IRL vs URL Identity Play / by Sára Molčan

In IRL, I am stone-faced and cold. I am ambivalent to a fault, casually indifferent, and exuding an eyeroll I never display. Icy to the core, I am emotionally distant; empathetic only to the chosen. I have a presence without uttering a damn word. I am surrounded by the fragile walls of porcelain I have built, patching cracks with clay, and the whole façade is destined to crash around my feet at any moment.

In URL, I am vulnerable. I have allowed the pseudonymity of the virtual facilitate a space where I can express compassion and emotional openness.[i] Online, I only exist as much as I am willing to communicate into the void. I am desperate to exist. I openly share the scars that I carry and the hurt that made me who I am. I am raw, uninhibited, and free from judgement.

I am both of these people. How I filter myself within each of these spaces has a direct impact on my relationships, both romantic and platonic. My identity offline has become intertwined with the digital. Without it, I cease to exist as if a hologram or ephemeral consumable content. I am curating a performance so intricate and intimate that I disengage from it completely without a screen at my disposal.

Every medium is a different act, a different mask. I offer digitally mediated solo performances through the act of trading explicit messages that are fabricated realities; my sexting is intimately tied to my performative identity and leaves me at risk to become a collection of pixels for another’s pleasure outside the intended audience.[ii]

This performance of self is reflected in my paintings. I have picked apart my own trauma alongside my romantic failures to filter them repeatedly. A cyclic glitch, a single frame on repeat from the film of my life. The larger-than-life selfies, the repeated ⌘C, ⌘V of my own identity to become nothing but content. Soaked in pink filters, I project an ideal of self, embodying eroticism, longing, and the promise of love.[iii] This saturation of pink separates me from reality; pink provides an escape from the real. The wall of masks presents a gateway into my calculated performance of self. My relationship baggage is ripped open for all to see, to pick at like seagulls on the pier.

There is a feverish desire to place who, what, and where in my pieces like a war room. The bare emotion leaves me open to interpretation. I have recreated my digitally mediated self in analog to appear visceral and raw. The sting of an insult, pain of rejection, or flush of sexual excitement are being regurgitated as content, a platter of intimate details from my life for you to consume. I simultaneously own my masks and fail to, only existing for the perverse enjoyment of others.

I am just pixels.

[i] Phillips, Whitney, and Ryan M. Milner. The Ambivalent Internet: Mischief, Oddity, and Antagonism Online. Polity Press, 2017. 17.

[ii] Ibid, 84-6.

[iii] Nemitz, Barbara, et al. Pink: the Exposed Color in Contemporary Art and Culture. Hatje Cantz, 2006. 32.