On July 1st, Foam (the Dutch photography conglomerate, which oversees a museum, a magazine, a website, and an array of books, prints, and other for-sale editions) debuted Willem Popelier's project Showroom Girls in their Amsterdam space. Popelier's latest venture in a long list of conceptual films and photographic works, Showroom Girls is a collection of images that the artist discovered on a publicly accessible computer in a store showroom.
While collecting photos that were saved on display computers for another similar project, Showroom, Popelier found 91 pictures and 2 short 'movies' that two adolescent girls had taken of themselves and left on the computer's memory. He quickly determined that the girls had spent roughly an hour taking these photos, in addition to 62 more, which they had deleted. Fascinated by their decision to remove some images, while deliberately leaving others for future customers and curious photo-takers to see, Popelier wanted to know what other information he could discover about these girls. Noticing that one of the them wore a necklace bearing her name, Popelier went online and succeeded in finding her Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as her home address and data about her performance in school.
To articulate this feat, Popelier has included a full year of this girl's tweets in the exhibition, printed onto an alarmingly large stack of paper. The selection of the 91 images that appear in the show are entirely untouched by Popelier, save for the conspicuous light-pink circles which he superimposed over the girls' faces. The circles seem quite obtrusive, but successfully so--they underline the viewer's expectation for more information in a world in which, as Popelier proves, it is so readily available. The visual emphasis also drifts to the girls' playful and sometimes coy poses, gestures that the realms of Facebook and other social networking sites have made so familiar--but their removal from the profile page and placement in an art exhibition delivers Popelier's intended message about narcissism and performance.
Showroom Girls is on view until August 31 at Foam in Amsterdam.