizmor's (Dr. Z's) ubiquitous subway ads, as traced in the supplementary links included in the email. Each of the exhibitions features such extra info and is contextualized by a brief curatorial statement. Number 21 was simply called 'Myspace,' and the statement read, 'This exhibition features images found on the Myspace pages of US soldiers currently in Iraq. Click on the photo to view the profile.' Together, and without extra editorializing, the images painted a broader picture of the anxieties and banalities, of the soldier's daily life. Exhibition 4 ('Envelope Art') focused on mail, itself, and identified 'four disparate groups in which envelope art has thrived as a creative medium, namely: members of the US Armed Forces, Deadheads, incarcerated Americans, and video game enthusiasts.' Once again piecing together artifacts to make a thoughtful cultural statement, Cohen's musings might also apply to email art: 'If the medium is the message, then the message of envelope art seems to generally involve craft, dedication, boredom, and the desire to communicate personality with the recipient from afar.' - Marisa Olson

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